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The Senate Report (PDF Files)

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Senate committee urges legal marijuana

By DARREN YOURK
Globe and Mail Update

The federal government should legalize the use of marijuana by adults, the Senate committee on Illegal Drugs recommended Wednesday in its final report.

The committee's more than 600 page report, tabled Wednesday, says that the current system of prohibition in Canada does not work and should be replaced by a regulated system that would focus on illegal trafficking, prevention programs and respecting individual and collective freedoms.

"In our opinion, Canadian society is ready for a responsible policy of cannabis regulation that complies with these basic principles," the report says.

The report, the result of a two-year study of public policy related to marijuana, also recommends that the federal government amend the controlled drugs and substances act so that it can declare an amnesty for any Canadians convicted of possession of the drug under current or past legislation.

"Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue," Progressive Conservative Senator Pierre Nolin, the committee chairman, said Wednesday at an Ottawa press conference.

The committee says that public opinion on marijuana is more liberal than it was a decade ago and that Canadians strongly support the use of the drug for medical purposes.

"This report is a unanimous one," Liberal Senator Colin Kenny said. "No one on the committee wants to see an increase in the use of cannabis. In fact, we believe that the recommendations you see in this report will ultimately result in a reduction of use of the drug.

"We think that the main accomplishment we'll see here is a reduction in the criminality associated with the drug, and we think that is a very valuable benefit."

The report also strongly urges the federal government to develop a comprehensive and co-ordinated national drug strategy. The committee is calling for a national adviser on psychoactive substances and dependencies to be created within the privy council.

"We really need to get our act together on a multilateral basis on our drug policy in general," Mr. Nolin said. "In many ways, prohibition is a copout."

It is not clear if the committee's recommendations will ever be adopted. There is broad support in Parliament for decriminalization of marijuana, but the Liberal government has not signalled whether it would introduce a bill calling for legalization.

"There is no need for great delays if the government agrees with us," Mr. Nolin said. "We hope that the government will immediately address many of our suggestions, particularly those related to medicinal marijuana."

The Canadian Police Association will hold a press conference to respond to the report later Wednesday. With reports from Canadian Press

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