So-called Marijuana Decriminalization Bill A Pathetic Sham
May 28, 2003
What's Wrong With Bill C10/C38?
Dominic S. Cramer
President, Toronto Hemp Company (THC)
637 Yonge Street
Toronto ON M4Y 1Z5
email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-founder and Spokesperson, Toronto Compassion Centre (TCC)
Member and Spokesperson, Canadians for Safe Access (CSA)
Founder, Sacred Seed
Much more information at: www.torontohemp.com, www.tccentre.org, and www.safeaccess.ca
Updated November 1, 2003
Some of my input:
I am writing this letter to voice some important concerns, about the proposed decriminalization bill, to members of the House of Commons and Senate Committees among other relevant offices.
Being one of Canada’s leaders in various cannabis-related markets, having researched and obtained intense hands-on experience with the issues at hand for the past 9 years, I feel that my input is potentially quite valuable.
By way of introduction, my name is Dominic Shane Cramer. Born in 1973 on the island of St. Christopher (a.k.a. St. Kitts) in the West Indies (Caribbean), I moved with my family to Canada in 1977. I am, by my own definition and moral code, a kind, fair, loyal, respectful, trustworthy and patriotic Canadian. I exist to contribute to efforts toward a better world. Having strong foundations in business and lifelong experience with my family's enterprise, I decided to open Toronto Hemp Company (THC) in 1994 upon graduating from the University of Toronto with a BA in Economics and Computer Sciences. A retail store and resource centre providing hemp and related products and information, THC has evolved into a thriving retail enterprise located in prime real estate in the heart of our great city. ( www.torontohemp.com )
In 1997, I was obliged and honored to play a vital role in the effort to fill a desperate need that was overwhelmingly impossible to ignore - a safe and reliable medicinal cannabis dispensary in Toronto. Being on the 'front lines' with THC, I couldn't avoid seeing and feeling the terrible void that existed whereby seriously ill Ontarians were being forced into a potentially dangerous and demoralizing black market for clearly beneficial marijuana medicine, or go without. The dangers, of course, are results of our counter-productive marijuana prohibition as most of you by now likely understand about as much as I do. I proudly supported efforts to form and develop Toronto's first "Compassion Club" a.k.a. medical marijuana dispensary. When "CALM" closed its doors and its founder moved to the west coast I began working on the task of ensuring that the vacuum, caused by "CALM's" disappearance and the state of confusion surrounding our cannabis laws, was being filled. I found a valuable ally in my long-time friend Warren Hitzig and together we worked to establish the Medical Marijuana Resource Centre and Toronto Compassion Centre (TCC) medical marijuana buyer's club ( www.tccentre.org ). Operating transparently and honestly (truly virtuously) from the very start, TCC connected with other folks in neighboring cities who had similar aspirations and with our lawyer Alan Young sent letters to our government, and held a well-attended press conference to announce our intentions and methodology. We requested authorization from our leaders in hopes of receiving some kind of cooperation and protection, and of course we were refused. Over the years the TCC has suffered greatly - this is not something we would choose to do if it wasn't necessary and appreciated - we've seen incredible financial losses; violent attacks; three separate events involving criminal charges and related costs, punishments and stress; evictions from apartments, offices, schools and family homes, among so many other problems. But we've persevered and are finally being vindicated.
In 2002 I had the opportunity to help fill another void that was frustrating medical marijuana exemptees, by working to develop a medicinal plant seed company. A primary focus of our seed company has been to provide a necessary retail outlet for Health Canada MMAR applicants to acquire a reliable and varied range of high-quality cannabis seeds. We requested authorization for this operation as well, but no such luck.
We have been very busy in 2003. In fact it's been a pretty crazy year. After the horrible experience and setbacks of the widely publicized (and denounced) TCC robbery and police raid last year, the organization has had to struggle to pick up the pieces, finally recently finding a suitable location in which to open the next-generation TCC. Currently some 1286 members, all with very responsibly documented doctors' diagnoses and/or endorsements, use the services of the TCC with its costly and dramatically improved operations (with major upgrades to security, etc.). I moved Toronto Hemp Company into a new perfect retail space a few months ago and have been adding departments and even a museum/gallery/library to the new digs. I have been working with a dedicated group of compassion club operators and supporters to recently form and develop Canadians for Safe Access ( www.safeaccess.ca ), modeled after and with the help of a very widely respected organization known as Americans for Safe Access. I have had the opportunity to take part in the press conference of July 9 on Parliament Hill and appear, alongside Jack Layton and the Deputy Chief of Toronto Police for example, on local and national television and radio shows and documentaries - Intelligent Television (i channel), Toronto One, Rogers, CBC TV, CBC Radio, CBC French TV, CTV, Global, CityTV, BBC Radio, AM1010, AM680, among many others. And then there's the print media, too many to list, and I'm increasingly being requested (and appreciated) for speaking engagements and other public service, events such as the recent UofT Student Disabilities Conference: Breaking Down The Barriers 2003. And of course, some of my beloved friends are still facing charges in relation to the operation of the TCC, and we've won in three levels of court with Hitzig vs. Canada challenging the unconstitutionality and harmfully oppressive bureaucracy of the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (and related sections of our Criminal Code). I've also been busy inventing and developing herbal vaporization technology and products. I am an activist, entrepreneur and, most of all, a philanthropist. I take pride in embracing and promoting the philosophy that "corporate" does not necessarily equal "evil," and that individuals and businesses have the ability, and a responsibility, to beneficially impact the world in which we live.
