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Updated:Thursday, 14-Nov-2013 10:12:31 PST| Accessed:808721times


  What's new

  • October 17, 2013: The federal government re-introduces the Respect for Communities Act, a bill that was originally introduced in June 2013, but which died when Parliament was prorogued. The Bill creates a formal process to obtain government approval to set up supervised injection facilities. Critics argue that the Bill will impede the establishment of such facilities and cost lives. For further details, click here. And to see the 2011 Supreme Court of Canada decision ordering the federal minister of health to allow Vancouver's supervised injection facility, known as Insite, to continue to operate, click here.
  • September 30, 2011: Supreme Court of Canada unanimously orders federal Minister of Health to grant exemption to Vancouver's supervised injection facility, known as Insite, from the law prohibiting possession of controlled substances.  Here is the decision (French version). Court also states that, on future applications for exemptions by other facilities, "Where the Minister is considering an application for an exemption for a supervised injection facility, he or she will aim to strike the appropriate balance between achieving the public health and public safety goals.  Where, as here, the evidence indicates that a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the Minister should generally grant an exemption."
  • September 20, 2011: Conservative government introduces omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act. The bill contains several amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These amendments include the introduction of mandatory minimum penalties for some drug offences and increased penalties for some other drug offences. Click here for the legislative status of the bill (French version). The parts of Bill C-10 dealing with changes to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are virtually identical to bills introduced by the Conservative government in 2007, 2009 and 2010 (none of which were passed into law). These proposed changes have attracted widespread criticism for a variety of reasons. For example, to see the position of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network about the predecessor to Bill C-10, click here (French version). To see the position of the Network about mandatory minimum sentences, which feature prominently in the new bill, click here (French version). Click here (French version) to see the Department of Justice backgrounder on the drug law amendments.
  • June 2011: Global Commission on Drug Policy issues report: “Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s global war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed,” said former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso. “Let’s start by treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives and legally regulating rather than criminalizing cannabis.”

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What's new archives (For What's New archives (1998-99), click here.)

  • Congratulations and and Sincere Thanks! Dr. Eric Single, a founding member of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy in 1993 (as well as Adjunct Professor of Public Health Sciences and Professor of Sociology (joint appointment), University of Toronto; Scientific Advisor Emeritus, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse), has been awarded the 2008 Kaiser Foundation National Award for Excellence in Public Policy.  Dr. Single has decided to donate to the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy a significant portion of  the financial award that he received from the Kaiser Foundation.  We thank Eric deeply for his generosity.

  • May 2008:  Federal government may refuse to renew the legal exemption that allows Vancouver's supervised injection facility, InSite, to keep operating.  Despite extensive peer-reviewed research showing the benefits of the InSite facility, the federal government has repeatedly criticized the operation, claiming a lack of evidence of its effectiveness, and threatened to shut it down.For one government press release claiming the need for further evidence, click hereTo learn more about the facility, visit the Vancouver Coastal Health web site.   For other details about the Vancouver facility,  click here.  To see a May 9, 2008 press conference by BC nurses in support of InSite, click here.  May 27, 2008:  In a decision relating to the right of InSite to continue operating, BC Supreme Court Justice Pitfield declared section 4 (possession) and 5(trafficking) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to be unconstitutional and invaldi as violating section 7 of the Charter (which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person). Justice Pitfield suspended the declaration of invalidity until June 9, 2009, to enable the federal government to amend the law to ensure it does not violate the Charter.  In the interim, InSite and users and staff on site enjoy a constitutional exemption. For judge's decision, click here.  May 29, 2008: Federal Health Minister Tony Clement announces that the Conservative government will appeal the BC Supreme Court decision.
  • February 2008: Health Officers Council of British Columbia releases its paper, Regulation of Psychoactive Substances in Canada: Seeking a Coherent Public Health Approach: "Every year, psychoactive substances (alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, and certain prescription drugs) cost Canadians over $40 billion. They are linked to more than 47,000 deaths and many thousands more injuries and disabilities. Inadequate, inappropriate, and ineffective regulation of these substances contributes in large measure to this terrible toll. Conversely, adequate, appropriate, and effective regulation holds great promise to protect public health and reduce this devastating situation."

