Now, They Don't Like Our Marijuana Plan

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, May 11, 2003.

  1. By Peter Gorrie, Feature Writer
    Source: Toronto Star

    U.S. drug czar John Walters frowns on Canada's plan to decriminalize marijuana possession. The move could unleash a flood of pot into the United States, he warns, and provide funds for terrorists. In retaliation, the Americans might insist on careful inspection of all Canadians crossing the border, causing long delays and disrupting business.
    "You expect your friends to stop the movement of poison to your neighbourhood," Walters says. Canada suggests, in return, that Walters and his boss, President George W. Bush, chill out.

    The pot plan, to be introduced in the House of Commons before the summer recess, includes a strategy to combat trafficking and smuggling, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon says. When the Americans see the total package, they'll like it, he insists.

    Paul Cellucci, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, was initially as hostile as Walters but has toned down his criticism. We'll wait and see, he says now.

    Why all the fuss over what amounts to a minor amendment to Canada's Criminal Code - a change backed by dozens of studies and, polls suggest, enjoying wide public support, even in the United States.

    Why do American officials fear Canada will inflict a major setback on their war on drugs when we're proposing to do what 12 U.S. states did more than 25 years ago?

    Experts say the controversy is as much about perception as facts.

    Not surprising, they say, given the history of the marijuana law and the current anti-drug fervour in Washington.

    In 1923, few Canadians had heard about pot, let alone ingested it. But that year, almost as an afterthought, it was included on the list of prohibited drugs in an amendment to the Criminal Code.

    "Cannabis Indica (Indian Hemp) or Hasheesh" was hastily inserted into one copy of a previously prepared schedule of illegal drugs. No one explained why. No one in Parliament bothered to ask.

    It was, several observers now say, a solution without a problem.

    What pressure there was seemed to originate in the United States, where opponents of "Mary Jane" were beginning to issue dire warnings.

    Famous feminist and reformer Emily Murphy - fresh from her triumph in persuading the Supreme Court of Canada that women were persons, not merely the property of their husbands - might have persuaded some officials that dope was the devil's work.

    "Persons using this narcotic ... become raving maniacs and are liable to kill or indulge in any forms of violence to other persons, using the most savage forms of cruelty," she wrote in a 1922 book, which described marijuana as "a new menace."

    Murphy was, in fact, approvingly quoting Charles A. Jones, then Los Angeles' police chief, whose rant was a thinly disguised attack on "Hindoo" immigrants from India.

    Despite their concerns, the Americans didn't make pot illegal until 1937.

    No marijuana charges were laid in Canada until 1934. The annual total never exceeded a handful until the flower-powered mid-1960s. After that, while use, charges and convictions all soared, the nightmare of murders committed by dope-addled addicts didn't become reality.

    In 1972, a report commissioned by the U.S. government recommended: "Casual distribution of small amounts of marijuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration not involving profit no longer be an offence." Around the same time, in Canada, the Le Dain Royal Commission reached a similar conclusion.

    Neither Ottawa nor Washington acted on their reports. But in 1973, Oregon decriminalized possession. In the next four years, 11 other states followed.

    Then decriminalization fell by the wayside, says Paul Armentano, of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a Washington pro-pot lobby group. After 1980, it was snuffed out by Ronald Reagan's war on drugs. Spurred by the Americans, the United Nations toughened a 1961 convention that makes it a violation of international law to legalize pot.

    Even so, lobby groups and independent researchers around the world continued to study the issue. All the research showed marijuana use doesn't lead to hard drugs, and tough penalties aren't a deterrent. The studies invariably opted for decriminalization.

    Australia and most European nations eliminated criminal penalties for possession, although no country has yet challenged the U.N.'s ban on legalization.

    The issue is being revived in the United States, but the focus is now on using marijuana to relieve the suffering of people with cancer, AIDS and other painful diseases. Nine states have gone this route; more are considering it.

    Over the past three decades, Canadian politicians, including Prime Minister Jean Chrétien when he was justice minister in the early 1980s, have talked about loosening our pot law. With Chrétien trying to build a socially progressive legacy before he retires early next year, it appears Ottawa might partially reverse what it did eight decades ago.

    The current situation is confusing. The possession law is rarely enforced and, when it is, penalties are wildly inconsistent. Ottawa has approved medical use of marijuana, but the nearly 300 people in that program have no clear way to get their supply.

    On top of that, the Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the 1923 law. It heard arguments on Wednesday.

    Ottawa's message is that marijuana it will continue to be illegal. Decriminalization means simply that those caught with a small amount - probably less than 30 grams - will face a modest fine, like a parking ticket, rather than a court appearance and the possibility of jail and a criminal record.

    Growing, possessing and selling larger quantities will still be a crime. In fact, the plan - expected to cost about $400 million - will include tougher measures against traffickers and major producers.

    "It's going to lead to a better policy that makes sense for Canadians and will alleviate the concerns of the Americans," says Mike Murphy, a spokesperson for Cauchon.

