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Support grows for legalizing marijuana:
5 years ago, one-third of Canadians favoured
making drug legal; today about half do
Almost half of Canadians believe marijuana should be legal, a new national survey finds.
The survey conducted by University of Lethbridge sociologist Reg Bibby
shows a shift in
About 30 per cent of Canadians favoured legalization between the mid-1970s
Last week, the House of Commons created a committee to examine the use
The Canadian Medical Association Journal also argued in a recent editorial
that the negative
"A growing number of Canadians of all ages simply do not see marijuana
in negative terms,
He has been monitoring social trends in Canada since 1975 and said that
today just 34 per
His two latest surveys were completed late last year, and the results are
"These findings point to a country that is almost evenly divided. The lines
are being drawn
He said 50 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 19 favour the legalization
of marijuana, and 37
In the 1970s, 40 per cent of baby boomers supported the legalization of marijuana use.
Support for legalization of marijuana is highest in British Columbia (56
per cent), among
The party platforms of both the Bloc and the NDP support legalization.
Among Liberal and
Opposition to marijuana use is greater among people actively involved in
But Mr. Bibby said even here there has been a dramatic change. In 1975,
15 per cent of those
Return to Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy home page
Minister 'quite open' to marijuana debate
Toronto Globe and Mail
OTTAWA -- Justice Minister Anne McLellan said yesterday she is "quite
open" to a debate
Speaking one day after MPs in her own party and others said they
wanted to begin such a
Her comments pushed the government closer than it has ever been to
loosening the rules
On Thursday, the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion to create
a committee to
The decision moved the debate into the spotlight yesterday; both
the chairman of the
"I think both my colleagues, the minister of health and I look forward
to this discussion and
She noted that the Senate, led by Conservative Senator Pierre Claude
Nolin, has been
"I think it's something we need to talk to Canadians about because
I think they're deeply
Farah Mohamed, the minister's spokeswoman, said later the government
feels it should take
"The issue of decriminalizing marijuana is a very complex one .
. . even within the police
She said the government has no plans to change the law before hearing
from the committee,
Yesterday, a multiparty consensus that the issue can no longer be
avoided seemed to be
Canadian Alliance caucus chairman Randy White, normally a staunch
antidrug crusader, said
"There are lots of people across this country who want to talk about
it, and I'm certainly open
Mr. White, however, said starting a marijuana debate was not his
intention when he
Marijuana advocates were already claiming victory yesterday. "The
House committee is very
Two years ago, Health Canada legalized the use and possession of
marijuana for medicinal
Return to Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy home page
Clark supports decriminalizing marijuana
By ALLISON DUNFIELD
As he has done several times during his political career, Tory Leader
Joe Clark called
"I believe the least controversial approach is decriminalization
because it's unjust to see
"I'm making a distinction between legalization and decriminalization.
What interests me is
Advocates of medical marijuana, well aware of Mr. Clark's past statements
In 1979, Mr. Clark, who was the Conservative Opposition Leader at
the time, wrote a
"Once we have dealt with economic and institutional changes, we intend
to act on
Last week, a unanimous motion was passed by all parties in the House
of Commons to strike
Increasingly, high profile politicians are voicing their support
for decriminalization of
And last week, an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal
"My opinion is not necessarily shared by all the members of my party,
but it's the sort of
Marijuana advocates were surprised and mostly positive about Mr.
Clark's support for
Dana Larsen, editor of Cannabis Culture magazine and Deputy Leader
of the B.C. Marijuana
"Anything they do not to put people in jail is a step in the right direction."
The party, running in its first election, got 3.2 per cent of the
vote in last week's B.C.
Mr. Larsen said politicians are forced to play catch-up, as court
decisions and compassion
He said Ottawa has studied the issue and now it's time to act. Although
he doesn't think
Philip McMillan, the facilities director for the Nelson Cannabis
Compassion Club in British
A poll released Tuesday reported that Canadians are now evenly split
on legalizing the drug,
The United States, meanwhile, is coming down hard on illegal drugs.
Last Tuesday, the U.S.
But other countries are taking the opposite approach. In January,
the Belgian government
Philippe Lucas, director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society,
has heard enough
Martin Bright, home affairs Editor
Britain's top police officers have called for the mass prescription of heroin to addicts on the NHS in a move that will be seen as the decriminalisation of the drug.
The officers believe this radical approach will break the link between addicts and property crime, and allow the police to concentrate on combating major drugs dealers and organised criminals.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which represents chief constables in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will announce its revolutionary shift in policy in January. Under the proposals, addicts will no longer be treated as criminals if they agree to register and inject prescribed heroin in strictly controlled 'shooting galleries' under medical supervision.
