Pubdate: Mon, 07 Oct 2002
Source: Report Magazine (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002 Report Magazine, United Western Comm Ltd
Author: Kevin Michael Grace
"U.S. WARNS CANADA NOT TO CHANGE MARIJUANA LAWS"
Discussion of the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana is as
least as old as the Le Dain Commission of 1972. Pierre Trudeau's last
Liberal government actually tabled legislation. If Jean Chretien's last
government considers decriminalization, it will test the limits of Canadian
On September 13, John Walters, U.S. director of national drug-control
policy, delivered the third American warning on marijuana.
According to the Globe and Mail, "Mr. Walters told a Detroit news
conference that Canada 'cannot justify liberalizing its cannabis policy.'"
He insisted marijuana has no medical benefits.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency now has offices in Ottawa and Vancouver.
The DEA is one of the most feared agencies in the U.S. Its activities in
Canada are mostly secret, but an August 31 judgment by Madam Justice J.R.
Dillon of the B.C. Supreme Court revealed "blatant acts in disregard of
Canadian sovereign values and law." She refused to allow extradition of an
alleged drug trafficker after finding the evidence was compiled by a DEA
agent acting illegally in Canada. Vancouver Sun columnist Paul Willocks
reported that Justice Minister Martin Cauchon had no comment on the verdict
and that the Crown was considering an appeal--on behalf of the U.S.
Two months ago, the Toronto Compassion Centre, which had furnished
marijuana to 1,300 sufferers of AIDS, cancer, muscular dystrophy, multiple
sclerosis, glaucoma and other diseases for five years, was forced out of
business after a raid which resulted in four arrests and a bail agreement.
Volunteer Jim Brydges fears American involvement. He claims the centre had
long enjoyed a friendly relationship with Toronto police. "They were in and
out all the time," he says. On August 13, he says, the centre's door was
smashed with a battering ram, and unmarked police stormed the building.
Mr. Brydges claims a Toronto policeman told the receptionist the raid
"didn't come from them; it came from a much higher authority." He
concludes, "Our belief is that the DEA has encroached in Canada much more
than we have been led to believe."
Mr. Brydges, who has AIDS, is one of 848 Canadians exempt from marijuana
laws for medical reasons.
He says that marijuana remains the only way thousands of Canadians can
obtain relief from crippling pain or nausea. Medical marijuana will now be
much harder to obtain in Toronto; and Health Minister Anne McLellan has
announced that clinical trials of its grown-in-Canada crop would not result
in government distribution for perhaps five years. "I hope I'm still alive
then," Mr. Brydges proclaims. He believes that the Americans "got to" Ms.
Canadian Alliance MP Keith Martin has long campaigned for marijuana
decriminalization. He commends some, but not all, of the September 4
recommendations of the Senate committee on illegal drugs.
He explains, "It was good that they called for an amnesty for those
convicted of simple possession. These convictions greatly impede
professional, educational and travel opportunities for many. The call for
Canada and the U.S. to develop a coherent and comprehensive plan to deal
with substance abuse was good. The so-called war on drugs has failed, is
failing and will continue to fail. What I disagree with is its call to
legalize marijuana . The European experience
has shown that decriminalization reduces drug use, crime and illness, but
legalization, when done next to a large market is a
powerful inducement to organized crime."
Dr. Martin also praises the Senate's recommendation on medical marijuana.
"My view as a physician," he explains, "is that if somebody is suffering,
and we have not been able to alleviate that pain, these people have the
right to take whatever they want, so long as it does not hurt anyone else."
Decriminalization, he contends, "is Canada's decision to make."
Dr. Martin's opinion of the Senate's recommendations is not shared by
Alliance leader Stephen Harper. He called the report further justification
for Senate reform, saying the recommendations were beyond "radical,"
"border almost on advocating use of marijuana...As a parent, I would
be more concerned about pot use than alcohol use by my children and five], even in moderation." Alliance caucus vice-chairman Randy White
commented, "The motto of this report should be: We can't stop the pot...so
let's tax it." He also cited "problems" with an amnesty.
The Canadian Police Association called the report "a back-to-school gift
for drug pushers." It declared, "Unfortunately, there are too many
politicians playing scientist...Drugs are not dangerous because they are
illegal; drugs are illegal because they are dangerous."
Justice Minister Cauchon commented that he believes there is "strong
support" for decriminalization. He cautioned that legalization was probably
made impossible by Canadian treaty obligations. We shall soon discover
whether decriminalization is practically impossible. Washington has not
hesitated to crush federalism to enforce its will in the war on drugs.
In 1996, Californians decided in a referendum to permit the medical use of
marijuana. The federal government announced it would simply ignore a
state's rights and the people's will, and it later won its case at the
Supreme Court. And while Washington disregards California, it pretends
Canada does not exist.
Charlie McKenzie reported in the August 8 Vancouver Sun that he asked DEA
spokesman Tom Hinojosa how many agents it has in Canada. He replied,
"Normally, for security and operational reasons, we don't put out officer
strength in any certain area, but we presently have 78 offices in 56
countries. We're just not used to thinking of Canada as a foreign country."