So there's some background information for you, now on to the bill.
There are many very serious problems with the proposed ‘decriminalization’ bill which is currently being debated and discussed in the House of Commons (SNUD Committee Meetings). The greatest problem may be that what was once touted as a decriminalization bill, apparently intended to reduce the harms to society of cannabis prohibition is now clearly, and is even being described by our Minister of Justice as, in many ways harshening our legislated views and policies surrounding marijuana use. Bill C38 seems have been put together in such a schizophrenic way as to doom itself to failure, much like the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations appear to be.
Cannabis prohibition is infinitely more harmful to our society than the use of this plant could ever be. This plant is in fact actually beneficial to most of its users, as long as it’s not used irresponsibly or to excess, as in the case of other substances and activities such as water, food, exercising, working, sex, using cellular phones, listening to rap (or classical) music, watching educational television, visiting places of worship, etc. etc. The old propaganda and misinformation just doesn’t fly anymore, the war on drugs is a corrupted and dismally counter-productive failure, and for many seriously ill Canucks, cannabis is a medicinal ‘god-send.’ A cost-benefit analysis of cannabis prohibition invariably concludes that the costs enormously outweigh any perceived benefit.
Bill C38 contains insane steps backwards that would indicate an emulation of the worst aspects of American society. To this educated outside observer, in many ways the USA seems to be in the midst of a terrible social downward spiral as a result of the ignorant few who hold dear to their apparently profitable system of prohibiting and punishing harmless behavior, among other incredibly damaging and enslaving policies. Canadians, and many Americans, take pride in being better than that. I say to the propagandists among the Americans – you are right that we should not be passing this decriminalization bill. It would uphold and even increase most of the inadequacies with our prohibitionist system. Instead we should certainly be following the lead, and improving upon the policies, of many US states and European countries that are decriminalizing cannabis possession altogether, and wisely going further. I certainly wish ill Canadians were as empowered as ill Californians are to safely and openly obtain medicinal cannabis products - and Canadian doctors at least as free to support their patients’ quest for health as Californian doctors, for example, are. If you don’t know what the situation is like in most cities in California, and other states, you should certainly plan a visit.
I'm so sick of the American hypocrisy and the twisted media spin regarding the US perspective. U.S. states where cannabis use has been decriminalized, in some cases for decades, have experienced no adverse effects. How can these psychopathic US politicians, whose family members so often have hard drug problems themselves (thanks again to the stupid war on CIA-supported drugs) complain about a rational country like Canada sensibly easing up on harmless behavior? Regarding the threats of slowdowns and more hassles at the Canada-US Border… Are we really supposed to believe that the border needs to be tightened further after all this terrorism craziness, all for a little herb? That’s clearly a ridiculous, or truly distressing, assertion depending on your level of faith in proven liars.
We know from the experiences of other countries and logical analysis of the situation that the proposed system of fines is, well, a pretty silly idea. We keep heaping layers of bureaucracy and nonsense on a fatally flawed prohibition. Fines for possession of even minute amounts of cannabis, while potentially reducing the amount of ridiculous criminal record blemishes, will apparently result in an increase in persecution as well as an increase in the profitability of black market cannabis production and distribution. And of course the idea of increasing penalties for cultivation and the consideration of mandatory minimums for anything cannabis-related is virtually insane – the idea is to remove the draw, power and profitability of the black market, not bolster it! We desperately need to avoid at all costs any moves towards a prison-state at war on a huge percentage of its own people, embraced by the most ignorant members of our neighbor to the south. If anything, we must learn from the US’ huge mistakes. How insane, a bill that increases the penalties for production and distribution, when the government has been ordered to allow production and distribution! These penalties cause the price of Cannabis to be enormously over-inflated and create a hugely lucrative and in so many ways dangerous black market! The higher the penalties, the higher the value, the more cannabis production and distribution will move into the unregulated black market.