  • November 20, 2007: Conservative Government introduces amendments to Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, imposing mandatory minimum penalties for several offences and increasing the maximum penalty for cannabis grow operations.  To see the Bill (Bill C-26, introduced in the House of Commons on November 20, 2007), click here (version française).  Here are the Department of Justice press release (version française) and backgrounder (version française).  Remember that these are self-interested government documents that cast the Bill in a very positive light.  Here is an explanation of how the mandatory minimum penalties (version française) would work.  To see critical commentary in the press, click here.  The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has prepared a briefing document (version française) that is highly critical of mandatory minimum sentences such as those proposed in the Bill.
  • February 22, 2007: Press conference held in Ottawa to challenge statements by US drug "czar" John Walters and to discuss adverse impacts of US "war on drugs" approach to drug issues.  To see video of press conference, click here.
  • January 2007: BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS study criticizes lack of proof of effectiveness of current law enforcement-based drug strategies:  "Currently, through Canadaʼs Drug Strategy, the federal government continues to invest heavily in policies and practices that have repeatedly been shown in the scientific literature to be ineffective or harmful. Specifically, while the stated goal of the Canadaʼs Drug Strategy is to reduce harm, evidence obtained through this analysis indicates that the overwhelming emphasis continues to be on conventional enforcement-based approaches which are costly and often exacerbate, rather than reduce, drug-related harms." For full report, published in Canadian HIV/AIDS Policy & Law Review, click here.
  • February 2008: Health Officers Council of British Columbia releases its paper, Regulation of Psychoactive Substances in Canada: Seeking a Coherent Public Health Approach: "Every year, psychoactive substances (alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, and certain prescription drugs) cost Canadians over $40 billion. They are linked to more than 47,000 deaths and many thousands more injuries and disabilities. Inadequate, inappropriate, and ineffective regulation of these substances contributes in large measure to this terrible toll. Conversely, adequate, appropriate, and effective regulation holds great promise to protect public health and reduce this devastating situation."   
  • November 20, 2007: Conservative Government introduces amendments to Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, imposing mandatory minimum penalties for several offences and increasing the maximum penalty for cannabis grow operations To see the Bill (Bill C-26, introduced in the House of Commons on November 20, 2007), click here (version française).  Here are the Department of Justice press release (version française) and backgrounder (version française).  Remember that these are self-interested government documents that cast the Bill in a very positive light.  Here is an explanation of how the mandatory minimum penalties (version française) would work.  To see critical commentary in the press, click here.  The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has prepared a briefing document (version française) that is highly critical of mandatory minimum sentences such as those proposed in the Bill.
  • January 2007: BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS study criticizes lack of proof of effectiveness of current law enforcement-based drug strategies:  "Currently, through Canadaʼs Drug Strategy, the federal government continues to invest heavily in policies and practices that have repeatedly been shown in the scientific literature to be ineffective or harmful. Specifically, while the stated goal of the Canadaʼs Drug Strategy is to reduce harm, evidence obtained through this analysis indicates that the overwhelming emphasis continues to be on conventional enforcement-based approaches which are costly and often exacerbate, rather than reduce, drug-related harms." For full report, published in Canadian HIV/AIDS Policy & Law Review, click here.
  • September 1, 2006: Vancouver safe injection facility ("Insite") receives extension until December 31, 2007, but no new sites to be allowed until government is satisfied of benefits. For government press release, click here.  For details about the Vancouver facility,  click here.
  • October 16, 2005: Health Officers Council of British Columbia releases discussion paper, A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada (October 2005).   From the paper's abstract:  "Studies support public health harm reduction strategies, but their implementation is hindered by the criminal status of drugs in popular use. Current conditions are right to enter into serious public discussions regarding the creation of a regulatory system for currently illegal drugs in Canada, with better control and reduced harms to be achieved by management in a tightly controlled system.  The removal of criminal penalties for drug possession for personal use, and placement of these currently illegal substances in a tight regulatory framework, could both aid implementation of programs to assist those engaged in harmful drug use, and reduce secondary unintended drug-related harms to society that spring from a failed criminal-prohibition approach. This would move individual harmful illegal drug use from being primarily a criminal issue to being primarily a health issue."  For details of the conference held to discuss the report, "Beyond Drug Prohibition: A Public Health Approach" (October 18, 19, 2005), click here.
  • June 8, 2005:  City of Vancouver report, Preventing Harm from Psychoactive Substance Use, made public in preparation for June 14, 2005, meeting of Vancouver City Council.  This was a draft report.  To see the final report, released in November 2005, click here.  Among the many recommendations in the report: "This plan recommends that regulation of currently illegal substances should be considered with the goals of increasing our ability to prevent harm to individuals and communities from substance use and of eliminating the involvement of organized crime in these drug markets. We propose that the Federal Government proceed in this direction by first tackling the regulation of cannabis, next evaluating the results and finally moving incrementally to bring more currently illegal substances into regulatory frameworks."  For related news story, click here.
  • June 9, 2004:  BC's annual marijuana crop, if valued at retail street prices and sold by the cigarette, is worth over $7 billion, according to a new study Marijuana Growth in British Columbia, released today by The Fraser Institute.Marijuana should be decriminalized, treated like any legal product, and the revenue taxed. Using conservative assumptions about Canadian consumption, this could translate into potential revenues for the government of over $2 billion.  The study's author is Stephen Easton, professor of economics at Simon Fraser University and a Senior Fellow at The Fraser Institute.  To see a copy of the study, click here.
  • March 1, 2004:  Canada's federal New Democratic Party issues policy statement criticizing proposed changes to cannabis laws (Bill C-10) and criticizing drug prohibition generally. To see statement, click here.   To see other NDP statements relating to drug policy, click here and look under the title "Modernizing Marijuana Laws."
  • February 2004:  Summary of the proceedings from the symposium "Visioning a Future for Prevention: A Local Perspective," held November 20 and 21, 2003 at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Vancouver, BC
  • February 23, 2004: Statistics Canada releases report on "Trends in drug offences and the role of alcohol and drugs in crime, 2002". To see .pdf version of report, click here.  
  • February 12, 2004:  Government reintroduces cannabis law reform bill: Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  To see the bill as it stood at First Reading (check for later amendments on the Parliamentary web site), click here.
  • December 23, 2003:  Supreme Court of Canada rules that Parliament has the constitutional right to prohibit cannabis possession using the criminal law.  See judgments in R. v. Malmo-Levine; R. v. Caine and R. v. Clay.
  • May 22, 2003:  Illicit IV Drugs: A Public Health Approach, by Mark Haden, M.S.W.  This article, published originally in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, explores, from a public health perspective, the harm done by Canadian drug laws, to both individuals and society. It challenges the perceived dichotomy of legalization and criminalization of intravenous drugs. The article then expands the discussion by exploring eight legal options for illicit drugs and examines how these options interact with; the marginalization of users, the illicit drug black market, and levels of drug consumption. While the main focus of this article is intravenous drugs, it draws some lessons from cannabis research. 
  • May 16, 2003: Ontario Superior Court confirms earlier lower court judgments that no law exists in Canada banning possession of cannabis.  For story, click here.  Note:  This decision is binding in Ontario only, but may be adopted by other courts elsewhere in Canada.  As well, the federal Department of Justice will likely appeal the decision, which could result in this decision being overturned.
  • January 2003: The origins of cannabis prohibition in Canada (excerpted from a 1991 Canadian study, Panic and Indifference). 
  • January 2003: The links between drug prohibition and illegal firearms.  In light of the current discussion about the value of Canada's firearms registration program, here is a study done for the Canadian Firearms Centre in 1998 that discusses several ways in which the drug trade fostered by prohibition increases the unlawful use of firearms and leads to the "militarization" (that is, the increased reliance on heavy weapons) of policing.  Version française.
  • January 2, 2003: Ontario judge rules that possession of cannabis is not illegal.   Department of Justice quickly announces appeal of ruling.   May 16, 2003:  Ontario Superior Court confirms earlier lower court judgments that no law exists in Canada banning possession of cannabis.  For story, click here.  Note:  This later decision is binding in Ontario only, but may be adopted by other courts elsewhere in Canada.  As well, the federal Department of Justice will likely appeal the decision, which could result in this decision being overturned.
  • December 18, 2002: Nearly one out of six Members of the European Parliament ( MEPs ) are now calling for an end to drug prohibition and the revision of United Nations ( UN ) treaties that block the way. Some 108 MEPs ( out of 624 ) from seven political parties or groups and 13 European Union countries have agreed on a draft resolution urging the UN and its member states to establish a "system for the legal control and regulation of the production, sale and consumption of substances which are currently illegal."  To see news reports and press releases, click here
  • December 9 and 12, 2002:  Canadian House of Commons Special Committee on Non-medical Use of Drugs releases reports. The reports call for safe injection sites, pilot heroin maintenance programs, decriminalization of cannabis, among other reforms. The reports are available through the committee's web site.  To see television coverage by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), click here.
  • October 29, 2002:  Police violence in drug law enforcement? Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society reports allegations of abuse by Vancouver Police Department in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Many of the allegations involve misconduct against drug users. Allegations include assault, illegal searches, unlawful detention, violation of Charter mobility rights, and a range of other improprieties. Report concludes: "Drug users and police officers are both responding to a larger social policy context that reinforces their mutual roles as victims and aggressors or, viewed from the perspective of the police, law breakers and law enforcers. It is our decision as a society to criminalize drug addiction, rather than understand and treat those behaviours as medical and social issues, that ultimately forces both sides of the equation into an endless dehumanizing cycle of criminalized behaviour, arrest, incarceration, release, and further criminalized behaviour. And until we change the way we deal with drug use, we will not have a real opportunity to heal this wounding cycle."  To see report, click here.
  • September 13, 2002:  Is US "drug czar" threatening Canada over Canadian Senate proposals to legalize cannabis? "Canada's marijuana policy is flawed by a lack of information and outright lies, according to the highest-ranking drug official in the United States."  To see story, click here.
  • September 4, 2002: The Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs released its report on cannabis.  Among other recommendations, the report calls for cannabis to be legalized and regulated, and for criminal records of those convicted of cannabis possession in the past to be erased.   The report and summary are on the Committee web site.  The committee news conference can be found here.  For various Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio and television reports, including interviews with advocates, click here.  To see testimony and briefs by Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy founding members before the committee, click here.
  • August 23, 2002:  The Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) releases its 2002 Annual Report on Organized Crime in Canada.  The report deals in part with how various criminal groups continue to profit from the trade in illegal drugs.  It also describes various police operations directed at marijuana grow operations ("grow ops"). This year's report states that illicit drugs continue to be the major source of income for organized crime groups. And again, as with past reports, this year's report fails to acknowledge that the drug trade is profitable for criminals only because our laws prohibiting drugs create a lucrative black market in them.  Here are the CISC press release, the executive summary of the report, and the full report (.pdf format or html format). 
  • August 1, 2002: A British Columbia Supreme Court justice has called the illegal activities of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Canada in a 1999 investigation "blatant acts in disregard of Canadian sovereign values and law," and "so egregious as to constitute an abuse of process." As a result, the judge stayed an application by the US government to have a suspect in Canada committed for extradition to the United States.   For details, click here.
  • August 9, 2002: International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy releases two May 2002 studies on marijuana in British Columbia: Marihuana Growing Operations in British Columbia (click here for the executive summary).  The report includes a description of: (1) The incidents of marihuana cultivation that came to the attention of the police; (2) The characteristics of marihuana cultivation operations; (3) The characteristics of the suspects involved and their criminal history (4) The action taken at various stages of the criminal justice process; and, (5) The patterns of sentencing in such cases.  The second report is Marihuana Trafficking Incidents in British Columbia.  It gives a very complete analysis of the charging practices, the amounts involved and the sentences received for trafficking offences. All files are in .pdf format.
  • July 21, 2002: CBC Radio Cross-Country Checkup program -- "Should Canada loosen its marijuana laws?"  You can listen to the entire program by visiting the Cross-Country Checkup archives and going to the program for July 21, 2002.  The archives also contain the contents of the e-mail discussion forum that occurred during the program.  The program includes interviews with Randy White, co-chair of the House of Commons Committee on Non-medical Use of Drugs, US Congressman Mark Souder, Chair of US Justice Sub-committee on Criminal Justice and Drug Policy (he spoke about the response of the United States to Canadian drug policy reform), Marc-Boris St. Maurice, Leader of the Marijuana Party of Canada, Mike Niebudek, Vice-President, Canadian Police Association, and Eugene Oscapella, Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy. 
  • July 16, 2002: Federal Justice Minister says that cannabis law may be eased.  For story, click here.
  • July 10, 2002: Canadian Human Rights Commission calls most forms of employment drug testing unacceptable, including pre-employment drug and alcohol testing, random drug testing, and random alcohol testing of employees in non-safety sensitive positions.  For details, click here
  • May 29, 2002: Associate editor of the Financial Times (UK): "European countries are starting to realise that a policy of retribution against drug addicts is both immoral and stupid. . . . Small chinks are opening in the wall of stupidity that surrounds drug policy.  In the US, a few brave souls are challenging the "war on drugs" - a euphemism for a war upon its citizens. The Netherlands and Switzerland are experimenting with decriminalisation.  And, last week, a report from a select committee of the House of Commons even opened a few holes in British government policy.  It is regrettably timid but still a small step in the right direction." For full story, click here
  • American influence on Canadian drug policy, video archive of presentation by Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy at the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy, Houston, Texas, April 11, 2002.
    • Drug trafficking remains the principal source of revenue for most organized crime groups
    • The hashish, heroin and cocaine that are consumed in Canada originate in regions of the globe where terrorist and insurgent groups are involved to one extent or another in the production, processing or movement of narcotics. . . . Drug consumers are therefore supporting such terrorist and insurgent groups. [For a criticism of this analysis of the links between drug use and terrorism, click here.]
  •  United States-Canada Border Drug Threat Assessment (.pdf file): "During the Fourth Canada–United States Cross-Border Crime Forum, held in Washington, D.C., in June 2000, it was agreed to undertake a joint assessment of the common threat posed by the cross-border drug trade. The enclosed report, “United States–Canada Border Drug Threat Assessment,” is the result of that agreement. Numerous agencies involved in fighting drugs participated in its preparation." 

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  • May 13, 2002: Global Television network report claims that US government is threatening Canada with trade sanctions if Canada reforms its drug laws.  For full story, click here.  To see the video of the news report, click here.
  • May 13, 2002: Corruption: National Post reports that the federal Justice Department is continuing to stay drug prosecutions without explanation as a 10-month-old RCMP-led probe into allegations of corruption in the Toronto police force drug squad appears to be widening its investigation.  For story, click here.
  • May 2, 2002: Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs issues discussion paper on cannabis.  To see the press release, click here.  To see the discussion paper summary, click here.  To  see the full discussion paper, click here.
  • April 30, 2002: Release of Canadian multi-departmental study, Proportions of crimes associated with alcohol and other drugs in Canada.  Report concludes: "The main findings of this report confirm the close association between the use of alcohol and other drugs, and criminal behaviour, and indicate that a substantial portion of this association is causal."  For study highlights, click here.  For full report, click here (PDF file).
  • April 29, 2002: Canada’s proposed terrorist legislation, the Public Safety Act, 2002 (Bill C-55), may expand police powers in relation to drug offences that have nothing to do with terrorism.  For details, click here What this added police power in relation to drug offences has in most cases to do with catching terrorists is a mystery.
  • March 11, 2002: Canadian Medical Association testifies before Senate Illegal Drugs Committee: "Whenever possible, individuals suffering from drug dependency should be diverted from the criminal justice system into treatment and rehabilitation.. . . The vast majority of resources dedicated to combating drugs are directed toward law enforcement activities. Government needs to re-balance the distribution, and allocate a greater proportion of these resources to drug treatment, prevention and harm reduction programs."  For details, click here.
  • December 9, 2001: Britain's top police officers have called for the mass prescription of heroin to addicts.  The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which represents chief constables in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will announce its 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. For stories, click here.
  • December 8, 2001: Women strip-searched at Halifax rave may try to re-open case in light of Supreme Court of Canada decision (see immediately below) on strip searches.  For details, click here.
  • December 7, 2001:  Supreme Court of Canada drug case places limits in on strip searches: "The importance of preventing unjustified searches before they occur is particularly acute in the context of strip searches. Strip searches are inherently humiliating and degrading for detainees regardless of the manner in which they are carried out and for this reason they cannot be carried out simply as a matter of routine policy."  For complete decision in R. v. Golden, click here
  • December 4, 2001: Auditor General of Canada releases report on the federal government's role in dealing with illicit drugs: "Eleven federal departments and agencies are involved in the effort to control illicit drugs at a cost of about $500 million a year," says Auditor General.  "But they don't know the extent of the problem and whether or not they are succeeding in their efforts.... Let's make sure that our investments in efforts to address this problem are effective."  For press release, click here.  For full report, click here. [Note that report completely overlooks the role and cost of drug prohibition.] 
  • November 14, 2001: Federal Health Minister Allan Rock announces support for safe injection sites across Canada:  "We will do everything we can to facilitate pilots in cities across the country if those cities decide this is part of the strategy that they want."  For news story, click here
  • August 31, 2001: Health Canada issues response (almost two years later) to November 1999 report of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network on Injection Drug Use and HIV/AIDS: Legal and Ethical Issues.  The 1999 report had called for immediate and longer-term measures, including a move away from criminal prohibition, to stem HIV infections.  To see the reaction of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network to Health Canada’s response, as well as a chronology of this issue, click here.
  • August 29, 2001: Ontario’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reiterates its call for reform of cannabis laws: “While negative health effects can result from extensive cannabis use, studies in other jurisdictions have shown that reducing criminal sanctions for possession for personal use lessens the negative social and individual consequences, and does not lead to increased use.  . . .  We urge the government to follow . . . the growing number of organizations and Canadians who support a more rational and balanced approach to drug policy.”  For story, click here.  For a more detailed explanation of the Centre’s position, click here.

