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  Canadian Senate Urges Legalization of Marijuana
Posted by CN Staff on September 04, 2002 at 19:12:27 PT
By David Ljunggren  
Source: Reuters 

cannabis A panel set up by Canada's Senate recommended on Wednesday that the government legalize the use of marijuana, saying it should be sold on a regulated basis like alcohol.

The report by the Senate -- the unelected upper house of Parliament -- adds to a growing debate over what to do about the widespread use of marijuana and the attraction the illegal drug holds for organized crime.

The report was immediately denounced by police and is also likely to trigger alarm in the United States, where some politicians are already unhappy about the amount of Canadian-grown marijuana crossing the border.

Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said in July he was considering whether to decriminalize marijuana but the Senate's special committee on illegal drugs urged him to go much further.

"Essentially, the committee recommends from now on that marijuana be legalized and available for restricted use, so Canadians can choose whether to consume it or not," said committee chairman Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin.

Cauchon welcomed the report but told reporters in Quebec City that it would be "more realistic" for Ottawa to decriminalize marijuana, which means users would merely be fined rather than getting a criminal record as is now the case. Ottawa will decide what approach to take next year.

The committee concluded that marijuana was not a so-called gateway drug -- one that leads to the use of stronger narcotics -- and was in fact much less dangerous than alcohol.

More than 20,000 people a year are arrested for using marijuana but the committee said the continued criminalization of the drug was having no effect at all.

Police dismissed this as nonsense and said they were particularly alarmed the report had been issued the same week that children went back to school.

"We are the recommendations contained in this report," said David Griffin, executive officer of the Canadian Police Association. "It is nothing more than a back-to-school gift for drug pushers."

Police say the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry is controlled by organized crime groups and Griffin insisted law enforcement authorities were doing a good job.

"Canada's struggle against drugs is not being lost on our streets but in the boardrooms of our nation. While we are seeing increased drug use among schoolchildren and adolescents, perceived tolerance by community leaders is sending conflicting and confusing messages to young people," he told reporters.

Illegal marijuana growing is a major industry in the western province of British Columbia, with much of the product exported to the United States.

Nolin called for an amnesty for all marijuana users while saying he did not want to encourage use of the drug.

"In a free society such as ours it is up to each person to decide whether they want to use cannabis or not," he said.

Critics of the federal government's current policy say that legalizing marijuana use would deal a massive blow to crime groups.

But U.S. politicians have expressed unhappiness with the idea of Canada in any way easing its stance on marijuana and some say if Ottawa did relax its rules, this could lead to a clampdown on the countries' long joint frontier.

Last year, to noises of unhappiness from south of the border, Canada announced it would permit seriously ill people to use state-grown medical marijuana to ease their pain. Ottawa contracted a firm to grow the first batch but has since cooled to the idea, saying more tests were needed.

In a hefty five-volume report that took two years to complete, the Senate special committee said Canada should hold talks with Washington to produce a bilateral policy.

"We believe our relationships with our friends are solid enough to work out the implications of what we believe we should do for our own citizens," Nolin told a news conference to mark the release of the report.

With additional reporting by Patrick White in Quebec City

Source: Reuters
Author: David Ljunggren
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2002
Copyright: 2002 Reuters Unlimited

Related Articles:

Legalize Marijuana, Senate Committee Says

Pot Should Be Sold to High Schoolers: Senate

The Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs

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Comment #3 posted by karkulus on September 04, 2002 at 19:42:38 PT
Ha,Ha !Thats good ,TroutMask,..
And I guess the narks don't want to go "back to school",Or back to the local Mall, As "Rent-A-Cop's"!

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Comment #2 posted by AlvinCool on September 04, 2002 at 19:41:00 PT
Can't blame them
You can't blame the police in Canada for opposing this. They look at the loot the US police get from forclosures and other property and they want it too. They want their government to give them billions to buy helicoptors and automatic weapons and other cool stuff. And like the US police they don't want to really chase and arrest people that might shoot back, marijuana users are just made to order!

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #1 posted by TroutMask on September 04, 2002 at 19:17:29 PT
"We are the recommendations contained in this report," said David Griffin, executive officer of the Canadian Police Association. "It is nothing more than a back-to-school gift for drug pushers."

The policies you support, sir, are a back-to-school, summer-vacation, Christmas, Easter, all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii for drug pushers. How in the heck is regulation of an unregulated substance going to help drug pushers? The same way that the end of alcohol prohibition helped bootleggers??


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