Massive fines are going to hurt those who we're supposed to be helping, will result in MORE pointless bureaucracy, more persecution, not less. Australia tried this, and found that most fines weren't paid and ended up in court anyway, and that the fines really increased the number or pot-smokers penalized, as well as the amount of police and court time spent on Cannabis - how counter-productive!
Further, what kind of message does a lower fine for kids send? The tired old story about our drug laws protecting children just doesn't fly anymore. Prohibition does not do a single thing to help children and in fact makes drugs more accessible to, and more dangerous for, our kids! The ignorant mixed messages are not acceptable! Clearly legalization and regulation based upon age, combined with a little truth and reason, will protect kids far better than laws that make virtually no distinctions based on age except to imply that cannabis possession situations in which youngsters are involved will be punished less harshly than those involving adults only. The only way we can have any positive impact on excessive use of cannabis by our children is clearly through legalization, sensible regulation, and honest information. The current situation where drugs are easier to get by kids than by adults and drug-dealing is an attractive option for financial gain to our youth is obviously an unacceptable by-product of this prohibition. Mixed messages and misinformation just doesn’t cut it in this age of information more than ever before. The often-raised cry of “think of the children” needs to be answered with logic rather than misguided and emotional hysteria.
The same thing goes with cannabis use and driving. Studies clearly indicate that generally marijuana doesn’t impair driving, and in fact is often likely beneficial. Virtually every bit of research on the topic has shown that ‘stoned’ drivers actually drive slower and more cautiously than sober ones. Further, far greater should the concern about other forms of impaired driving, including legal pharmaceutical impairment. Shouldn't we be interested in an overall fit-to-drive road-side test rather than even thinking about smoking-and-driving specifically? In fact, the notion of reducing alcohol-impaired driving (among other harms) by providing cannabis as a recreational alternative is a very compelling argument, as is the inevitable overall reduction in cannabis use/abuse (and hence, cannabis-impaired driving) as shown in other legalized areas of the world.
And what of the issue of granting police officers the discretion, as Bill C38 may do, to lay civil or criminal charges when they find a certain (low) weight of cannabis on someone? One of the most blatantly unfair aspects of our ridiculous marijuana prohibition is that Canadians are treated very differently based on where they encounter enforcers of the law, among other demographic factors.
Pathetic, shameful, corrupt and incompetent - that's what I think about this bill. I have to wonder, are our public servants receiving some kind of cut from black-market drug sales? Because only those who are massively profiting from prohibition could possibly think this is an impressive step forward. I would like to be able to applaud them for at least doing something, but... what choice do they have? I am ashamed of our public servants, and wonder if the resignation of our disgraceful Health and Justice Ministers is in order. I am also disgusted by the ridiculous objections to even this half-assed attempt at decriminalization voiced by some of our leaders, other public servants and media in response to the proposed bill. IGNORANT, so sadly ignorant.
The bill contains absolutely NO consideration of the plight of thousands of medicinal users, their need for safe (AND LEGAL) supply. Our ministers show no concern about the repeated court orders to fix the medicinal supply situation. Disgraceful. Medicinal users need for there to be NO FINES, and legalized (and thus less costly, higher quality and safer to access) supply without the huge barriers to obtaining MMAR exemptions. The Health Canada exemption process is a sad failure and hardly helps anyone. It cannot be relied upon to protect medicinal users. And Bill C38 offers absolutely no improvements to the currently unworkable medical marijuana situation. The insane prohibition must end, and medicinal users must finally be treated with some respect and concern.
Nothing in the bill actually improves on the real problem, the true cause of massive damage to our society: Virtually all of the harms associated with marijuana are a direct result of its prohibition and not the plant itself. There is almost nothing in this bill that will serve to reduce the damage done by our irrational drug laws. Our apparently impotent governments have spent millions of dollars, decades of time, and countless man-hours of our best minds researching the drug prohibition situation, practically all of this research has clearly indicated that THE ONLY RATIONAL OPTION IS A SERIOUS LIBERALIZATION OF OUR DRUG LAWS AND SENSIBLE REGULATION. Drug use, especially that of so harmless a substance as Cannabis, should not be treated as a legal issue! Prohibition is simply, obviously, not effective. Anyone who has half a brain and cares to do the slightest bit of intelligent research into the topic learns quickly and clearly that cannabis prohibition came from ignorance, misinformation, prejudice, greed and corruption and that this prohibition is massively counter-productive.