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  • August 22, 2001: Canadian social and economic think-tank, The Fraser Institute, issues policy papers calling drug prohibition a complete failure.  Here are the Institute's media release and the policy papers themselves. See also June 1998 Fraser Institute analysis of media treatment of drug policy issues in Canada.  Click here for report.
  • August 17, 2001: Organized crime and drugs in Canada. Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) releases its 2001 report on organized crime in Canada:  "Drug smuggling and trafficking remain the major source of criminal profit for many crime groups . . .". Report details the extensive involvement of organized crime in the illegal drug trade (but makes no mention that the interest of organized crime in the drug trade stems from the prohibition of those drugs).  To see excerpts of the report dealing with organized crime and the drug trade, and to see the full report, click here
  • August 16, 2001: RCMP to investigate widening allegations of corruption among Toronto drug squad officers.  For details, click here.  August 29, 2001: Peel (outside Toronto) regional police officer charged with trafficking drugs and possesion of proceeds of crime.  For story, click here.   The same Peel officer pleaded guility in March 2002 -- for story, click here
  • July 30, 2001 and August 17, 2001.  Federal medical marijuana regulations take effect.  Click here for details from Health Canada about the regulations.   August 17, 2001:  Canadian Medical Association Journal publishes interim medical marijuana guidelines for physicians.  Click here to see guidelines. 
  • July 26, 2001: Britain's internationally respected The Economistmagazine does survey on illegal drugs:  "Prohibition has failed, again.  It has long been clear that the laws on drugs are doing more harm than good.  For understandable reasons, governments and voters alike are reluctant to face the facts.  The case for legalisation is strong, both in principle and as a practical matter."  (click here for The Economist's full survey on illegal drugs)
  • May 19-22, 2001:  Cannabis: Federal Minister of Justice says she is "quite open" to a debate on whether marijuana should be legalized, or at least decriminalized, in Canada.  For story, click hereFederal Conservative Party Leader speaks out for decriminalizing (as opposed to legalizing) cannabis.  For story, click here.  Poll shows growing support for legalizing cannabis.  For story, click here.
  • May 17, 2001:  All five parties in Canada’s House of Commons agree to establish a committee to

  • study issues relating to currently illegal drugs.  For details, click here.
  • May 15, 2001:  Canadian Medical Association Journal calls for cannabis to be decriminalized.  Says the CMAJ: "Health Canada's decision to legitimize the medicinal use of marijuana is a step in the right direction. But a bolder stride is needed. The possession of small quantities for personal use should be decriminalized. The minimal negative health effects of moderate use would be attested to by the estimated 1.5 million Canadians who smoke marijuana for recreational purposes. The real harm is the legal and social fallout."   Click here for PDF file containing English editorial, and here for the French version.  For English HTML file, click here.  For French HTML file, click here. (Note: This editorial does not necessarily reflect the views of the CMA itself.)
  • May 3, 2001:  Britain's highly respected The Economist magazine calls US war on drugs "a disaster by any reasonable measure," and repeats its longstanding call for drugs to be "decriminalized."  Click here for editorial.
  • April 7, 2001: Medicinal Marijuana:  Health Canada releases proposed regulation permitting tightly regulated access to marijuana for therapeutic purposes.  To see the Health Canada press release, click here (remember that this is the government's own statement and does not point out the weaknesses of the regulations.)  To see the proposed regulations, click here (for the ASCII text version) or here for the PDF version.  To see one newspaper report criticizing the proposed regulations, click here.
  • March 15, 2001:  Supreme Court of Canada agrees to hear case challenging the constitutionality of Canada's cannabis laws.  For information, click here.
  • March 2001: European study of teenage drug use suggests that the war on drugs may increase, not decrease, teen drug use, or that it may have no impact at all. A report by the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet) on the findings of the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs reports that a much higher percentage of American  teenagers consume illicit drugs than do their European counterparts.  To see the DRCNet report, click here.
  • March 5, 2001: Medicinal marijuana: Police raid home of Jim Wakeford, man with a legal exemption to grow marijuana, hours after his lawyers had argued in court that the law provides such people inadequate protection from drug charges. Police charge Wakeford with possession for the purpose of trafficking. To see story, click here.
  • February 2001:  International Narcotics Control Board releases its annual report for 2000.  Report says drug trafficking continues to increase in Canada. Report also says that efforts to eradicate cannabis have been made

  • by law enforcement agencies in Canada, but the impact of those efforts has been reduced by Canadian courts giving lenient sentences to cannabis growers and couriers.  Canada's Minister of Justice promises to do more.  To see the report and critical commentary on the report and the position of the Minister, click here.
  • January 31, 2001: Survey of Vancouver residents finds strong support for decriminalizing cannabis, harm reduction measures. For news report and editorial, click here.
  • Police and government corruption related to drug prohibition
    • May 13, 2002: Corruption: National Post reports that the federal Justice Department is continuing to stay drug prosecutions without explanation as a 10-month-old RCMP-led probe into allegations of corruption in the Toronto police force drug squad appears to be widening its investigation.  For story, click here.
    • (February 28, 2001) Toronto police officer convicted of robbing drug dealers and plotting an Ecstasy trafficking scheme described by prosecutors as the biggest on record in Canada. Officer had also been charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. For story, click here.
    • (January 31, 2001) BC police officer convicted of theft of cannabis and helping drug sellers avoid police raids.  For stories, click here.
    • (January 2001) BC police drug education officer dies of drug overdose.  For stories, click here.
    • (November 24, 2000) Corruption charges laid against eight Toronto drug squad members.  Some lawyers claim that the charges may affect hundreds of drug prosecutions.  In all, 75 criminal charges were laid, including theft, fraud, forgery and breach of trust, and the officers also face a total of 98 disciplinary charges under the Police Services Act.  For story, click here.
    • For stories about police corruption in drug law enforcement in the US, see the report by the US General Accounting Office (the investigative arm of US Congress).
    • Study prepared in 2000 by the Institute for Policy Studies (Washington) on US government corruption and "complicity" relating to the war on drugs.
  • January 22, 2001: Cannabis: Belgium issues directive allowing possession of cannabis for personal use.  For stories, click here.
  • Safe Injection Sites: Here is the November 2000 proposal (in PDF format) by the Harm Reduction Action Society to establish a pilot project for two safe injection sites in Vancouver.
  • January 15, 2001: Medicinal marijuana -- Grant Krieger:  In December 2000, an Alberta judge struck down portion of federal law that prohibits the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes, saying it was unconstitutional. For news story, click here. The judge struck down section 7(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, but stayed the decision for a year.  The Crown has now decided to appeal the court's decision in Mr. Krieger's case.  For news report, click here. Mr. Krieger's case was the second case where a Canadian court declared the law unconstitutional as it relates to medical marijuana. For details of the Ontario Court of Appeal and trial decisions in the other case, Parker, click here.
        "On the subject of drugs, Mr. Clinton, who famously claimed not to have inhaled, said that "most small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized and should be." [Note to reader from Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy:  In fact, most drug arrests in the United States, as in Canada, relate to cannabis.]

        Going further, he said that mandatory sentences for drug use should be re examined  [Note to Canadian readers:  Unlike the US, there are no mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences in Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.] along with the distinction in sentencing between crack and powdered cocaine. [Note to Canadian readers:  US penalties for crack cocaine offences are enormously greater than for powdered cocaine.] "The disparities are unconscionable between crack and powdered cocaine," Mr.  Clinton said.  "I tried to change that.  The Republican Congress was willing to narrow but not eliminate them, the theory being that people who used crack were more violent than people who used cocaine.

         "What they really meant was: People that used crack were more likely to be poor - and, coincidentally, black or brown.  And therefore not to have money.  Those people that used cocaine were more likely to be rich, pay for it and therefore be peaceful."
         

    See also the strong criticism of Mr. Clinton's drug policies in The Clinton Drug War Legacy, published by High Times.

    Mr. Clinton also calls for reexamination of US policy on imprisonment.  (The US is one of the most punitive countries in the world.  The US incarcerates 25 per cent of all the human beings incarcerated in the world.  See report on incarceration rates in US, rates that are increasingly fuelled by drug "offenders.")

