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Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Contact: oped@ott.sunpub.com
Website: http://www.fyiottawa.com/ottsun.shtml
Forum: http://www.canoe.ca/Chat/home.html
Address: 380 Hunt Club Rd., Ottawa, Ontario, K1G 5H7
Copyright: 2004, Canoe Limited Partnership
Pubdate: November 6, 2004
Author: Jody Pressman
Note: Jody Pressman is executive director of NORML Canada

Note from newshawk: This article does not appear online

LIBERALs' 'DECRIMINALIZATION' IS SMOKE AND MIRRORS

The government's proposed marijuana bill is far from adequate and does nothing to "decriminalize" marijuana, as some media have portrayed it.

Under this bill, criminals still control the supply, trade, and production of marijuana, and over 3 million canadians who regularly use marijuana are still treated like criminals.

Today, very few people caught with 5 ot 10 grams (enough for a few joints) are prosecuted, let alone convicted, of simple possession because of the reluctance of law enforcement officials to ruin someone's life.

Moving from a warning to a $150 ticket is hardly progress. It is even less progressive when you examine government documents which reveal the real intent of this bill is to increase enforcement of small possesion of marijuana for personal use.

As the B.C. Civil Liberties Association has warned, and as cabinet documents reveal, the government is expecting that changing the penalty for possession to tickets will result in a surge of enforcement -- known as the "net-widening effect" -- as police officers eagerly make use of the new policing powers. This was the experience in Australia.

SEARCHING POT SMOKERS

Tickets will not stop police from detaining and searching pot smokers as if they were criminals, and our courts will again be clogged with people defaulting on or challenging their fines.

Using the term "decriminalization" to describe the Liberal bill on marijuana is clearly political spin. Both Irwin Cotler and his predecessor, Martin Cauchon, have said that this bill is not decriminalization, and that it is "an alternative penalties bill."

Whatever you want to call it, this legislation is out of touch with reality. The government is turning its back on over $2 billion a year in revenue and an opportunity to drive the criminal element out of marijuana (according to a report by the Fraser Institute).

This is not the approach recommended by the 2002 Senate report, one of the most exhaustive and detailed studies of the issue since the LeDain commission. The government has chosen to ignore this unanimous report in favour of making cosmetic changes that maintain the status quo and do nothing to solve the problem with marijuana in Canada.

This bill does nothing for 600,000 other Canadians who have prior convictions, suffer travel hardships and who will not be granted any form of amnesty. Most glaringly, while possessing a joint may not leave you with a criminal record, sharing that joint will. Under our current laws, and under the Liberal bill, the non-commercial transfer or sharing of marijuana between friends or loved ones is considered drug trafficking and punishable by up to 5 years in prison, more evidence the government is not serious about reforming our marijuana laws.

ILLEGAL SOURCES

Over 3 million regular marijuana users in Canada will continue to use marijuana, and their only source of marijuana will continue to be illegal sources. Organized crime will continue to set up grow operations to meet the lucrative profit incentive, regardless of the criminal penalties we impose.

Canadians have had 30 years since the idea of marijuana law reform was first proposed.

Much like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition has failed to yield any of the promised results and it has multiplied the harms of the marijuana trade by placing it in the hands of organized crime.

Government has a clear choice in reforming Canada's marijuana laws: It can continue with the status quo, turning a blind eye to millions of Canadians supporting a multibillion dollar untaxed industry that threatens all Canadians; or it can regulate and tax marijuana, and end marijuana prohibition because it has failed to stop marijuana from being produced or consumed.

All it has ever done is swell the ranks of police, deliver untaxed billions to the criminal element, and ruin the lives of countless good Canadians in the process.



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