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Marijuana bill to be introduced Tuesday Will decriminalize small amounts
Janice Tibbetts CanWest News Service
Saturday, May 24, 2003
The Justice Department will finally introduce its marijuana bill on Tuesday, after it was suddenly pulled earlier this month amid last-minute haggling within the Liberal ranks.
The bill, which would decriminalize possession of less that 15 grams of marijuana, will dovetail with a new national drug strategy that will provide millions of dollars for drug education, prevention and treatment.
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon is expected to face dissent from police, who want marijuana possession to remain a criminal offence.
"We are completely against it," said Sophie Roux, spokeswoman for the Canadian Police Association.
The association contends that marijuana leads to more serious drug use.
People caught with less than 15 grams -- the equivalent of about 15 cigarettes -- would be ticketed as little as $100 for youths and $150 for adults.
Under the new legislation, it would not be a crime to be caught with small amounts of marijuana while driving, mainly because there is currently no means of testing for marijuana impairment, unlike a breathalyser test for alcohol.
The bill will also stiffen penalties against marijuana grow operations, which are springing up across the country, and instruct judges to treat drug traffickers harshly.
Mr. Cauchon, who has admitted to smoking marijuana in the past, says that he is decriminalizing small amounts so that people won't be saddled with a criminal record.
The bill is being introduced despite repeated warnings from the United States that decriminalization will lead to more intense border checks and delays.
The Canadian Alliance -- and some backbench Liberals -- want the government to set the decriminalization amount at five grams.
-------------------- 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.