  • December 6, 2000:  BC Premier says prescribing drugs for addicts -- not just providing safe-injection sites -- has to  be part of any comprehensive plan to  tackle Vancouver's drug  problem.  For story, click here.
  • November 30, 2000:  Canada's Justice Minister states that the federal government plans to set up drug courts in all major Canadian cities by 2004. For news story, click here. To see a 1999 report on Toronto's (then) new drug court, click here.  For descriptions of the US experience with drug courts, and criticisms of those courts, click here. See also the 1997 report of the US General Accounting Office (GAO) on US drug courts.  (Note that drug court programs vary substantially in how they operate, so some criticisms and analyses may or may not apply to the drug courts planned for Canada.
  • November 21, 2000:  Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen unveils plan for dealing with city's drug crisis. Safe-injection sites for drug users and providing free heroin for hard-core addicts on a trial basis are among the strategies the city of Vancouver is recommending. For story, click here. To see the City of Vancouver press release and the full plan, A Framework for Action - A Four-Pillar Approach to Drug Problems in Vancouver, click here.
  • November 4, 2000:  United States: The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' (NACDL) board of directors unanimously approved a resolution on November 4th calling for the end of the war on drugs.  In its resolution, NACDL, the largest specialty bar association in the United States representing the interests of criminal defence lawyers, stated that drug use should be considered a health problem, and that the government should "repeal all laws criminalizing the possession, use and delivery of controlled substances." For report, click here.
  • October 9, 2000: CNN reports that many European governments are shifting from harsh soft-drug penalties towards a more tolerant approach to drugs such as cannabis. For story, click here.
  • October 9, 2000: United Kingdom -- former Scotland Yard drug squad chief says, "my direct experience has convinced me that legalisation [of cannabis], not prohibition, is the only viable option."  For story, click here.
  • October 4, 2000: British Columbia Supreme Court judge states that "We can't deal with mental illness and addiction to substances in the criminal justice system."   For news story, click here.
  • October 2, 2000: Swiss Cabinet comes out in favour of legalising cannabis use.  The Swiss cabinet has decided to ask parliamentarians to make the use and preparation of cannabis a non-criminal offence.  For story, click here.
  • September 25, 2000: Medical marijuana  Federal Minister of Health states that a government-controlled supply of marijuana will be grown and federal  regulations governing medicinal use will be made into law within a year. For story, click here.
  • September 19, 2000:  Federal political leaders and MPs discuss whether drugs should be "legalized".  For Ottawa Citizen story, click here.
  • September 16, 2000:  Colombian parliamentary officials call for drugs to be legalized.  Colombia will argue at the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas in Ottawa next spring that decriminalizing and regulating drugs like heroin and cocaine and channelling profits into fighting addiction is the best way to undermine organized crime.  To see story, click here.
  • September 16, 2000:  Medical marijuana.  Ottawa man with AIDS seeks goes to court to seek legal right to import medical marijuana.  For story, click here.
  • July 31, 2000: Medical marijuana: Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously confirms earlier trial court decision  in favour of legal access to medical marijuana.  Court was considering a constitutional challenge to the marijuana prohibitions in the former Narcotic Control Act ("NCA") and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act ("CDSA") in the context of the medical use of marijuana. On December 10, 1997, the trial judge, Sheppard J. granted a stay of proceedings brought against Terrance Parker for cultivating marijuana contrary to the NCA and for possession of marijuana contrary to the CDSA.  The Crown appealed.  The unanimous Court of Appeal confirmed the trial judge's decision to stay the charges against Parker.  Accordingly, the prohibition on the possession of marijuana in the CDSA is declared to be of no force and effect. However, that declaration of invalidity is suspended for a year. For a summary of the court decision, click here.  For the full text of the court decision, click here.  For news report, click here.  For Toronto Globe and Mail editorial, click here.
  • June 9, 2000: Federal government pays millions to BC law firms to prosecute marijuana cases.  For details, click here.
  • May 15, 2000: Cannabis: Poll conducted for National Post finds that about two-thirds of Canadians say possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use should be a non-criminal offence, punishable by a fine rather than a jail term: 65% of those questioned thought the concept of decriminalizing pot is an excellent, very good, or good idea. Only 22% responded negatively to the question.  Thirteen per cent did not have an opinion or refused to answer.  Over 90% favour legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. For full story, click here.
  • May 15, 2000: U.S. Department of State report on Canada and drugs for 1999 (released March 2000). Report makes exaggerated claim that Canada has 250,000 cocaine addicts. Report also criticizes Canadian courts: "The impact of these efforts [by the RCMP] have been undermined in numerous cases by court decisions. Canadian courts have been reluctant to impose tough prison sentences . . .."  To see report, click here.  To see report of British Columbia senior judge telling the US to mind its own business, click here.
  • May 15, 2000: Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1999.  "The Board notes with disappointment the slow progress made in Canada in controlling psychotropic substances in line with the requirements of the 1971 Convention and in participating effectively in the efforts of the international community to monitor precursors. While Canada fully supported the adoption of the action plans by the General Assembly at its twentieth special session, it has not yet implemented some of the basic provisionsof the international drugcontrol conventions related to them."  To see the excerpts dealing with the Americas, including Canada, click here (pdf file).  To see the entire report, click here.
  • May 15, 2000: Cannabis: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (Ontario) "concurs with similar calls from many other expert stakeholders who believe that control of cannabis possession for personal use should be removed from the realm of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the criminal law/criminal justice system."  To see full statement, click here.  To see a reiteration of the CAMH position in 2001, click here.
  • May 12, 2000: Extradition -- Renee Boje -- update: The United States is trying to have Canada extradite Ms. Boje to the US because of her alleged involvement in a medical marijuana growing operation in California.  As of December 1, 2000, Canada's Minister of Justice had not yet made a decision on the extradition. To see the affidavit filed with the Minister by Eugene Oscapella, one of the Foundation's founding members, in support of Ms. Boje, click here  For details of Ms. Boje's case, click here.  Ms. Boje faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years to life imprisonment.  In addition, Ms. Boje faces the real prospect of sexual and other abuse in US prisons.  See recent reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights about the abuse of women in the US prison system.   For example, here is what Human Rights Watch concluded:
      Our findings indicate that being a woman prisoner in U.S. state prisons can be a terrifying experience. If you are sexually abused, you cannot escape from your abuser. Grievance or investigatory procedures, where they exist, are often ineffectual, and correctional employees continue to engage in abuse because they believe they will rarely be held accountable, administratively or criminally. Few people outside the prison walls know what is going on or care if they do know. Fewer still do anything to address the problem.
  • April 2000: RCMP publishes report, Drug Situation in Canada (1999).  Report notes: "With the exception of marihuana, seizures of all drug types in 1999 have decreased compared to 1998." and "For all drug types, supply and demand have remained stable but will likely increase in the near future."  Are these yet further signs that prohibition is not working?  -- CFDP   As well, in contrast to oft-made claims by some that the potency of cannabis has increased drastically in Canada in recent years, the report notes: "The average THC content of all [marihuana] samples analysed since 1995 is about 6%."  To download PDF version of report, click here.  To visit the RCMP web site where the report is located, click here.
    April 26, 2000: Canada as the Evil Empire?  "A Northern Border Menace" says the Boston Globe, slamming  Canada's hydroponic cannabis operations because of exports to the United States. Message is that Canada is not pulling its weight in the war on drugs. [Please judge the "facts" contained in this article for yourselves.  -- ed.]
  • April 18, 2000: Demon Drugs And Holy Wars:  Canadian Drug Policy as Symbolic Action, by Jennifer Tooley, M.A. (The University of New Brunswick, July, 1999). Abstract:   Illicit drug use is a popular topic for both media coverage and government policy.  In the summer of 1998, the Canadian federal government revamped their drug policy, Canada’s Drug Strategy.  In the new Strategy, the federal government attempts to divorce itself from an enforcement related past by changing the focus of drug policy to one which encompasses the principles of harm reduction.  Yet analysis of federal government documents shows that Canada is still pursuing a policy of criminalization.  Using contrived language which is both threatening and reassuring to the public, the government categorizes all illicit drug use as bad, and all illicit drug users as sick.  Through their language, the government emerges as the primary authority on drug use in Canadian society.  Not only does this language shape political action, it also shapes the meanings that we hold about illicit drugs and their users.  The government’s language on drug use helps to sustain the “symbolic allure” of prohibition. It also legitimates the control of the “Therapeutic State” over the individual. (The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy thanks Ms. Tooley for allowing us to publish her thesis.)
    •  
  • April 11, 2000:  Canadian Senate unanimously agrees to conduct comprehensive review of drug laws and policy.  For details, including the final terms of reference, click here. This committee was initially proposed on June 14, 1999, by Senator Pierre Claude Nolin.  For the proposed committee's original terms of reference, and Senator Nolin's June 14, 1999, speech in the Senate on this topic, please click here. To see the extensive (350K) drug policy background paper prepared for Senator Nolin by Dr. Diane Riley, click here (footnotes will be added as soon as we figure out the technology). (For the executive summary, click here.) For the statement issued by the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy in support of the call for the committee, click here.
    •  
  • February 11, 2000:  US prison population set to top two million; drug "offenders" a significant contributor.  The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) of the United States reported last December that America’s prison and jail population will top two million on February 15th, 2000.  It reports that, with less than 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has one-quarter of the world’s prisoners. The rapid expansion of what some term the U.S. “prison industrial complex” has been fueled to a significant degree by the war on drugs. In the U.S. federal prison system, 60% of the prisoners are drug law violators with no violent criminal history. There are about 500,000 drug law prisoners nationwide.

Web site contents


THE (HEAVY HANDED) LAW IN CANADA



Media Statements and News Clippings on Drug Policy Issues

Statements:The Toronto Globe and Mail says "Prohibition does not work and cannot work" [May 18, 1998]. (The Ottawa Citizen 1997 editorials calling for an end to prohibition are also set out here).

**Well worth reading**: On February 12, 1996, the conservative American periodical, National Review, published a series of articles under the title, "The War on Drugs is Lost". In a preamble to the articles, the National Review editors stated:

 [I]t is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial and penal procedures associated with police states. We all agree on the movement toward legalization, even though we may differ on just how far.[at page 34]
The series of essays that followed this statement were written by some of the leading American voices supporting drug law reform: William F. Buckley, Jr., Lindesmith Center director Ethan A. Nadelmann, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, former police chief Joseph D. McNamara, Judge Robert W. Sweet, psychiatry professor Dr. Thomas Szasz and Yale law professor Steven B. Duke. Click here to see these essays.
 

News clippings:  See the stories (updated daily) by the Media Awareness Project. See also the excellent materials at DRCNet (Drug Reform Coordination Network). These are excellent sources of current information about drug policy developments in Canada and around the world. If you hear about a major news story on drug policy, chances are it will reproduced at one of these sites.
 
 

Liberal Party Resolutions on Drug Policy

Twice in recent decades -- at its 1994 Biennial Convention and again at its 1996 Biennial Convention -- the Liberal Party of Canada passed resolutions calling for a rethinking of Canada's drug laws. We reproduce those resolutions below [the 1996 resolution is incomplete, since it is missing its preamble.] Why not ask your Liberal MP (or candidate) what he or she plans to do about Canada's outdated drug policies? Why not ask them for their response to calls for change that have come at the last two Biennial conventions? 

Resolution 73: Passed at the Liberal Party of Canada 1994 Convention

(Part 2)

Whereas the use possession and trafficking of illicit drugs has become a serious problem for society; and

Whereas the government spends enormous amounts of money for police and the court system to combat drug related problems; and

WHEREAS there are more and more illicit drugs available and government measures to combat their effects are not reducing the problem; and

Whereas, on the basis of medical studies, an important distinction can be made between so-called "soft" drugs and "hard" drugs.

BE IT RESOLVED that the government study and review the legislation on illicit drugs and base its position on the precedents, studies, experience and statistics established in other countries where illicit/illegal drugs are considered as a social health problem rather than as a criminal activity. One of the effects of this would be to free up large amounts of money which could be redirected to health services.

Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec)

Resolution Passed at the Liberal Party of Canada Convention, 1996 [preamble missing]

BE IT RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada recommends to the federal government that a politically independent committee be established to review Canadian legislation and policy with respect to illegal drugs:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this committee shall report to the government within one (1) year, making recommendations and proposing necessary amendments or other legislation.

Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec)


Background of Canada's Drug Laws

On March 6, 1996, using the powers granted by a motion introduced by the Liberal government, the House of Commons revived the former Bill C-7, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Bill C-7 had been passed by the House of Commons on October 30, 1995, but died in the Senate when the Parliamentary session ended on February 2, 1996. The new Bill was identical to the Bill C-7 originally passed by the House, except that its number changed to C-8. Bill C-8 was intended to replace Canada's Narcotic Control Act and parts of the Food and Drugs Act. It significantly expanded the reach of Canada's drug laws and continues Canada's heavy reliance on criminal prohibition.

The House of Commons passed Bill C-8 on March 6 and sent it to the Senate for approval. There, the Bill was given first and second reading and sent to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for hearings. (In effect, these committee hearings were a resumption of the hearings that were being held on the former Bill C-7 when the session of Parliament ended on February 2, 1996.)

To see excerpts from the March 1 and 6, 1996 House of Commons Debates about Bill C-8, please click here. To see the comments made in the Senate when the Bill was given second reading on March 21, 1996, please click here.

Neither the Senate nor the House of Commons reacted to the objections raised about the punitive nature of the Bill. Parliament enacted the Bill as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act on June 20, 1996. The new law came into force on May 14, 1997. Canada's previous drug laws -- the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act -- were either repealed in whole (the Narcotic Control Act) or in part (the Food and Drugs Act). Both Bill C-8 and the previous drug laws ignore non-criminal alternatives being developed in other countries to reduce the harms associated with drugs. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act significantly expands the reach of Canada's drug laws and continues Canada's heavy reliance on a failed policy of criminal prohibition. Parliament -- both the House of Commons and the Senate -- has thus refused to moderate the harshness of the present law, and has in fact expanded the reach of Canada's drug laws .

