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Pot bill shelved until after next election September 11, 2005 - ctv.ca
The Liberal government's controversial bill to decriminalize marijuana will be shelved until after the next election, CTV News has learned.
The contentious cannabis bill has been sitting in legislative limbo for more than two years.
While the Conservatives oppose the proposed marijuana legislation, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois support decriminalization but they want major amendments, including an amnesty.
"It's been estimated about 600,000 Canadians have a criminal record as a result of personal possession," says NDP MP Libby Davies.
The government now concedes the bill will likely be put off until after the next federal election.
Prime Minister Paul Martin has pledged he will call the next election about a month after Justice John Gomery releases his final report on the sponsorship scandal, which is due to be submitted in mid-December. That would mean a mid-winter or early spring election.
"The problem is that it's an abbreviated parliamentary session. It's a minority government situation. Parliament is a master of its own procedure," Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says.
The bill would impose fines rather than criminal charges for simple possession and heavier penalties for grow-ops.
But some police officers want even tougher penalties and marijuana activists say the bill would only encourage the police to lay more charges for simple possession.
"This bill, I'm just as happy to see it die. It doesn't please anybody," says Mike Foster of the National Organization for Marijuana Reform.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is threatening major border delays if the marijuana bill ever passed.
"The United States is opposed to the decriminalization of marijuana," U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins has said.
Critics say this reason is significant enough to let the bill die.
"So it's not surprising at all that they are now trying to backpedal and get away from dealing with this issue because they are afraid of the reaction," Davies says.
With so much opposition to the bill, officials say the Liberals are content to leave marijuana reform on the backburner, which could mean it will be many more years before there is another attempt to decriminalize marijuana.