The scheme, which has been approved by the Acpo president Sir David Phillips, would operate at specialist units in police stations, GPs' surgeries and hospitals to allay fears that the officially prescribed heroin would seep on to the black market.
The move will be seen by opponents as an admission that the 'war on drugs' has been lost; senior police officers now recognise that the prohibition of heroin has failed as a strategy.
Their proposals will not need a change in the law, but senior officers recognise that they will entail a relaxation of the police attitude towards possession of class A drugs, which now carries a prison sentence of up to seven years.
Sources close to Phillips said: 'We need to make our position clear, and move towards the managed stabilisation of addicts. This is common sense to most people: the alternatives, such as prison, are no longer realistic.'
One problem already identified by experts is the massive increase in the supply of prescription heroin needed for the scheme. Legal supplies in Britain are now processed by one factory in Liverpool from a single source of poppies in Tasmania.
There would also have to be a significant increase in the number of doctors licensed to prescribe and inject the drug. There are now only around 100 of them.
David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, advocated increasing this total in a submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee last month.
He is, however, unwilling to extend his plans to reform the law on cannabis to other drugs, and many doctors are unwilling to help patients take addictive drugs.
Acpo will propose a national trial early next year, believing a piecemeal approach would lead to clinics being swamped with addicts, and provoke local hostility.
It is estimated that around a third of people arrested by the police are dependent on one or more illegal drugs, and that as much as 70 per cent of property crime is committed to fund addiction.
The number of heroin addicts in Britain is now estimated to be 50,000, com pared with fewer than 2,000 in 1970 when the drug was available on prescription to registered addicts. A serious heroin user needs £100 a day to fund a habit.
The new Acpo stance has developed from controversial research published two years ago by Cleveland police in north-east England, which concluded: 'If there is indeed a "war on drugs" it is not being won; drugs are demonstrably cheaper and more readily available than ever.'
Dr John Guy, a GP who runs a practice in Middlesbrough dedicated to drug users, said he wholeheartedly welcomed the proposals. 'A more sensible approach would benefit everyone: the user's health improves, their lifestyle stabilises and crime drops for the rest of society.'
Others urged caution. Dame Ruth Runciman, whose Police Foundation report recommended decriminalising cannabis, said: 'It is not enough just to prescribe heroin. Any new scheme needs to take into account homelessness, lack of skills and social deprivation.'
Acpo's Phillips risked further controversy by saying the justice system in England and Wales was stuck in the Agatha Christie era. 'We are losing the war against organised crime. The courts are designed to deal with Miss Marple cases, not the kind of criminality we are currently facing.'
A Home Office spokesman said there were no plans to reclassify heroin.
THE POLICE AND HARD DRUGS: THE CLEVELAND REPORT
The Association of Chief Police Officers
will announce next month a new position on hard
What The Cleveland Report Says
These are extracts from the Cleveland report.
The full report is available from the
Recreational drugs have been used by humans
across the world for thousands of years.
"It can be argued that there is no logic
to the current pattern of illegality. Some drugs (
The Failure Of Prohibition
"There is overwhelming evidence to show
that the prohibition based policy in place in this
Members may wish to ask themselves whether
we have learned the lessons from alcohol
Drugs And Crime
The report considers the links between drugs
and crime, arguing that "as a result of this
The report quotes government assessments
that the illegal drugs trade is worth UKP 400
Commission Of Crime
"Many prohibited drugs are very strongly
addictive, as well as expensive. A serious heroin
"Most drug users seem not to commit significant
amounts of crime - their only offence is to
"There is only one serious alternative to
the proscription policy - the legalisation and
The report argues that "since legalisation
and regulation for the currently proscribed drugs has
"Some European cities ( notably Geneva and
London ) have experimented with radical
There is also contrary evidence. Defacto
legalisation is in place in parts of South America
A number of tentative conclusions can be drawn from the available evidence:
Attempts to restrict availability of illegal drugs have failed so far, everywhere
There is little or no evidence that they
can ever work within acceptable means in a
Demand for drugs seems still to be growing,
locally and nationally. The market seems to be
There is little evidence that conventional
conviction and punishment has any effect on
There is, however, growing evidence that
treatment and rehabilitation programmes can have a
There is some evidence that social attitudes
can be changed over time, by design. The best
If prohibition does not work, then either
the consequences of this have to be accepted, or an
The most obvious alternative approach is
the legalisation and subsequent regulation of some
There are really serious social implications
to such an approach which have never been
'Fink fund' probe kills 115 drug cases: RCMP investigates alleged corruption of city police force
Monday, May 13, 2002
The federal Justice Department is continuing to stay drug prosecutions without
Charges have been withdrawn or put on hold in as many as 150 drug
The Toronto police force and a number of former drug squad officers are
Nearly 18 months after a number of criminal lawyers said their clients had
The Ontario Attorney-General's office stayed those charges in February
The federal Justice Department, which is responsible for all drug
Many of the cases stayed originally are believed to have involved
But court records indicate many of the most recent prosecutions to be
Since July, 2001, more than 20 Internal Affairs detectives, led by RCMP
Neily has not commented publicly about the probe and the Justice
"There really isn't any further information that we can put forward at this
A lawyer for a suspected drug trafficker is asking the Justice Department,
Documents filed by lawyer Edward Sapiano in Ontario Superior Court
Sapiano's client, Roman Paryniuk, charged in connection with the seizures
Paryniuk claims police stole money during the March, 1999, seizure of at
In these two cases, court transcripts indicated the officers refused to allow
The disclosure request is necessary to establish that the officers stole
"This theft is simply one more step in a long-standing pattern of
Global National Television News, 6:30 pm EDT, Monday, May 13, 2002
(You may be able to view the news report at: http://mirror.canada.com/toronto/globaltv/info/video/130502gn_topstory.ram)
Canadian marijuana reform concerns U.S.