In refusing to rethink the penalties for certain activities relating to drugs -- possession, for example -- Canada's Parliament has completely rejected the recommendations of the large majority of witnesses who appeared before or sent submissions to Senate and House of Commons committees calling for some or all currently illegal drugs to be decriminalized. These groups included the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, the Canadian Bar Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Law Union of Ontario, the Criminal Lawyers' Association, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian AIDS Society. Numerous individual witnesses also supported decriminalization.

You can see the text of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act by clicking here. Regulations give further details on the powers set out in the Act. Click here to see the regulations.


Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy objections to Bill C-8

The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy has raised many objections to Bill C-8 (formerly Bill C-7) and proposed either that it be withdrawn completely or amended substantially. You can see these concerns by looking at the following (since Bill C-7 and C-8 are identical except for the bill number, you can interpret any statements about Bill C-7 as applying to Bill C-8 as well):

the June 14, 1996 press release we issued after the Senate Committee examining Bill C-8 failed to make substantial changes to the Bill, but nonetheless recommended a joint Senate -- House of Commons committee to re-examine Canada's drug policies

the June 4, 1996 letter sent by the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy to the full Senate about Bill C-8. The letter was sent because the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs was about to complete its study of Bill C- 8 and possibly recommend changes to the Bill

the June 3, 1996 letter we wrote to one of the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs about several of his concerns about cannabis.

the May 6, 1996 letter we wrote to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to address several concerns: Canada's international obligations relating to illicit drugs, the impact of decriminalization on rates of cannabis use, the myth of cannabis as a "gateway" drug, the deterrent effect of the criminal law, recent developments in Australia, and the need to focus on the serious harms (HIV and hepatitis infection, violence and overdoses) that criminal prohibition fosters.

the transcript of an April 25, 1996 appearance before the Senate committee by Glenn Gilmour, a founding member of the CFDP, to discuss Canada's international obligations relating to drugs

the changes we proposed to Bill C-7 (now C-8) in February 1996 after the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs invited us to suggest amendments

the transcript of our appearance before the Committee on December 14, 1995

press releases we issued when we appeared before the Senate on December 14, 1995 and when we addressed many other drug policy issues

the letter we sent to Liberal MPs on June 9, 1995 about the original Bill C-7 (now C-8)

the statement we issued in May 1994 when we appeared before the House of Commons Health subcommittee examining Bill C-7

other press releases and statements we have issued on drug policy issues in general


Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy

The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy (CFDP) is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 by several of Canada's leading specialists in drug policy. Its founding members include psychologists, pharmacologists, lawyers, health policy advocates and public policy researchers. The Foundation is funded entirely by its members and by contributions from other organizations with an interest in drug policy reform.

The aims of the Foundation include:

  • acting as a forum for the exchange of views among those interested in reform of drug policies
  • serving as a vehicle for sharing those views and for discussing significant drug policy issues with government, the public, other organizations and the media, and
  • where necessary, recommending alternatives that will make Canada's drug laws and policies effective and humane.
Canadian advocates of drug policy reform had long recognized the need for an independent body to address drug policy issues. Existing organizations -- even those reputed to be "independent" -- were almost all too closely tied to government.

However, the immediate catalyst for the creation of the CFDP was the need to challenge Bill C-85, introduced into Canada's House of Commons in 1992. The Bill would have replaced Canada's Narcotic Control Act and parts of the Food and Drugs Act. These laws made certain activities -- possession, trafficking, cultivating, importing and exporting -- illegal and imposed criminal penalties for violations. The proposed amendment would have continued this policy of prohibition and created new drug offences as well.

Bill C-85 was never enacted; it died when Canada's Conservative government called an election in 1993. However, the Liberal party, which won the 1993 federal election, introduced a virtually identical bill on February 2, 1994. That Bill was called Bill C-7, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Like its predecessor, Bill C-7 died at the end of a Parliamentary session, but the Liberal government revived it as Bill C-8 on March 6, 1996 and sent it to the Senate for review and approval. The Bill became law in May 1997. The Foundation's efforts to reform Canada's drug laws and policies continue.

Here is more information about our objects and our founding members. And here are some of the major press releases and statements we have made about drug policy issues.

Here is how to become a member. (Please consider helping us with our work.)

And here are extensive links to other drug policy reform organizations and sources of information.


How to reach us

We invite you to contact any of our founding members. You can also reach us in Ottawa at:

Telephone: (613) 236-1027
Facsimile: (613) 238-2891

Our mailing address:

70 MacDonald Street
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K2P 1H6

Please send questions, comments and suggestions to eoscapel@ca.inter.net.


Articles and Studies of Interest

Drug Policy Generally
  • May 13, 2002: Global Television network report claims that US government is threatening Canada with trade sanctions if Canada reforms its drug laws.  For full story, click here.  To see the video of the news report, click here.
  • December 4, 2001: Auditor General of Canada releases report on the federal government's role in dealing with illicit drugs: "Eleven federal departments and agencies are involved in the effort to control illicit drugs at a cost of about $500 million a year," says Auditor General.  "But they don't know the extent of the problem and whether or not they are succeeding in their efforts.... Let's make sure that our investments in efforts to address this problem are effective."  For press release, click here.  For full report, click here. [Note that report completely overlooks the role and cost of drug prohibition.] 
  • November 14, 2001: Federal Health Minister Allan Rock announces support for safe injection sites across Canada:  "We will do everything we can to facilitate pilots in cities across the country if those cities decide this is part of the strategy that they want."  For news story, click here
  • August 22, 2001: Canada's Fraser Institute issues policy papers calling drug prohibition a complete failure.  Here are the Institute's media release and the policy papers themselves. See also June 1998 Fraser Institute analysis of media treatment of drug policy issues in Canada.  Click here for report.
  • July 26, 2001: Britain's internationally respected The Economist magazine:  
      "Prohibition has failed, again.  It has long been clear that the laws on drugs are doing more harm than good.  For understandable reasons, governments and voters alike are reluctant to face the facts.  The case for legalisation is strong, both in principle and as a practical matter."  (click here for The Economist's full survey on illegal drugs)
  • April 2001: Possible wrongful drug convictions: Department of Justice reports possible wrongful drug convictions between 1988 and 2001 due to faulty certificates of analyst (these certificates are used to prove the nature of the substance in drug prosecutions).  This may result in many drug convictions being overturned.  For details from the Department of Justice, click here. For a more detailed report, click here.
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  • Ottawa Citizen series on Losing the War on Drugs (September, 2000) -- an excellent primer on drug policy issues.
  • February 2001:  International Narcotics Control Board releases its annual report for 2000.  Report says drug trafficking continues to increase in Canada. Report also says that efforts to eradicate cannabis have been made by law enforcement agencies in Canada, but the impact of those efforts has been reduced by Canadian courts giving lenient sentences to cannabis growers and couriers.  Canada's Minister of Justice promises to do more.  To see the report and critical commentary on the report and the position of the Minister, click here.
  • January 31, 2001: Survey of Vancouver residents finds strong support for decriminalizing cannabis, harm reduction measures.  For news report and editorial, click here.
  • November 2000: Safe Injection Sites: Here is the November 2000 proposal (in PDF format) by the Harm Reduction Action Society to establish a pilot project for two safe injection sites in Vancouver.
  • December 6, 2000:  BC Premier says prescribing drugs for addicts  -- not just providing  safe-injection sites -- has to  be part of any comprehensive plan to  tackle Vancouver's drug  problem.  For story, click here.
  • November 21, 2000:  Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen unveils plan for city's drug crisis. Safe-injection sites for drug users and providing free heroin for hard-core addicts on a trial basis are among the strategies the city of Vancouver is recommending. For story, click here.  To see the City of Vancouver press release and the full plan, A Framework for Action - A Four-Pillar Approach to Drug Problems in Vancouver, click here.
  • November 30, 2000:  Canada's Justice Minister states that the federal government plans to set up drug courts in all major Canadian cities by 2004. For news story, click here. To see a 1999 report on Toronto's (then) new drug court, click here. For descriptions of the US experience with drug courts, and criticisms of those courts, click here. See also the 1997 report of the US General Accounting Office(GAO) on US drug courts.  (Note that drug court programs vary substantially in how they operate, so some criticisms and analyses may or may not apply to the drug courts planned for Canada.)
  • November 4, 2000:  United States: The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' (NACDL) board of directors unanimously approved a resolution on November 4th calling for the end of the war on drugs.  In its resolution, NACDL, the largest specialty bar association in the United States representing the interests of criminal defence lawyers, stated that drug use should be considered a health problem, and that the government should "repeal all laws criminalizing the possession, use and delivery of controlled substances." For report, click here.
  • October 9, 2000: CNN reports that many European governments are shifting from harsh soft-drug penalties towards a more tolerant approach to drugs such as cannabis. For story, click here.
  • October 4, 2000: British Columbia Supreme Court judge states that "We can't deal with mental illness and addiction to substances in the criminal justice system."   For news story, click here.
  • September 19, 2000:  Federal political leaders and MPs discuss whether drugs should be "legalized".  For Ottawa Citizen story, click here.
  • September 16, 2000:  Colombian parliamentary officials call for drugs to be legalized.  Colombia will argue at the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas in Ottawa next spring that decriminalizing and regulating drugs like heroin and cocaine and channelling profits into fighting addiction is the best way to undermine organized crime.  To see story, click here.
    May 26, 2000: An Introduction to the Drug Policy Reform Movement, by Matthew Elrod (prepared for and presented (in an abbreviated form) to the Western Regional Criminology Articulation Committee at the Justice Institute of British Columbia, New Westminster, May 26, 2000). 
  • May 15, 2000: Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1999.  "The Board notes with disappointment the slow progress made in Canada in controlling psychotropic substances in line with the requirements of the 1971 Convention and in participating effectively in the efforts of the international community to monitor precursors. While Canada fully supported the adoption of the action plans by the General Assembly at its twentieth special session, it has not yet implemented some of the basic provisionsof the international drugcontrol conventions related to them."  To see the excerpts dealing with the Americas, including Canada, click here (pdf file).  To see the entire report, click here.
  • May 15, 2000: U.S. Department of State report on Canada and drugs for 1999 (released March 2000). Report criticizes Canadian courts: "The impact of these efforts [by the RCMP] have been undermined in numerous cases by court decisions. Canadian courts have been reluctant to impose tough prison sentences . . .."  To see report, click here.  To see report of British Columbia senior judge telling the US to mind its own business, click here.
  • April 2000: RCMP publishes report, Drug Situation in Canada (1999).  Report notes: "With the exception of marihuana, seizures of all drug types in 1999 have decreased compared to 1998." and "For all drug types, supply and demand have remained stable but will likely increase in the near future."  Is this yet another sign that prohibition is not working?  -- CFDP   As well, in contrast to oft-made claims by some that the potency of cannabis has increased drastically in Canada in recent years, report notes: "The average THC content of all [marihuana] samples analysed since 1995 is about 6%."  To download PDF version of report, click here.  To visit the RCMP web site where the report is located, click here.
  • April 18, 2000: Demon Drugs And Holy Wars:  Canadian Drug Policy as Symbolic Action, by Jennifer Tooley, M.A. (The University of New Brunswick, July, 1999). Abstract:  The issue of illicit drug use is a popular topic for both media coverage and government policy.  In the summer of 1998, the Canadian federal government revamped their drug policy, Canada’s Drug Strategy.  In the new Strategy, the federal government attempts to divorce itself from an enforcement related past by changing the focus of drug policy to one which encompasses the principles of harm reduction.  Yet analysis of federal government documents shows that Canada is still pursuing a policy of criminalization.  Using contrived language which is both threatening and reassuring to the public, the government categorizes all illicit drug use as bad, and all illicit drug users as sick.  Through their language, the government emerges as the primary authority on drug use in Canadian society.  Not only does this language shape political action, it also shapes the meanings that we hold about illicit drugs and their users.  The government’s language on drug use helps to sustain the “symbolic allure” of prohibition. It also legitimates the control of the “Therapeutic State” over the individual.
  • April 11, 2000:  Canadian Senate agrees to conduct comprehensive review of drug laws and policy.  For details, including the final terms of reference, click hereThis committee was initially proposed on June 14, 1999, by Senator Pierre Claude Nolin.  For the proposed committee's original terms of reference, and Senator Nolin's June 14, 1999, speech in the Senate on this topic, please click here. To see the extensive (350K) drug policy background paper prepared for Senator Nolin by Dr. Diane Riley, click here (footnotes will be added as soon as we figure out the technology). (For the executive summary, click here.) For the statement issued by the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy in support of the call for the committee, click here.
  • Feb. 7, 1999: American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section study concludes that increased drug arrests and longer prison sentences have not slowed illegal drug use.