OK, what about other drugs? This is a complicated issue, but a crucial one, and we must not be afraid to address it. Medical marijuana is used by many, with doctor support, to help them get over addictions to other, potentially far more harmful, substances. We do not in any way endorse or encourage the use of illicit drugs other than cannabis - quite the opposite. In ways we hate to mix the issues – too many ignoramuses are prone to think “those hippies want to legalize everything so they can get high, and pot’s just a gateway.” However, we will not compromise our sensible position and credibility by pretending to be on the 'drugs are bad / just say no' bandwagon for the sake of winning brownie points with the propagandists or the misinformed. Cannabis prohibition is the most urgent issue in many ways. But sooner or later we have to tackle many related desperate social issues, and it might be wise to consider that many of the underlying problems here relate to more than just marijuana. What of the obvious fact that cannabis prohibition is one of many symptoms of a far greater problem concerning the mentality of ignorant and/or greedy people including some of those in positions of serious power? What about our desire to live in a peaceful society, rather than a self-inflicted war zone? How is it that our legislators, doctors and police forces are so blatantly used as tools of corporate and clandestine warfare, enforcing unholy monopolies for drug companies among others? Our system of criminalizing natural health products for the benefit of those who sell chemicals derived from them is simply twisted. These profit-protecting prohibitions victimize many, especially marginalized, members of our society and make megalomaniacal millionaires out of ruthless criminals and opportunists. Prohibiting the less-potent and less-adulterated coca plant derivatives such as the wine enjoyed by Queen Victoria has created a massive market for the actually dangerous, worthy of strict regulation, bastardized chemicals that are an enormous plague on our streets worldwide today. Caffeine and Cocaine are really quite similar, and very few people snort caffeine or abuse caffeine pills because coffee and tea etc. are legal and available. Perhaps caffeine is still legal primarily because many families of plants, rather than just one, produce it including Coffee, Tea, Guarana, Kola and Cocoa. So many of our medicines include ingredients that are based upon and/or extracted from one particular type of poppy, Papaver somniferum, the Opium Poppy, over which many wars have been fought. Many other poppies contain similar and similarly beneficial alkaloids. The drug companies, doctors and our leaders know damn well that these plants are on this earth to be used responsibly by humanity, and over-control them with extremely impure motives and ignorance. So am I suggesting that we make all drugs legal to make them more available? Hell no, it is clear that we should legalize and regulate drugs to make them less available, less dangerous and less profitable. We should clearly control these substances with logical regulations that reduce the harms not only of the drugs themselves, but also of the mindless super-prohibition that’s been forced upon us. Check out Law Enforcement Against Prohibition at www.leap.cc for a very interesting perspective on this topic. Apparently, this is too big an issue to be tackled all at once, and so we must perhaps concentrate on the most desperate issue at hand, that of Cannabis specifically… for now. As the increasingly organized black market trade in the more dangerous drugs, and the resulting wars, intensify in the inevitably vicious cycle our policies create and perpetuate, we will be increasingly forced to face our other prohibition problems one way or another.
In the past many months we’ve seen more rounds of government bumbling of the medical marijuana situation, and a virtual end to cooperation by doctors thanks to the CMA and CMPA and unreasonable requirements in the MMAR, some of which even judges finding in our favor have repeatedly overlooked. The bottom line is that legalization, a drug-war truce and amnesty for those previously convicted is long overdue and this bill falls far short of making real positive changes. Unless some major changes are made, I can’t see bill C38 doing more good than harm. It will only serve to perpetuate an ever-worsening situation. Of course it’s all been said before, the situation researched over and over – cannabis should never have been made illegal in the first place and anyone with an ounce of sense and compassion, and the will and opportunity to do a little research, can’t deny that.
God help me, I vow to do all that I can to promote a country, a world, in which we make decisions and legislation based on intelligence, sense, forward thinking, and true compassion rather than this money-grubbing, greedy, fear-mongering, big-brother, big-business, B.S. oppression we're suffering under. In this age of unprecedented communication, cooperation and understanding we should be moving forward and upward as a society; living in an increasingly healthy environment, advancing technologically and socially, not wasting our time with this drug-war and bureaucratic insanity. Clearly there is a much greater problem here, with cannabis prohibition as merely one of its disastrous symptoms; humanity is being held back by ignorance, arrogance, greed and blind faith.
That’s about it, I guess, for now. I thank all who read this very much for your time and your efforts to help and advance Canada and Canadians, now and always.
Please feel free to contact me anytime,
Dominic S. Cramer
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