Hands Tied on Drug Laws, Senator Says

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Aug 17, 2001.

  1. By Robert McKenzie, Quebec Bureau
    Source: Toronto Star

    Canada is powerless to decriminalize personal use of marijuana unless the U.S. does so as well, says the chair of the Canadian Senate's special committee on illegal drugs.
    ``Honestly, Canada won't be able to,'' Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin told reporters yesterday after addressing the annual general meeting of the National Association of Professional Police. The senator applauded Canada's decision to explore the controversial issue.

    ``But to move, to change our laws without the Americans doing so is just about impossible,'' he added.

    Like certain European countries who have gone ahead on their own and liberalized drug laws, Canada has the power to do so, he said, but it wouldn't likely do so alone.

    ``In the everyday political reality of Canada's relations with the United States - you have the two biggest trading partners in the world - the American retaliatory measures would be enormous,'' he said. ``It's pretty well impossible that Canada could move forward.''

    But he suggested the Senate committee and the federal government can pave the way by educating the public on the issue, until public opinion forces the U.S. to consider the issue.

    ``Canada can bring Americans around to moving forward and that, I believe, is what it going to happen,'' Nolin said.

    He compared Canada's role to its leadership on imposing economic sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime and convincing the U.S. to follow suit.

    ``Canada, on occasion, can be the conscience of the United States,'' he said.

    The Progressive Conservative senator's comments came after a speech to police officers from major forces across Canada, in which he described them as part of the all-pervasive ``hypocrisy'' on the failure of repressive drug laws.

    He said too many officers - such as Ottawa's former police chief Tom Flanagan - wait until they've retired before declaring publicly that war on drugs is a failure.

    ``How many specialized investigators will tell us the same thing in private but continue the next day to wage the war on drugs and defend it publicly,'' he added.

    Nolin said retired agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency have acted similarly, ``denouncing the hypocrisy of a prohibitionist system which serves as a screen for international diplomacy and where scare-mongering replaces common sense.''

    Several police participants at the meeting told Nolin it's becoming increasingly difficult to handle drug issues because the courts, and public opinion in some regions, are out of step with existing legislation.

    Tom Stamatakis, president of the Vancouver police union, said there's a perception of rampant tolerance of soft-drug use, and even production, in the city.

    Vancouver police can `smell the marijuana' as they walk the beat.

    Stamatakis said there are probably as many as 7,000 pot plantations within the Vancouver city limits and police on the beat can ``smell the marijuana'' as they walk the city streets.

    Nolin said similar tolerance is evident in Toronto where only 5 per cent of those charged and convicted of possession of drugs for personal use receive jail sentences, while as many as 55 per cent of those convicted elsewhere in Ontario go to jail.

    Brian Adkin, president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association, said police are only beginning to grapple with the implications of possible decriminalization of drug use.

    The Senate all-party committee, which will hold hearings in Toronto Sept. 10-11 before moving on to Vancouver, plans to bring down a first report on cannabis by August, 2002, followed by a fuller report on other drugs in 2003.

    Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
    Author: Robert McKenzie, Quebec Bureau
    Published: August 17, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 The Toronto Star
    Contact: lettertoed@thestar.com
    Website: http://www.thestar.com/

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