NORML Canada: August 2013 Newsletter
Greetings Cannabis Law Reform Community
In this month’s newsletter:
September 4, 2013 marks the 11-year anniversary of the report by the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, entitled, “Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy,” also known simply as “The Senate Report on Cannabis.”
The Senate Report on Cannabis is a 650 page exhaustive and comprehensive two-year study of public policy related to cannabis that concluded that cannabis should be legalized and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.
As we do every September, NORML Canada is commemorating the anniversary with a campaign to inform Canadians about this landmark report and about the threat to Canadian society from our current harmful cannabis policies. Each day in September, in an effort to inform the politicians and the general public of this critically important report and its findings, we will release a quote from the Report.
In the words of the Senate Special Committee: “The continued prohibition of cannabis jeopardizes the health and well-being of Canadians much more than does the substance itself.”.
On July 31, 2013, following a fierce thirteen hour debate, the Uruguayan House of Deputies (their House of Commons) passed the historic Regulation of Marijuana bill (50 to 46). The bill now heads to the Senate. In October the Senate is expected to pass this unprecedented bill into law. Uruguay would become the first country in the world to legalize and regulate the production, distribution, and sale, of cannabis. Colorado and Washington states have not yet received approval from the United States federal government to do the same. Even in the progressive Netherlands, personal production is a criminal offence, although official guidelines curtail prosecution for smaller amounts.
The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) condemned the move by Uruguay. The INCB is an independent body of experts established by the UN to monitor compliance with international treaties. The INCB released a statement hours after the vote stating the bill would be in contravention of the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 which bans the sale of cannabis for non-medical use. Uruguay is a signatory to the United Nations Drug Convention.
Under the bill households would be permitted to grow up to six plants and harvest up to 480 grams (0.48kgs or 1.05lbs) of marijuana flowers per year. The law would also permit membership clubs where between 15 and 45 people could grow up to 99 plants. The cannabis would then be sold through pharmacies.
Those who grow outside the rules would face criminal sanctions and significant jail time. A new government body, the Institute for the Control and Regulation of Cannabis, would be responsible for licensing. All cannabis buyers would have to be 18 years of age. In an attempt to curb cannabis tourism, buyers would have to register with the Institute.
Uruguay has traditionally been a relatively safe country but more recently crime has surged due in part to an increased trade in a drug known as “cocaine paste” which is similar to freebase or “crack” cocaine.
There are concerns that the country might get dragged into the drug trade violence that is plaguing other South and Central American countries. Therefore, the legislators in Uruguay hope to draw cannabis consumers away from the many dark corners that black markets create and remove a lucrative source of income for the drug traffickers.
At their annual conference on August 20, 2013, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) proposed to the federal government, by way of a press release, a non-criminal ticketing option under the Contraventions Act for possession of cannabis.
Under closer inspection, the headline sounds more progressive and ground-breaking than it actually is. The CACP simply wants a further option in addition to the current options of laying a criminal charge or not laying a criminal charge. This is not a bold statement about policing because the police already have the discretion to give only a verbal warning for cannabis possession.
If anything this reflects an organization that is moving backwards, not forward. In 1999 the CACP favoured decriminalization. Then, in 2003, they opposed the Liberal’s bill to decriminalize personal possession (of under 15 grams) because they wanted to retain the discretion to charge people. Even this baby step was too much for the Conservative Party. Conservative Justice Minister Peter McKay responded to the CACP’s comments without actually addressing the issue raised by the CACP. Rather, Mr. McKay simply asserted that marijuana is illegal because it harms consumers and society.
The Conservative Party and the CACP have had a rocky relationship over the last few years. The CACP said they would like to give Mr. McKay more time to consider the proposal that does no more than provide police with a further option (and not even a particularly progressive option). If you are looking for something good in the CACP’s comments, it is that it’s a hopeful sign that the Police Chiefs are aware that simple possession charges alone are putting a significant burden on the justice system. This was the underlying premise to their proposal. However, as stated above, there is another option for police: don’t lay any charges
NORML Canada is working towards providing our content in both official languages. There is great support for legalization in Francophone communities in provinces all across Canada.
A French version of this newsletter is available on our website.
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