Kevin Newman (Global TV anchor): Who would have thought you'd live long enough to see this. Hearings by Canadian parliamentarians into legalizing marijuana. And even more amazing is whose running the hearings.
Senators, whose average age has tended to those 55 plus. But today in Regina they kicked off a series of meetings aimed at looking at whether it's time to take smoking pot off the list of crimes in Canada. And framing these discussions is a little-noticed report they've just issued reaching some startling conclusions.
The Senate committee concludes there is no convincing evidence that smoking pot leads to using harder drugs.
It says marijuana use does not induce users to commit other crimes, or engage in risky activity such as driving quickly.
The Senate also found that one in every three Canadian kids age 15 and 16 has smoked at least once in the past month, and that one and a half million Canadians have a criminal record because of what the Senate calls simple possession.
Ground-breaking stuff. But this report, and Canada’s willingness to allow people to use marijuana for medical purposes, also seems to have raised the ire of the U.S. in a significant way. We’ve learned tonight that its drug czar is pressuring Canadian authorities not to loosen Canadian law and he's carrying a very big stick -- threatening trade sanctions if we don't do what he wants. Global National's Carl Hanlon has the exclusive details.
Hanlon: On the street its called B.C. bud and American demand for it is reaching new highs. Sources close to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency say it will soon issue a report claiming there are 15 to 20,000 marijuana growing operations in British Columbia alone and 95 per cent of the output is headed south.
"A dramatic increase in the gross quantity of marijuana of high potency coming across the border," says Colonel Robert Maginnis, a U.S. government adviser on drug policy. He says the Bush administration is alarmed by a recent Senate study that says Canada’s marijuana laws are ineffective. [Note from Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy: Robert Maginnis works for the Family Research Council, a private body, and sits on a US government drug advisory board (hence, his description as a government adviser). He does not appear to work for the drug czar's office. He should therefore not be considered as an official US government spokesperson (the story does not claim that he does work for the drug czar, but some readers may get that mistaken impression.).]
Hanlon: The U.S. fears the next step could be looser regulations leading to more drugs crossing the border and its ready to play hardball with trade to make sure that doesn't happen.
"To antagonize government leaders and grass roots leaders because you insist on having a radical drug policy that we will not ignore in the long term, then its going to have adverse consequences and I hope we would be able to rectify it before it comes to blows," explains Maginnis.
Hanlon: The U.S. is closely watching the Canadian marijuana debate and is working behind the scenes to influence the outcome. Next month the president's chief of drug policy attend a drug conference in Quebec and he'll make sure his counterparts understand the U.S. opposes liberalization.
As for the Canadian government, Solicitor General Lawrence Macaulay did not respond when asked if Canada is being pressured by U.S.
The organization for the reform of marijuana laws says the Americans have a habit of throwing their weight around to influence other country's drug laws.
Allen St. Pierre (Reform of Marijuana Laws): Those countries often then bend and defer to the United States will on this and, unfortunately, abandon not only their own pragmatism and common sense, but to some degree their own sovereignty.
Hanlon: Ottawa has confirmed that the US Drug Enforcement Agency [Administration] turned down a request to provide high quality seeds for the [Canadian] government's medical marijuana program. Then [Canadian federal] Health Minister Allan Rock was forced to rely on seeds confiscated by [Canadian] police, leading to an inferior crop and delay in providing pot to Canadians.
In Washington, this is Global's Carl Hanlon.
Newman: Ottawa was pushing ahead with plans to provide government grown medical marijuana people with serious illness, but those efforts appear to have stalled.
But the American angst over medical marijuana use may be a little premature.
