Canada: Web: Canada Backtracks and Babysteps on Marijuana
Newshawk: Richard Lake
Pubdate: Sat, 18 Oct 2003
Source: DrugWar (US Web)
Copyright: 2003 Kalyx com
Author: Preston Peet, for DrugWar com
Note: We recommend going to the webpage above to be able to access the over
two dozen links that support the text of this article.
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mjcn.htm (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmjcn.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)
You Call This Reform?
CANADA BACKTRACKS AND BABYSTEPS ON MARIJUANA
Despite US Drug Czar John Walters' recent assertions that Canada is "the one place in the hemisphere where things are going the wrong ( way ) rapidly," Canada is moving towards stricter marijuana policies.
After a summer of defacto legalized marijuana use lead to no apparent increase in anarchy, violence or crime on Canadian streets, the Ontario Appeals Court effectively recriminalized recreational use on October 7, 2003, while ordering that the Canadian government insure patients can more easily obtain their medicinal marijuana by allowing businesses and individuals to grow their own for medical use. At the same time, Canada's proposed "decrim" bill seeks to further tighten rather than relax Canada's pot laws.
"This case is not about the social and recreational use of marijuana, but is about those with the medical need to use marijuana to treat symptoms of serious medical conditions," ruled the Ontario Appeals Court in Hitzig et al. v. Her Majesty the Queen, pointing out that there is "a strong body of opinion supporting the claim that marijuana offers some individuals inestimable relief from a variety of debilitating symptoms associated with serious long-term illness such as AIDS, cancer and epilepsy." Doing away with portions of Ottawa's Marijuana Medical Access Regulations ( MMAR ), the Court noted that the stricken portions had been forcing sick people to go to the black market for their legal supply of medicinal marijuana. "Exposing these individuals to these risks does not advance the objective of public health and safety," the Court ruled in its unanimous 3-0 ruling. "Rather, it is contrary to it. Equally, driving business to the black market is contrary to better narcotic drug control."
But as the Court is telling the government that it needs to insure a safe supply of medical marijuana for those patients who qualify, there are troubling reports from those few patients who have already been supplied marijuana from the government of adverse reactions, making some literally ill. Complaints range from heaches, having to smoke 4 to 6 times as much as normal to get the desired effect, that the marijuana has a "sticks and stems appearance" and when the almost unrollable powder is finally twisted into a spliff it tastes foul. Three out of 10 to so far receive Health Canada-supplied pot want their money back. To top it off, the marijuana the Canadian government has been growing in the Flin-Flon mine intended to supply those patients turns out to have been grown in a highly polluted area, with toxic heavy metals turning up in the grown plants.
As Canadians for Safe Access puts it, their own independent tests of Health Canada marijuana being grown in the Flin-Flon mine showed results "indicating elevated levels of heavy metals such as arsenic and lead."
"The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling in Hitzig, while it looks good on paper for medical marijuana patients, allows Health Canada - a government agency openly hostile to people using marijuana as medicine - - enough bureaucratic leeway to weasel out of helping critically and chronically ill Canadians get access to their medicine," says Tim Meehan, Communications Director of the marijuana reform organization Ontario Consumers for Safe Access to Recreational Cannabis ( OCSARC ), and Acting Leader of the Ontario Marijuana Party.
"While the decision affirms that some medical patients benefit from cannabis, the government to date has been incompetent in providing access to the medicine," says Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the NORML Foundation. "While the court allowed patients more access, in a quid pro quo, the court seeks to limit the range of marijuana laws for non-medical, adult use."
Not only has the Appeals Court ruled against recreational users, but the so-called decriminalization bill introduced for consideration by Parliament in May 2003, C-38, is looking more like a criminalization bill every day. If it passes, it will introduce mandatory minimum sentences for growers in Canada. It will insure jail time for repeat offenders for low-level possession charges.
And now, after meetings between Canadian and US drug warriors, meetings that caused no small amount of friction, and comments from US Drug Czar John Walters about how "Canadians are ashamed" of their Prime Minister and his government's attitude towards marijuana, the bill's proposal to allow possession of 15 grams or less to result in a fine instead of a criminal charge has been lowered to 10 grams or less.
Walters was offended that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien jokingly told reporters from the Winnipeg Free Press on October 3 that although he hasn't ever tried marijuana, he might "try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand."
According to Rolling Stone magazine, Walters recently threatened in an interview with the Boston Globe that if Canada moves towards more liberalized marijuana policies, the repercussions will be felt in tightened, possibly even a "semi-militarized" border, in similar fashion to the current border control with Mexico, and Asa Hutchinson, former head of DEA and now senior official with the Office of Homeland Security, said that Canada would have to "face consequences" were they to continue towards marijuana reform.
ONDCP official David Murray also told Vancouver reporters recently that the US would "have to respond" if Canada ok's decriminalization.
"John Walters' comments about Canada being 'ashamed' of Jean Chretien are seen in Canada, like most foreign policy opinions coming from the Bush Administration lately, as a product of arrogant self-delusion rather than fact," Meehan says. "Apparently Walters suffers from a condition psychiatrists term 'projection'- where a person projects what they want others to think and feel," quipped St. Pierre. "Walters is so deep into this condition that he actually projects on to an entire nation of people."
Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML, does point out that while the proposed amount of marijuana personally allowed in C-38 was originally 15 grams or less, and now reduced to only 10 gram or less resulting in only a fine and no criminal record, even while proposing mandatory minimum sentences for growers and other increased penalties for repeated personal possession offenders, this is still a step in the right direction, albeit small steps, even if it's not as far as reformers would like things to go.
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