Canadians Lean Toward Easing Marijuana Laws

Canadians Lean Toward Easing Marijuana Laws
Posted by FoM on June 16, 2001 at 14:47:15 PT
By Anthony DePalma
Source: New York Times
As the government puts the finishing touches on regulations that will make Canada one of the first countries to license marijuana growers, deepening public tolerance for the drug is clearing the path to legal reforms that could make Canada much more permissive of marijuana than the United States. Health Canada officials say that by the end of July, marijuana growers will be able to apply for licenses to produce small amounts of marijuana for people with terminal illnesses or chronic diseases to ease their pain.
Over the last few years, more than 250 Canadians have received government permission to smoke marijuana for medical purposes, and many more will qualify for the exemptions when the new regulations take effect, but until then they must either grow the marijuana or buy it illegally.Health officials say that although there is no scientific proof that marijuana has medicinal properties, testimony from people who have used it to overcome the nausea associated with chemotherapy or to help with their glaucoma and other diseases has been so convincing that the government has decided to make it legal under certain circumstances.What they had not counted on, however, is that by debating and then authorizing this specialized use of marijuana, they would be seen by many Canadians as legitimizing the use of the drug. A recent survey showed that 47 percent of Canadians agreed that marijuana should be legalized, a sharp increase over the number five years ago. "A new mood seems to be sweeping the country," said Reginald W. Bibby, a professor at the University of Lethbridge who has studied Canadian attitudes toward marijuana for a generation. For 20 years starting in 1975, the percentage of Canadians who favored legalizing marijuana ranged from 24 to 31. But since 1995, Professor Bibby said, acceptance has broadened substantially."Unquestionably, there is a link between government actions and the changes in public attitudes," he said. "The moral entrepreneurs in the country are working very hard to portray the harmful effects of marijuana but most people are starting to see it as only something that can be positive." An estimated 1.5 million Canadians smoke marijuana recreationally, according to the Canadian Medical Association. Dann M. Michols, an assistant deputy minister at Health Canada, said that in drawing up the new regulations, health officials had not taken into account the impact such actions could have on the social use of marijuana. "I don't think that it was explicitly calculated," Mr. Michols said. Health officials are under great pressure to have the new regulations ready to take effect by the end of July. An Ontario court of appeals last year gave the government until July 31 to revamp regulations for the medical use of marijuana or have the entire section of the federal controlled substance act be voided, which would have made any use of marijuana legal in Canada. Until recently, approaches toward the medical use of marijuana were similar in both the United States and Canada. But in May the United States Supreme Court upheld a federal law banning the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes, overriding laws in several states that legalized medical marijuana.The debate over marijuana in Canada has moved to Parliament. A committee from all five political parties is preparing to undertake a comprehensive study of Canada's drug policy and consider a range of reforms, including the legalization of marijuana. Health Minister Allan Rock and Justice Minister Anne McLellan have both said they favor a thorough rethinking of Canada's drug laws, although they have not indicated support for any particular changes.Joe Clark, the former prime minister, who is a member of the current Parliament and the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, recently called for lessening penalties for using marijuana. "I don't want to have a young person carry forever the burden of a conviction for a criminal offense," Mr. Clark said. The leaders of two other minority parties, the New Democrats and the separatist Bloc Québécois, also support the idea of decriminalizing marijuana smoking so that an offense would be treated like a traffic ticket, perhaps involving a fine but leaving no criminal record.The Canadian Police Association told a Senate committee on May 28 that it opposed decriminalization because easing the punishment could lead to increased use of hard drugs. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has also withheld support for decriminalization. "The health minister has proposed permitting marijuana use for medical ends," Mr. Chrétien said recently. "Should we go into decriminalization and so on? It's not part of the agenda at this time."Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Anthony DePalmaPublished: June 17, 2001Copyright: 2001 The New York Times Company Contact: letters Website: Forum: Related Articles & Web Sites:Canadian Links Cannabis: Ottawa May Ease Up On Marijuana Laws War Briefs: Oh, Canada! Articles - Canada 
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Comment #4 posted by ReefaMan! on June 20, 2001 at 13:54:45 PT:
God Bless Canada!
if canada legalizes b'fore US, we might see the biggest non-war migration of people in history. 
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Comment #3 posted by DCP on June 16, 2001 at 20:17:22 PT
Got that backwards!
"Unquestionably, there is a link between government actions and the changes in public attitudes," I think that it the other way around: changes in public attitudes have caused changes in government actions.
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Comment #2 posted by Anonymous on June 16, 2001 at 18:36:57 PT
The only question is whether or not the British will beat them to it.
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Comment #1 posted by greenfox on June 16, 2001 at 16:36:26 PT
Canda is legalizing...
You'll see! It will happen rather soon.sik,fik-gf
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