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U.S. states, not Canada, led way in decriminalization
    #1601018 - 06/02/03 09:35 AM (20 years, 10 months ago)


U.S. states, not Canada, led way in decriminalization, critics told

Monday, June 2, 2003 - Page A8

U.S. critics of marijuana decriminalization in Canada are suffering from collective amnesia about the situation south of the border, where a dozen states have decriminalized it, a Washington-based lobby group says.

"There seems to be a terrible lapse of memory here," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

U.S. officials, including John Walters, White House director of drug-control policy, have said that liberalizing marijuana laws in Canada will result in more pot crossing the border and will increase drug use.

But Mr. St. Pierre said that beginning in the 1970s, a number of U.S. states, some of them bordering Canada, started moving toward eliminating criminal penalties for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana.

A number of studies, including a 1982 report of the U.S. National Research Council of the National Academy of Science, showed no discernible difference in marijuana use in a state that decriminalized it and an adjacent state with harsh penalties.

"The important point is that the legal change to decriminalization does not, in itself, appear to lead to increases in use," the report says.

Under legislation introduced last week by Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, possession of up to 15 grams -- enough to roll about 15 or 20 joints -- would be a minor offence punishable by a fine.

Young people could face fines of up to $250 for minor possession; adults could be fined $400.

According to a state-by-state analysis compiled by NORML and published on its Web site (http://www.norml.org), 12 U.S. states representing about one-third of the U.S. population -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon -- have in effect decriminalized minor marijuana offences.

The laws vary, but decriminalization usually means no prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount for personal consumption.

The conduct is generally treated like a minor traffic violation: Offenders are given a citation and fined, and their marijuana is confiscated.

Colorado law, for example, counts possession of 28 grams or less as a petty offence, which carries no jail time and a $100 (U.S.) fine.

In 2000, the latest year for which figures are available, a record 743,000 people were imprisoned in the United States for marijuana offences, 90 per cent for simple possession.

All but one of the 12 states have possession thresholds far higher than the proposed 15-gram limit in Canada.

Ohio has a 100-gram limit, and all four of those states that bordering Canada (Alaska, 227 grams; Maine, 35 grams; New York, 25 grams; Minnesota, 42.5 grams) have higher thresholds than Canada proposes.

Possession of larger amounts is still a criminal offence because it implies an intent to sell.

While NORML lists Alaska as having decriminalized, the situation there is confusing.

For years, based on a 1975 decision, Alaska's Supreme Court ruling held that under the state constitution an adult could possess marijuana for personal consumption in the home.

In 1990, Alaskans voted in a ballot initiative to recriminalize the possession of marijuana, but the result remains cloudy.

Subsequent court rulings have upheld the 1975 decision, but the state's highest court has not ruled on the matter, so the law remains ambiguous.

According to NORML, this means users are treated leniently even though possession of less than 227 grams may be punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

"Clearly, America has had a long, long history with decrim," Mr. St. Pierre of NORML said. "This is nothing new. And the idea of the [U.S.] drug czar's office portraying this as terrible and culturally shocking is just one of the many disingenuous things about this whole debate."

Mr. St. Pierre said that several U.S. municipalities, particularly those with large universities, have also decriminalized simple marijuana possession.

"For example, Ann Arbor [in Michigan] has had a $25 fine for an ounce of marijuana or under since 1972," he said. One ounce is equivalent to 28 grams.

While marijuana laws can be enforced by both the federal and state governments, states usually prosecute marijuana offences unless federal property is involved or very large quantities and border crossing come into play.

U.S. federal law has treated marijuana as a dangerous narcotic, in the same class as heroin, since 1937. It defines marijuana as having a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

Nevertheless, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, California, Nevada and Maine all have legalized medical marijuana. Maryland has reduced the maximum penalty for possession from a year in state prison and a $1,000 fine to a $100 fine in cases of "medical necessity," such as to relieve suffering from cancer treatment and other illnesses.

In addition, 21 states have approved resolutions recognizing marijuana's medicinal value.


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Registered: 04/06/03
Posts: 3,676
Loc: Canadia
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Re: U.S. states, not Canada, led way in decriminalization [Re: motaman]
    #1601447 - 06/02/03 01:00 PM (20 years, 10 months ago)

next canada should legalize and see if the usa follows.

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.

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Trip'n Time

Registered: 11/17/02
Posts: 2,207
Loc: Florida
Last seen: 18 years, 2 months
Re: U.S. states, not Canada, led way in decriminalization [Re: Hans_Moleman]
    #1641256 - 06/18/03 12:32 AM (20 years, 10 months ago)

Its such a big deal over nothing :frown:

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