As of Friday [May 10, 2002] fewer than 255 Canadians have received licenses to smoke,
And of those 164 can smoke their own because enough government grown
isn't available yet.
Friday, September 13, 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Canada's pot policy under fire from U.S.
By GRAEME SMITH
DETROIT -- Canada's marijuana policy is flawed by a lack of information
John Walters, director of U.S. national drug-control policy, sharply
Mr. Walters said at a Detroit news conference that Canada has done
"I asked the ministers in Canada when I was there: What do you estimate
"The answer is that they don't know. They don't have surveys. They do not
"In our view of working policy, you don't make a major step that involves
Mr. Walters suggested that policymakers in Canada are naive to be persuaded
"The claim that medical marijuana is an efficacious medicine is a lie.
"It is used by people who want to legalize marijuana, cynically."
He acknowledged that the United States is considering tighter border
"What happens in Canada as a sovereign nation -- as long as it stays in
"The problem today is that Canadian production of high-potency marijuana
Mr. Walters repeatedly said that the U.S. prohibition on marijuana is based
He emphasized that U.S. scientists have done more research into the effects
"We have the most powerful, successful and sophisticated medical
The news conference was Mr. Walters's only public appearance as he meets
(see also the May 13, 2002 Global Television news
story about alleged threats to Canada by US)
No laws ban possession of marijuana, court rules
Landmark Ontario decision goes beyond the decriminalization proposed by Ottawa
By COLIN FREEZE AND KIM LUNMAN
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Saturday, May 17, 2003 - Page A9
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TORONTO and OTTAWA -- Canada has no laws prohibiting marijuana possession, an Ontario Superior Court judge said yesterday in a ruling that will be binding on judges in the province and may soon be picked up across the country.
"For today, and for the Victoria Day weekend, it's a very pleasant state of affairs for recreational pot smokers," said criminal lawyer Paul Burstein, who helped argue the case successfully.
It was the second time that a Windsor teenager who was caught smoking pot while playing hooky in a park has been found not to have broken any law because, the courts ruled, there are effectively no longer any marijuana laws to break.
Mr. Justice Steven Rogin upheld yesterday a lower-court decision, based on complex arguments, that has already had far-reaching influence.
The new ruling means that proposed federal legislation to decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana would actually "recriminalize" it, defence lawyers said yesterday.
While the new law would impose fines for pot possession, yesterday's ruling effectively eliminated any sanctions for simple pot possession in Ontario, they said.
The decision "has effectively erased the criminal prohibition on marijuana possession from the law books in Ontario," said Brian McAllister, the lawyer for the accused teenager.
Courts in Nova Scotia and PEI have already put prosecutions on hold pending yesterday's ruling, he said, and lawyers in other provinces were similarly watching for this decision.
The initial ruling in favour of the Windsor teenager, identified only as J. P., had a significant spillover effect and the higher-court decision is expected to be even more influential.
The federal Department of Justice, which appealed the initial ruling, is planning another appeal.
The government still plans to introduce its marijuana-decriminalization legislation later this month.
Most Canadians are behind the idea, according to an Ipsos-Reid poll released yesterday.
It found that 55 per cent of Canadians did not believe smoking marijuana should be a criminal offence, while 42 per cent thought it should be.
More telling, 63 per cent of respondents supported Ottawa's plans to issue tickets and fines similar to traffic violations to those caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana, the poll found.
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon has said he is seeking the changes so that people who are caught with small amounts will not clog up the court system, potentially receiving criminal records.
For the moment, however, marijuana possession remains the most frequently laid drug charge in Canada even though courts are becoming increasingly resistant to hearing those cases.
Jim Leising of the federal Justice Department said in an interview that he was "disappointed" by yesterday's decision and will push to have the case heard quickly in the Ontario Court of Appeal.
"We are are still of the opinion that the law against marijuana is valid," he said.
Mr. Leising said prosecutions will continue, although some may be put on hold.
But defence lawyers involved in J.P.'s case said Ontarians facing possession charges should fight Crown prosecutors' attempts to delay their cases until the law is clarified.
Ontarians who are charged with marijuana possession after yesterday's ruling could consider suing police for wrongful arrest, they said.
"Anybody who's got a charge before the court should definitely take advantage of this," Mr. Burstein said.
Multiple court battles to strike down the marijuana laws are taking place, he said, leaving Ottawa besieged from many directions.
"The courts keep firing big shots into the sides of the government's ship," Mr. Burstein said.
"They're sinking lower and lower. They are bailing it out with a cup."
The Ipsos-Reid poll -- of 1001 people, conducted between May 13 and May 15 -- found people still have some reservations about decriminalization.
The poll results are considered to reflect accurately the feelings of the entire country to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Return to Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy home page
Updated: 17 May 2003 | Accessed: 68849 times