  •  
  • Opposition to United Nations "War on Drugs" at UN Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), June 8-10, 1998. International coalition, including several present and former leaders, call on UN Secretary General for an honest appraisal of drug control efforts, saying "we believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself." To see a copy of the letter sent to the Secretary General, and the signatories to the letter, click here. For background about the UN Special Session on Drugs, click here. For Canadian press release and list of Canadian signatories, click here. Here are other events related to the 'Global Days Against The Drug War', June 5-10, in response to United Nations Special Session on Drugs.
  • March 5, 1998: Is the United Nations attempting to increase censorship of the drug policy debate? UN International Narcotic Control Board's 1997 annual report criticizes those who speak in support of changes to drug laws. Report also criticizes media for allegedly showing favourable images of drug "abuse" and calls for criminal penalties and restrictions on freedom of expression. See the relevant portions of the annual report by clicking here.
  • June 1998: Fraser Institute analysis of media treatment of drug policy issues in Canada.  Click herefor report.


Corruption

Police and government corruption related to drug prohibition
 

  • May 13, 2002: Corruption: National Post reports that the federal Justice Department is continuing to stay drug prosecutions without explanation as a 10-month-old RCMP-led probe into allegations of corruption in the Toronto police force drug squad appears to be widening its investigation.  For story, click here.
  • August 29, 2001: Peel (outside Toronton) regional police officer charged with trafficking drugs and possesion of proceeds of crime.  For story, click here.  The same Peel officer pleaded guility in March 2002 -- for story, click here
  • August 16, 2001: RCMP to investigate widening allegations of corruption among Toronto drug squad officers.  For details, click here.
  • (February 28, 2001) Toronto police officer convicted of robbing drug dealers and plotting an Ecstasy trafficking scheme described by prosecutors as the biggest on record in Canada. Officer had also been charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. For story, click here.
  • (January 31, 2001) BC police officer convicted of theft of cannabis and helping drug sellers avoid police raids.  For stories, click here.
  • (January 2001) BC police drug education officer dies of drug overdose.  For stories, click here.
  • November 24, 2000.  Corruption charges laid against eight Toronto drug squad members.  Some lawyers claim that the charges may affect hundreds of drug prosecutions.  In all, 75 criminal charges were laid, including theft, fraud, forgery and breach of trust, and the officers also face a total of 98 disciplinary charges under the Police Services Act.  For story, click here.
  • For stories about police corruption in drug law enforcement in the US, see the report by the US General Accounting Office (the investigative arm of US Congress).
  • Study prepared in 2000 by the Institute for Policy Studies (Washington) on US government corruption and "complicity" relating to the war on drugs.

  • Heroin and Heroin Maintenance

    • April 28, 1999: Heroin maintenance -- House of Commons debate on motion by Libby Davies, MP "That, in the opinion of this House, the government should, in co-operation with the provinces, implement clinical, multi-centre heroin prescription trials for injection to opiate users, including protocols for rigorous scientific assessment and evaluation." For transcript of debate, click here. To see the background materials prepared by Libby Davies, MP, please click here. The purpose of the motion was to urge Health Canada, and the federal government, to treat the drug crisis in Vancouver (among other problems, over 200 dependent users had died in the first seven months of 1998) as a medical emergency, rather than as a criminal concern.  The motion reads as follows:
    That, in the opinion of this House, the government in cooperation with the provinces, implement clinical, multi-centre heroin prescription trials for injection opiate users, including protocols for rigorous scientific assessment and evaluation.
    Ms. Davies also has formed an informal parliamentary working group of Members of Parliament and Senators interested in discussing and developing practical and rational approaches to illicit drug use in Canada.
    Libby Davies can be contacted in Ottawa at (613) 992-6030, or by email at daviel@parl.gc.ca.
     
  • Heroin Maintenance Program Proposal for Canada:  On August 11, 1998, Libby Davies, Member of Parliament for Vancouver East, announced a private member’s motion calling on the federal government to immediately implement clinical, multi-centre prescription heroin trials.
    • April 10, 1999: Description of current and planned heroin maintenance programs in several countries (report from the 10th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm - Geneva, 21-25 March, 1999).  For other reports from the conference, clickhere.
    • Feb. 27, 1999: Premier of Victoria, Australia, supports starting heroin trials, including the provision of heroin to users.
    • November 18, 1998 --Germany -- heroin maintenance: The trial of a state controlled distribution of heroin to sick addicts will begin in Hamburg and Frankfurt.

    International Law

    • If you would like to see a challenge to the oft-made claim that international conventions require Canada to take a prohibitionist approach to drugs, please click here.
    Human Rights and Racism
    • February 11, 2000:  US prison population set to top two million; drug "offenders" a significant contributor.  The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) of the United States reported last December that America’s prison and jail population will top two million on February 15th, 2000.  It reports that, with less than 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has one-quarter of the world’s prisoners. The rapid expansion of what some term the U.S. “prison industrial complex” has been fueled to a significant degree by the war on drugs. In the U.S. federal prison system, 60% of the prisoners are drug law violators with no violent criminal history. There are about 500,000 drug law prisoners nationwide.
    • August 6, 1999: Censorship of drug policy discussions on Internet? Proposed U.S. bill would ban Internet discussions of the use of unapproved drugs and links to such sites and make such actions a criminal offence. For details, click here.
    • April 23, 1999: Monitoring the "alimentary canal" in the name of the War on Drugs. Supreme Court of Canada addresses privacy and the legality of "bedpan vigils" and "drug loo facilities" to search suspected drug smugglers. Court says that subjecting travellers crossing the Canadian border to potential embarrassment is the price to be paid in order to achieve the necessary balance between an individual's privacy interest and the compelling countervailing state interest in protecting the integrity of Canada's borders from the flow of dangerous contraband materials. For newspaper report on case, R. v. Monney, click here. For complete judgment, click here.
    • April 23, 1999: Supreme Court of Canada criticizes RCMP for breaking law during drug sting. "Police illegality that is planned and approved within the RCMP hierarchy and implemented in defiance of legal advice would, if established, suggest a potential systemic problem concerning police accountability and control." For news story on judgment, click here. For the full Court judgment, click here.
    • February 28, 1999: New York Times -- The War on Drugs Retreats, Still Taking Prisoners. "More people are behind bars for drug offenses in the United States -- about 400,000 -- than are in prison for all crimes in England, France, Germany and Japan combined.. . . Every week, on average, a new jail or prison is built to lock up more people in the world's largest penal system."
    • November 26, 1998:  Supreme Court of Canada decision allows drug search by high-school vice-principal in presence of police. To see the decision, R. v. M. (M.R.), click here.
    • December 1998: New York state prison budget now exceeds state spending on higher education. Correctional Association of  New York and the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) press release states "People of color and non-violent offenders have been hardest hit by the state's shifting priorities - which result, in part, from the 1973 Rockefeller Drug Laws that introduced harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenders."
    • Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization, completed a study in March 1997 arguing that sentencing in drug law cases in New York state violated international prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. This is an excellent study. You can see a summary of the study, Cruel and Unusual: Disproportionate Sentences for New York Drug Offenders, by clicking here. Human Rights Watch also published a study on racism in the enforcement of drug laws in the state of Georgia. The summary of the report is chilling:
    The impact of crime control policies on minorities is among the most important, disturbing and contentious social issues facing the United States. Overwhelming data establish the striking proportion of African-Americans entangled in the criminal justice system on any given day one in three young black American males is either in prison or jail, on probation or parole. Drug laws and enforcement policies are among the most important causes of this national crisis. As one expert has noted, Urban black Americans have borne the brunt of the War on Drugs. They have been arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned at increasing rates since the early 1980s, and grossly out of proportion to their numbers in the general population or among drug users. This report examines drug law enforcement in Georgia in light of CERD and the requirement of non-discrimination, focussing primarily on the years 1990 to 1995.
    You can order a copy of both these studies from Human Rights Watch. Click here for information about ordering. Drug Use and Disease
    • August 31, 2001: Health Canada issues response to November 1999 report of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network on Injection Drug Use and HIV/AIDS: Legal and Ethical Issues.  The 1999 report had called for immediate and longer-term measures, including a move away from criminal prohibition, to stem HIV infections.  To see the reaction of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network to Health Canada’s response, as well as a chronology of this issue, click here.
    • November 24, 1999: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network releases report, Injection Drug Use and HIV/AIDS: Legal and Ethical Issues. The Legal Network's report confirms that Canadian drug laws and policies contribute to the difficulties of reacting adequately to the HIV epidemic among injection drug users. Dr David Roy, author of the ethical component of the report, explains: "The criminalization of drug use does not achieve the goals it aims for. It causes harms equal to or worse than those it is supposed to prevent." One of his conclusions points out that "it is ethically wrong to continue policies and programs that so unilaterally and utopically insist on abstinence from drug use that they ignore the more immediately commanding urgency of reducing the suffering of drug users and assuring their survival, their health, and their growth into liberty and dignity." Here are the  the full report, the executive summary of the report and the background papers on legal, ethical and policy issues.
    • August 9, 1999: Report of October 1998 national consensus conference on Hepatitis C (report dated June 1999) calls for comprehensive harm reduction approach, including safe injection sites and treating drug use as a health issue rather than as a criminal justice issue. To see only the sections of the report relating to injection drug use, click here. Report endorses the 1997 recommendations of Canada's National Task Force on HIV, AIDS and Injection Drug Use, which called for specific exemptions under criminal laws to allow physicians to prescribe narcotics (e.g., heroin, cocaine) to drug users AND also called for decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of currently illegal drugs for personal use.
    • May 1997 report of Canada's National Task Force on HIV, AIDS and Injection Drug Use calling for specific exemptions under criminal laws to allow physicians to prescribe narcotics (e.g., heroin, cocaine) to drug users AND decriminalize the possession of small amounts of currently illegal drugs for personal use.
    Cannabis

