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Pro-marijuana activists anxiously awaiting changes to Canada's marijuana laws took to the streets of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver on Saturday, calling for legalization of the contentious plant.
The Canadian demonstrations -- part of the annual global march for cannabis liberation known as the Million Marijuana March -- were in support of not only the drug's decriminalization, but it's eventual legalization.
In Toronto, about 2,000 supporters puffed pot on the grounds of the Ontario legislature in a celebration of cannabis and cannabis culture. The police presence was low-key and no trouble was reported.
There was also a spirited celebration in downtown Vancouver featuring bands and dancers. Many marchers openly smoked pot in the streets as police turned a blind eye. The rally ended with protesters handing out free marijuana to a cheering crowd.
Marc Emery, B.C. Marijuana Party president, said he was "very optimistic that we'll see the end of pot prohibition within the next year or two."
Last week Prime Minister Chretien announced possessing small quantities of marijuana would soon be decriminalized.
Under the proposal, marijuana use would not be legal but would result in fines rather than criminal penalties.
The U.S. ambassador to Canada has warned decriminalization of pot could lead to slowdowns at the border.
"I think it comes down to perception," Paul Cellucci said Friday.
"If the perception is it might be more easy to get marijuana here, then that could lead to some pressure on the border because U.S. Customs immigration officers ... would have their antennae up."
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon will discuss the proposed law with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft next week when they meet at the annual G8 meeting of justice ministers.
While Cauchon understands the concerns of the American administration, he has said Canada is a sovereign country that enacts its own laws.
-------------------- One of the reasons marijuana is illegal today because growers in the 30s lobbied against hemp farmers -- they saw it as competition, because It is not chemically addictive as is nicotine, alcohol, or caffeine.