    Last fall, a Senate committee recommended legalization, which might allow pot to be produced, sold and taxed like alcohol. But that step is not in the cards.

    Marijuana "is harmful and it will continue to be treated as an illegal drug," Murphy says.

    Canada is not prepared to challenge the international convention against legalization, and the public isn't ready for it, officials say.

    Ottawa's main aim is to reduce harm, says Richard Garlick of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, an independent, federally funded research group in Ottawa.

    "Everyone agrees the biggest harm from the existing regime is the criminalizing of tens of thousands of otherwise innocent people. Decriminalization succeeds in addressing that; it's as far as you need to go."

    Marijuana has some health effects. Heavy users are prone to respiratory ailments and, possibly, cancers. It can become addictive.

    But, the experts say, those impacts pale in comparison with the damage to the 600,000 Canadians saddled with a criminal record - which can hurt their employment prospects and keep them out of the United States - just because they were caught will a little dope.

    In the 12 U.S. states where marijuana possession is decriminalized, use has actually dropped slightly. The biggest increases have been in states with the toughest enforcement.

    The Americans spend about $17.5 billion (U.S.) a year on policing and prosecutions, according to the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance. Police forces say the expense is far out of proportion to any benefits; the money and manpower could be put to much better use.

    Legal experts say the pot situation brings the law and police into disrepute. The law is not consistently enforced. While the rate of marijuana offences has nearly doubled over the past decade - with 70 per cent of those simple possession charges - less than 1 per cent of Canada's 2 million to 3 million users are caught. Most of them aren't penalized.

    More than half the people caught with small quantities of marijuana lose their stash but get off with a warning. Nearly half of those charged aren't convicted; many avoid court through community service and education sessions. Those who go through the courts often get an absolute discharge.

    Ottawa's plan, "will lead to more consistent application of the law," Murphy says. "When it is consistently applied, then people will respect that law."

    This "consistent application" might lead to more people being penalized for possession, says Garlick. If police only have to issue a ticket, they're more likely to enforce the law, he says. In Australia, the number of offences tripled after decriminalization.

    U.S. officials say relaxing the laws would boost profits for traffickers who support terrorism. Others argue the opposite.

    "It is drug prohibition that generates huge profits for these groups," the Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy says. "Without prohibition, the drug trade could not finance terrorism to any significant degree, since profits from the legal sale of drugs would be a small fraction of what they are now."

    Walters and others warn that Washington would likely express its displeasure by imposing tough inspections at the border. In particular, analysts say, it might refuse to exempt Canadians from stringent security measures to be imposed in 2005.

    That worries business groups, including some, like the Fraser Institute, which support decriminalization.

    At a time when disagreements over issues like the Kyoto accord on climate change and the attack on Iraq have strained relations, they say, we don't need another dispute, particularly one that could curtail trade.

    Canada must be strategic, says Michael Walker, the institute's executive-director: It might be better to move by stealth, rather than bold action.

    "If we do it in a way that creates a backlash and people start to lose jobs, there wouldn't be much sympathy for it. We don't have to decriminalize to achieve the results people want."

    "It's another irritant at a bad time," says University of Toronto political scientist John Kirton. "Even more damaging, in some respects, than the disagreement over Iraq is the fact it comes in a social-policy issue that's quite central to the core constituency of President Bush as he moves toward re-election."

    But Daniel Drache, of York University's Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, says the threat of retaliation is overblown.

    Even if Canada dropped its pot plan, there's no guarantee the U.S. Congress would approve any exemption from the 2005 security rules, he says.

    Drache is convinced, however, the Americans will choose trade over punishment.

    "They're more interested in doing business. If Canadians are committed to this, it will go through and there will be no repercussions."

    Note: Ottawa's move to decriminalize the use of pot angers the U.S. government.

    Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
    Author: Peter Gorrie, Feature Writer
    Published: May 10, 2003
    Copyright: 2003 The Toronto Star
  2. "In 1923, few Canadians had heard about pot, let alone ingested it. But that year, almost as an afterthought, it was included on the list of prohibited drugs in an amendment to the Criminal Code."

    canada outlawed cannabis before america!? :eek:

    well ya learn something new evey day.

    i guess that just means canada are ahead of america and more progressive. lol
  3. I can see the U.S. shutting down the northern border or making things very difficult for Canadian businesses if or when the weed is freed. After all the U.S. IS the big brother or should I say bully we should all fear, pushing 'their' political agendas on everyone while living above the laws they enforce.
  4. I invite every earth citizen to come live in the netherlands, were smoking weed is legal

    our government even produces weed that is 20 times stronger as the average thc dosis in weed.

    I yáll come live here 2 it'll be more smoked out then it already is :)

    and u could help fight french fuckers who try to screw our policy over by introducing european laws against soft-drugs.

    one question, whats the cost of weed in us and canada overall per gram?
  5. $15-20 US where I live. Though it's all about supply and demand.
  6. I pay 230 for O High quality smoke... its always the same for a long time and then another strain every 6 months, right now i think its afgan.

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