    Medicinal Marijuana

    • July 30, 2001 and August 17, 2001:.  Federal medical marijuana regulations take effect.  Click here for details from Health Canada about the regulations.  August 17, 2001:  Canadian Medical Association Journal publishes interim medical marijuana guidelines for physicians.  Click here to see guidelines. 
    • April 7, 2001:  Health Canada releases proposed regulation permitting tightly regulated access to marijuana for therapeutic purposes.  To see the Health Canada press release, click here (remember that this is the government's own statement and does not point out the weaknesses of the regulations.)  To see the proposed regulations, click here (for the ASCII text version) or here for the PDF version.  To see one newspaper report criticizing the proposed regulations, click here.
    • March 5, 2001: Medicinal marijuana: Police raid home of Jim Wakeford, man with a legal exemption to grow marijuana, hours after his lawyers had argued in court that the law provides such people inadequate protection from drug charges. To see story, click here.
    • January 15, 2001: Medicinal marijuana -- Grant Krieger:  In December 2000, an Alberta judge struck down portion of federal law that prohibits the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes, saying it was unconstitutional. For news story, click here. The judge struck down section 7(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, but stayed the decision for a year.  The Crown has now decided to appeal the court's decision in Mr. Krieger's case.  For news report, clickhere. Mr. Krieger's case was the second case where a Canadian court declared the law unconstitutional as it relates to medical marijuana. For details of the Ontario Court of Appeal and trial decisions in the other case, Parker, click here.
    • September 25, 2000:  Federal Minister of Health states that a government-controlled supply of marijuana will be grown and federal  regulations governing medicinal use will be made into law within a year. For story, click here.
    • July 31, 2000: Parker case: Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously confirms earlier decision at trial in favour of legal access to medical marijuana.  Court was considering a constitutional challenge to the marijuana prohibitions in the former Narcotic Control Act ("NCA") and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act ("CDSA") in the context of the medical use of marijuana. On December 10, 1997, the trial judge, Sheppard J. granted a stay of proceedings brought against Terrance Parker for cultivating marijuana contrary to the NCA and for possession of marijuana contrary to the CDSA.  The Crown appealed.  The unanimous Court of Appeal confirmed the trial judge's decision to stay the charges against Parker.  Accordingly, the prohibition on the possession of marijuana in the CDSA is declared to be of no force and effect. Howoever, that declaration of invalidity is suspended for a year. For a summary of the court of appeal decision, click here. For the full text of the court decision, click here.  For news report, click here.  For Toronto Globe and Mail editorial, click here.   Click here for stories, including editorial responses, relating to original trial court decision (December 10, 1997).
    • October 6, 1999: Minister of Health announces 14 further successful applications for access to medicinal marijuana. For news story, click here. For the government's own press release, click here.
    • June 9, 1999: Medicinal marijuana: Minister of Health announces clinical trials program, and procedure for exempting from criminal prosecution individuals who successfully apply to Health Canada for access to medicinal marijuana. To see the story in the Toronto Globe and Mail, and the June 9 statement by the Minister of Health in the House of Commons, click here. To see the government press release, including the proposed research plan, click here. To see a detailed explanation of recent developments in Canada relating to medicinal marijuana, click here. Here is the site where you can find information and application forms to apply for access to medicinal marijuana. To see a 1998 Health Canada document on regulating medicinal marijuana, click here. To see the Health Canada status report on a research program for medicinal marijuana, click here.
    • May 25, 1999: Final debate and vote held Tuesday, May 25, 1999 on medicinal marijuana motion proposed by Quebec MP.  Original motion M-381 (March 25, 1998 - Mr. Bigras (Rosemont)) reads: "That, in the opinion of this House, the government should undertake all  necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical purposes." House of Commons passes amended motion: "That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take steps immediately concerning the possible legal medical use of marijuana including developing a research plan containing clinical trials, appropriate guidelines for its medical use, as well as access to a safe medicinal supply, and that the government report its findings and recommendations before the House rises for the summer." For transcript of the debates on this motion, click here.  To see the web site on medical marijuana established by Mr. Bigras, click here.
    • May 10, 1999: Medicinal marijuana -- Court challenge by AIDS patient Jim Wakeford succeeds. Judge grants interim constitutional exemption to Mr. Wakeford: "Pursuant to S. 24(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Mr. Wakeford is hereby granted an interim constitutional exemption from the applicability and operation of sections 4 (possession) and 7 (production and cultivation) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This interim exemption shall remain in force until such time as the Minister of Health decides upon the application for exemption by Mr. Wakeford presently before the Minister, and made pursuant to s.56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act." For further details, including news reports and the text of the judgment, click here.
    • For an analysis by the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy of recent political and legal developments in Canada relating to medicinal marijuana, click here.
    • April 9, 1999: Survey shows Canadians overwhelmingly support medicinal use of marijuana -- 78% said they support the federal government's plan to consider the use of marijuana as a possible treatment for various medicinal conditions.
    • March 17, 1999: U.S. Institute of Medicine Releases Marijuana and Medicine, Assessing the Science Base.  For details and the executive summary of the report, click here. See Reuters and UPI news stories.
    • March 3, 1999: Federal Minister of Health announces that the federal government intends to start clinical trials with medicinal marijuana.  For details of announcement and press coverage, click here.
    • November 15, 1998: Medical marijuana: United Kingdom House of Lords committee recommends legal access to medical marijuana; see report from The Guardian and chapter 7, chapter 8 and appendices to the House of Lords report. The Times reports that UK government rejects recommendation, but that government says doctors might be allowed to prescribe the drug after extensive clinical trials.
    • November 1998: Medical marijuana initiatives succeed in United States mid-term elections; Oregon votes NOT to recriminalize cannabis. Congress prevents disclosure of vote results on medical marijuana initiative in Washington, DC.  For details, see the DRCNeT (Drug Reform Coordination Network), DrugSense and Lindesmith Center discussions of these events.
    • Press release and stories relating to December 17, 1997 physician's application to Health Canada for legal access to medical marijuana for Jean Charles Pariseau. Also includes text of the application. Ottawa Citizen report (December 19) says that Health Canada ready to approve application if "technical flaws" in application are corrected. Health Canada ultimately refused to accept the application, but Mr. Pariseau was granted an exemption by the Minister of Health in June 1999 under the section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Click here for details of the Special Access Programme application by Mr. Pariseau.
    • To see research information and policy discussions about medical marijuana, visit the medicinal marijuana section of the Lindesmith Center (of New York) Library. See also the articles about marijuana in the widely respected British Medical Journal and The Lancet by clicking here. Finally, visit the **comprehensive** medicinal marijuana research site of Drs. Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar of Harvard Medical School by clicking here.
    Cannabis generally
     
    • May 19-22, 2001:  Cannabis: Federal Minister of Justice says she is "quite open" to a debate on whether marijuana should be legalized, or at least decriminalized, in Canada.  For story, click hereFederal Conservative Party Leader speaks out for decriminalizing (as opposed to legalizing) cannabis.  For story, click here. Poll shows growing support for legalizing cannabis.  For story, click here.
    • May 15, 2001:  Canadian Medical Association Journal calls for cannabis to be decriminalized.  Says the CMAJ: "Health Canada's decision to legitimize the medicinal use of marijuana is a step in the right direction. But a bolder stride is needed. The possession of small quantities for personal use should be decriminalized. The minimal negative health effects of moderate use would be attested to by the estimated 1.5 million Canadians who smoke marijuana for recreational purposes. The real harm is the legal and social fallout."   Click here for PDF file containing English editorial, and here for the French version.  For English HTML file, click here.  For French HTML file, click here.
    • January 22, 2001: Cannabis: Belgium issues directive allowing possession of cannabis for personal use.  For stories, click here.
    • October 9, 2000: United Kingdom -- former Scotland Yard drug squad chief says, "my direct experience has convinced me that legalisation [of cannabis], not prohibition, is the only viable option."  For story, click here.
    • September 25, 2000: Medical marijuana  Federal Minister of Health states that a government-controlled supply of marijuana will be grown and federal  regulations governing medicinal use will be made into law within a year. For story, click here.
    • June 9, 2000: Federal government pays millions to BC law firms to prosecute marijuana cases.  For details, click here.
    • May 15, 2000: Cannabis: Poll conducted for National Postfinds that about two-thirds of Canadians say possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use should be a non-criminal offence, punishable by a fine rather than a jail term: 65% of those questioned thought the concept of decriminalizing pot is an excellent, very good, or good idea. Only 22% responded negatively to the question.  Thirteen per cent did not have an opinion or refused to answer.  For full story, click here.
    • May 15, 2000: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (Ontario) "concurs with similar calls from many other expert stakeholders who believe that control of cannabis possession for personal use should be removed from the realm of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the criminal law/criminal justice system."   To see full statement, click here.
    • April 22, 1999: National Post report confirms that board of Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police wants to decriminalize possession of cannabis. Earlier (April 21) National Post story had suggested that chiefs wanted to decriminalize all drugs. For both stories, click here. Minister of Justice agrees to review chiefs' position..
    • August 17, 1997: Chris Clay convicted after constitutional challenge to cannabis laws, despite judge's finding that marijuana relatively harmless. Decision to be appealed. To see the judgment, click here. The judge appended an addendum to his judgment containing Chris Clay's summaries of several major reports on cannabis. To see the addendum, click here.
    • Here is a study, Exposing Marijuana Myths: A Review of the Scientific Evidence, by Lynn Zimmer, Associate Professor of Sociology, Queens College (New York), and John P. Morgan, Professor of Pharmacology, City University Medical School (New York). The study was prepared for New York's Lindesmith Center.  Professors Morgan and Zimmer have since completed an expanded version of this original study, offering a much more detailed and comprehensive look at this subject.  You can learn more about this book, Marijuana Myths: Marijuana Facts, and how to order it, by clicking here.
    • March 4, 1998: Britain's New Scientist magazine claims that officials at the World Health Organisation in Geneva suppressed report findings that cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco. WHO says it dropped the findings because of contradictions and that "conclusions were not scientifically sound." Click here for press coverage and the extensive articles in the New Scientist.
    • Here are British articles about cannabis and the War on Drugs -- one from The Lancet (1995) and one from the British Medical Association. As well, here is the 1998 update of the article from The Lancet, which qualifies its 1995 statement that "The smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not  harmful to health" and now concludes that, "on the medical evidence available, moderate indulgence in cannabis has little ill-effect on health, and that decisions to ban or to legalise cannabis should be based on other considerations."  See also the November 17, 1998 editorial in Le Monde (Paris) in support of the Lancet article.
    Statistics
     
