Pot Use Surges as Martin Weighs Decriminalization

Pot Use Surges as Martin Weighs Decriminalization
Posted by CN Staff on July 21, 2004 at 07:55:37 PT
By Greg Quinn in Ottawa 
Canadian marijuana and hashish use almost doubled from 1989 to 2002, and nearly a third of the population admits to trying cannabis at least once, the government said in its first major study of the drug's popularity since proposing to decriminalize possession. Statistics Canada said 12 percent of the Canadians aged 15 and older it surveyed in 2002 said they had used cannabis at least once in the past year. That's an increase from 6.5 percent in 1989 and 7.4 percent in 1994 and more than triple the United Nations estimate of worldwide pot usage. 
Prime Minister Paul Martin, who has said he may have eaten brownies laced with hashish when he was younger, told reporters in June that he plans to revive a bill making possession of small amounts of pot no more serious that a parking infraction. In doing so, he risks the ire of the U.S. government and may jeopardize some of the $1.5 billion a day in commerce between the two countries, the world's largest trading partners. ``If we become known as a haven for the production of marijuana, I think it's only reasonable to assume that there will be controls put in place to prevent that type of activity from crossing the border,'' Chris McNeil, deputy chief of police in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and chairman of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police drug-abuse committee, said in a telephone interview Friday. U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci has said decriminalizing pot possession may lead to delays at the border as officials frisk travelers and search vehicles for drugs. In the U.S., possession charges may lead to a minimum fine of $1,000 and a year in prison.  Border Delays Canada and U.S. share the world's longest undefended border at 5,527 miles (8,893 kilometers), including the Alaska frontier. Already, ``clogged and inefficient border crossings'' cost Ontario, the engine for more than 40 percent of Canada's economy, C$5.25 billion ($4 billion) a year, the province's chamber of commerce found in a June study. So far, Canada remains a minor source of marijuana available in the U.S., according to U.S. Customs figures: U.S. agents seized 406,200 kilograms (895,500 pounds) of pot inbound from Mexico last year, about 26 times more than from Canada. The U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center estimates that most of the cannabis available in the U.S. is domestically grown. Still, exporting marijuana ``has become a thriving industry across Canada,'' a Royal Canadian Mounted Police report on the 2003 drug trade concluded. Traffickers use ``black market currency exchange'' and unscrupulous dealers to convert U.S. dollar receipts into Canadian dollars, the report said. Earlier this year, Ontario police busted a marijuana operation north of Toronto where more than 30,000 plants were being grown in a defunct brewery.  European Tolerance In much of Europe, where the UN estimates 4.9 percent of the population aged 15 and older uses pot, marijuana is widely tolerated. Amsterdam is known for its hash bars and Canada's government has cited lax possession laws in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Luxembourg. Jean Chretien, who retired as Canada's prime minister in December, first proposed decriminalization after a provincial court struck down possession penalties. The bill he introduced in Parliament, and which stalled last year, also proposed doubling the maximum penalty for growing more than 50 marijuana plants to 14 years in prison. Chretien, 70, said at the time he might try marijuana if the law were changed. Parliamentary Obstacles Passing the bill may prove harder now that Martin's Liberal Party lost its governing majority in Canada's June 28 federal election. With only 135 of 308 seats in the House of Commons, the Liberals need the support of opposition legislators to pass laws, and the Conservative Party, with 99 seats, wants marijuana to remain illegal. Martin, 65, would have to rely on backing from members of the Bloc Quebecois, which advocates the separation of French-speaking Quebec from Canada, or the socialist New Democratic Party. Pot usage in Quebec is higher than the national average, at 14 percent, according to StatsCan. Parliament is due to reconvene Oct. 4. The Fraser Institute, a research organization that advocates free markets, has studied the argument that marijuana should be sold and taxed, like alcohol. Simon Fraser University economics professor Stephen Easton wrote in a June report for the institute that pot taxation would raise C$2 billion a year for the government. ``We are reliving the experience of alcohol prohibition of the early years of the last century,'' Easton wrote. He estimated that a joint, or marijuana cigarette, costs C$1.50 to produce and sells for C$8.60. To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Quinn in Ottawa at:  gquinn1 bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Erik Schatzker at:  eschatzker bloomberg.netComplete Title: Canada Says Pot Use Surges as Martin Weighs DecriminalizationSource: Bloomberg.comAuthor: Greg Quinn in Ottawa Published: July 21, 2004 Copyright: 2004 Bloomberg L.P. Contact: gquinn1 bloomberg.netWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links's Pot Exports Overstated: RCMP County is a Pipeline for B.C. Bud Have Made Our B.C. Bud a Growth Industry 
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Comment #1 posted by escapegoat on July 21, 2004 at 09:36:59 PT
John Walters interview - CKNW 980 Vancouver
July 19, 2004: Peter Warren interviews John Walters, the US drug czar. Afterward, a call-in segment where listeners disagree with his arguments.Listen in mp3 format: Peter Warren: pwarren cknw.comWeb:
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