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Marijuana law change not until Christmas Delay will give time to explain changes to wary U.S. officials
Rick Mofina The Ottawa Citizen
Monday, May 19, 2003
Canadians won't likely see the federal government's new marijuana law until later this year, says a senator who headed a committee calling for the relaxation of penalties for marijuana users.
"Probably by Christmas we'll have new amendments," said Tory Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin, told Ottawa Inside Out, Global TV's Sunday morning news program.
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon is poised to introduce long-promised legislation later this month that would relax marijuana laws by removing possession of less than 15 grams from the Criminal Code.
"He was supposed to do it this week. It was postponed to some time before the adjournment in June," Mr. Nolin said, adding that it now appears unlikely until the end of the year.
Mr. Nolin, who chaired a Senate committee that recommended a form of legalization by which marijuana would be controlled and sold in much the same way as wine, said Canada's objective has not been explained properly to wary U.S. officials in Washington.
"Here in Canada we're going to have de-penalization, smaller sanctions for an illegal action," said Mr. Nolin, adding that some U.S. states have done the same thing. "We have to explain to them (the U.S.) what are our objectives."
Police across Canada are concerned with the government's move to ease its laws on what is now illicit drug use, Mike Niebudek vice-president of the Canadian Police Association, told the program.
"There has to be a threshold. There has to be a line drawn somewhere and right now the line is being drawn at the marijuana level," Mr. Niebudek said. "For some people, especially children, what we're sending is a strong message that society is not tolerating the possession of marijuana right now."
Mr. Niebudek said easing Canada's marijuana possession law would led to abuse of harder drugs. Mr. Nolin disagreed.
The chaos over marijuana laws was compounded Friday by Ontario Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin's ruling that possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana is no longer against the law in Ontario.
Mr. Niebudek said the law still stands until the Supreme Court of Canada rules on Judge Rogin's decision, which is likely to be appealed to the high court.
In an effort to win over nervous Liberal colleagues, Mr. Cauchon has emphasized the bill will include stiffer penalties against drug traffickers and marijuana grow operations.
-------------------- 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.