    • April 30, 2002: Release of Canadian multi-departmental study, Proportions of crimes associated with alcohol and other drugs in Canada.  "The main findings of this report confirm the close association between the use of alcohol and other drugs, and criminal behaviour, and indicate that a substantial portion of this association is causal."  For study highlights, click here.  For full report, click here (PDF file).
    • March 2001: European study (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD)) of teenage drug use suggests that the war on drugs may be actually increasing, not decreasing, teen drug use, or it may have no impact at all. Study compares drug use among American and European  teenagers, finds that a much higher percentage of American  teenagers consume illicit drugs than do their European counterparts. To see a report of the study by the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet), click here.
    • March 9, 1999: Statistics Canada releases 1997 drug offence statistics: "During the 1990s, cannabis offences have been increasing while cocaine and heroin offences have been declining. In 1997, cannabis offences accounted for 72% of all drug crimes, compared with 58% in 1991. In contrast, cocaine accounted for 17% of all cases in 1997, down from 28% in 1991, and heroin accounted for about 2% of all cases, down marginally from 1991. Possession of cannabis alone accounted for almost half of all drug offences."  For further details, click here.
    Violence
    • October 29, 2002:  Police violence in drug law enforcement? Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society reports allegations of abuse by Vancouver Police Department in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Many of the allegations involve misconduct against drug users. Allegations include assault, illegal searches, unlawful detention, violation of Charter mobility rights, and a range of other improprieties. Report concludes: "Drug users and police officers are both responding to a larger social policy context that reinforces their mutual roles as victims and aggressors or, viewed from the perspective of the police, law breakers and law enforcers. It is our decision as a society to criminalize drug addiction, rather than understand and treat those behaviours as medical and social issues, that ultimately forces both sides of the equation into an endless dehumanizing cycle of criminalized behaviour, arrest, incarceration, release, and further criminalized behaviour. And until we change the way we deal with drug use, we will not have a real opportunity to heal this wounding cycle."  To see report, click here.
    • August 23, 2002:  The Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) releases its 2002 Annual Report on Organized Crime in Canada.  The report deals in part with how various criminal groups continue to profit from the trade in illegal drugs.  It also describes various police operations directed at marijuana grow operations ("grow ops"). This year's report states that illicit drugs continue to be the major source of income for organized crime groups. And again, as with past reports, this year's report fails to acknowledge that the drug trade is profitable for criminals only because our laws prohibiting drugs create a lucrative black market in them.  Here are the CISC press release, the executive summary of the report, and the full report (.pdf format or html format). 
    • August 17, 2001: Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) releases its 2001 report on organized crime in   Canada.  Report details the extensive involvement of organized crime in the drug trade (but makes no mention that the interest of organized crime in the drug trade stems from the prohibition of those drugs).  To see excerpts of the  report dealing with organized crime and the drug trade, and to see the full report, click here

    Senate Committee Transcripts

    Here are transcripts of appearances to date by government officials and public interest groups before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (remember that any reference to Bill C-7 in these transcripts can be read as a reference to Bill C-8, since the text of the two Bills is identical):

    government officials supporting (what else would you expect!) the Bill

    Law Union of Ontario and Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario (both strongly criticizing the Bill)

    the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy (strongly criticizing the Bill)

    the Canadian Medical Association (criticizing aspects of the Bill dealing with medical practice, but staying away from the issue of decriminalizing drugs in other contexts)

    the Canadian Bar Association (strongly criticizing the Bill) and the Criminal Lawyers' Association of Ontario (supporting the decriminalization of marijuana, but maintaining a relatively hard line on other drugs)

    Representatives from Hempline, the Canadian Industrial Hemp Lobby, the Hemp Research Institute, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Canadian AIDS Society, and Messrs. Robert Hamon, Andy Rapoch and Nicholas Bureau (morning of April 18, 1996)

    Representatives from the City of Toronto (Mayor's Task Force on Drugs), the Downtown/Eastside Residents Association (Vancouver), the Assembly of First Nations, the National Coalition for Health Freedom (afternoon of April 18, 1996)

    Lambton Families in Action, Council on Drug Abuse (both strongly prohibitionist views; needless to say, we disagree with many of the "facts" they assert)

    Glenn Gilmour, Barrister and Solicitor (and a founding member of the CFDP) and representatives of the federal Department of Justice and Health Canada, examining Canada's international obligations relating to drugs

    Appearances by Department of Justice, Paul Saint-Denis, Senior Counsel, and Gerard Normand, Counsel; from the Department of Health, Bruce Rowsell, Director, Bureau of Drug Surveillance; from the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada, Ronald Dykeman, Senior Policy Analyst, Policing, Policing and Law Enforcement in a final public attempt to dissuade the Senate Committee from recommending significant changes to Canada's drug laws and policies.


    Debate on Bill C-7 (now C-8) and text of Bill

    To see the debate in the House of Commons on the day Bill C-7 (now C-8) was passed by the House (October 30, 1995), press here. [Note: this file is 150K long -- those Parliamentarians *do* love to talk! You can also download a zipped version of the file (57 K) by pressing here].

    To see excerpts from the March 1 and 6 House of Commons Debates about the revived Bill (Bill C-8), please click here. To see the comments made in the Senate when it gave Bill C-8 second reading on March 21, 1996, and sent it for further committee hearings, please click here.

    To see a copy of the Bill as it was passed by the House of Commons, click here. [This file is 130K long; to download the zipped version of the file (33K), please click here].


    Promised government initiatives on drug policy

    During the third reading debate on Bill C-7 in the House on October 30, 1995, the government announced two further initiatives dealing with drug policy. The first was the creation of a task force to examine the way that drugs are "scheduled" under Bill C-7 (now the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act). (Under the Act, drugs are listed in one or more of several schedules set out at the end of the Act. For example, cannabis was listed in Schedules II, VII and VIII. What schedule a given drug appears in determined whether penalties would apply for certain activities (for example, possession) and the severity of those penalties.) The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy was one of the groups that was to be invited to sit on the task force. The need for a reexamination of the "scheduling" of drugs remains, since the schedules in the new Act are seriously deficient. In fact, no such invitation was ever extended to the Foundation.

    Bill C-7 (later renamed Bill C-8) then went to the Senate for review. Several members of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, the committee reviewing the Bill, publicly stated their support for decriminalizing marijuana. However, the reluctance of the Senate Committee to carry through with this measure baffled many observers. A Montreal Gazette article (June 14, 1996, p. A9) quoted Committee Chair Senator Sharon Carstairs as saying the Senators on the Committee dropped the idea of recommending that there be no criminal charge for having a few "joints" of marijuana because they felt it would never pass the House of Commons (the Bill would have to be returned to the House for a vote on that issue). Senator Carstairs is also quoted as saying that her committee members were also concerned that decriminalizing marijuana possession would violate several international treaties that Canada has signed (several authorities would strongly disagree with the Senator on this point). The Gazette article states further:

    But Carstairs said the panel members were indeed serious about decriminalization but foresaw that a recommendation would be futile at this point. "The majority of the Senators -- and I was with them -- felt all the evidence indicated decriminalization for simple possession is the way we should be going," she said in an interview.
    However, the Committee did attach an **extremely important recommendation** to its report on Bill C-8 -- that a joint Senate - House of Commons committee be established to conduct an extensive review of Canadian drug laws and policies. The text of the recommendation follows:
    THE Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs strongly urges that a Joint Senate and House of Commons Committee be struck to review all of Canada's existing drug laws, and policies and programs.
    Without restricting its mandate, this Joint Committee should be authorized to:
    reassess Government's approach to dealing with illicit drug use in Canada, its effectiveness in curtailing drug use, and its fairness of application;
    develop a national harm-reduction policy to minimize the negative consequences associated with illicit drug use in Canada; and recommend how such a harm-reduction policy would be implemented, including viewing drug use and abuse as primarily a health and social policy issue;
    study harm-reduction models adopted by other countries (treatment and alternative programs for illicit drug use); consider whether such programs should be implemented in whole or in part in Canada;
    examine Canada's role and international obligations under the United Nations drug conventions to determine whether alternative measures to prosecution and punishment are possible under the conventions;
    and if not, consider whether Canada should seek an amendment to the United Nations drug conventions which would allow alternative harm-reduction measures to permit signatory parties to comply;
    revisit the LeDain Commission's findings and recommendations and determine what further action is needed; [note to reader from CFDP; the LeDain Commission was Canada's last major study of the non-medical use of drugs; the Commission reported in 1973, but its proposals were never implemented]
    explore the health effects of cannabis use; consider whether the decriminalization of cannabis would lead to increased use and abuse, both in the short- and long-term;
    explore using the Government's regulatory power under the Contraventions Act as an additional tool to implement a harm-reduction policy.
    In addition, the Joint Committee should undertake intensive public consultations to determine the needs of different jurisdictions across Canada, including large urban centres where the societal problems associated with the illicit drug trade are more visible. The goal should be to devise a made-in-Canada drug strategy where all levels of government work effectively together to reduce the harm associated with the use of illicit and legal drugs.
    To see the full text of the Committee's report on Bill C-8, including the technical amendments it proposed to the Bill, please click here.

    To see the transcripts of testimony of groups, including the CFDP, that have appeared before the Senate Committee since it began hearings in December 1995, please click here.

    Even before the Senate Committee recommended a joint Senate -- House of Commons Committee on drug policy, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health agreed undertake a review of Canada's drug policies. The committee started hearing witnesses in early October 1996. Representatives of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy appeared on October 22. You can see the transcript of our testimony by clicking here. You can see the press release we issued when we appeared before the committee by clicking here.

    The main problem with the Health Committee's review of drug policy was the narrowness of its mandate. The committee's terms of reference read as follows:

    1. to receive evidence about the harmful impact of misuse and abuse of legal and illegal drugs on the social behaviour and physical health of Canadians

    2. to identify the relevance of variables such as age, sex, ethnicity, socio-economic status and geographical area on the demand for and effect of such substances

    3. to examine effective measures for reducing the demand for and use of such substances through education, prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation

    4. to make appropriate recommendations on future policy actions to reduce the demand for such substances.

    The CFDP stated its strong objections to the narrow mandate of the Health Committee. Nonetheless, in early October 1996, the Health Committee began its review of drug policy without involving the Senate. This review gave drug policy reform groups the chance to argue for a re-thinking of Canada's drug laws and policies. However, nothing came of the  work of the Committee, since a federal election was called in April 1997, before the Committee had issued a report.

    On June 14, 1999, Senator Pierre Claude Nolin called for thorough review of Canada's drug policies, proposed setting up special Senate committee to examine drug policy. For the proposed committee's terms of reference, and Senator Nolin's June 14, 1999, speech in the Senate on this topic, please click here. To see the extensive (350K) drug policy background paper prepared for Senator Nolin by Dr. Diane Riley, click here. (For the executive summary, click here.) For the statement issued by the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy in support of the call for the committee, click here.

    On April 11, 2000, the Senate approved the creation of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs. For details, including the final terms of reference, click here.


    DrugSense This site is maintained for the CFDP by Eugene Oscapella