NORML Canada: November 2012 Newsletter

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Greetings cannabis community,

This month’s NORML Canada newsletter begins with a warning: On November 6, 2012, the mandatory minimum sentences for cannabis and other “serious drug offences”, enacted last year, pursuant to Bill C-10 (the Safe Streets and Communities Act), came into effect.  Furthermore, on November 20, 2012, conditional
sentences will be prohibited for many offences, including production of cannabis plants or extracts.

It seems we are in the midst of a global shift towards recognizing the harms of prohibition.  Internationally, many countries are stepping away from cannabis prohibition. Furthermore, individuals from across the political spectrum are speaking out against cannabis prohibition.  Sadly, while this has been occurring, Canada is moving in the opposite direction by increasing penalties for cannabis offences.

NORML Canada firmly opposes the misguided decision to increase penalties for cannabis offences.  We call on you to contact your Member of Parliament and let them know you have had enough!  Encourage your M.P.  to support a more progressive stance on cannabis by recognizing the growing evidence demonstrating the harms of prohibition vastly outweigh the harms of cannabis itself.

Additionally, please take part
in our campaign commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Senate’s Report on Cannabis.  Our campaign is designed to raise awareness of the Senate Report on cannabis, particularly, amongst Canadian politicians and law makers.

Published in 2002, “Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy” is a detailed report into the legal treatment of cannabis in Canada.  The report found cannabis to be less harmful than tobacco, rejected the gateway and stepping stone theories, and concluded prohibition to be an ineffective
tool in curbing cannabis use.   Particularly, the report found the social harm of prohibition greatly outweighs the harm of cannabis itself.

Unfortunately, a decade after the report’s publication, we are still suffering under the harms it identified.  Furthermore, rather than implementing the recommendations contained in the report, our government is doing the opposite by making penalties for cannabis offences more severe.  We encourage you to take part in our campaign by contacting your Member of Parliament and ask them their position on the Senate Report and if they have done anything to implement the Report’s findings.   Particularly, ask them to justify why they support the continued prohibition of cannabis in light of clear evidence from the Canadian Senate such policies do more harm than good. If you would like to become more involved with this campaign, please visit our campaign headquarters or email us at info@norml.ca.

Included in this month’s newsletter:

  • The Safe Streets and Communities Act: Increased Penalties for Cannabis Offences
  • The 2012 Cannabian Freedom Walk IV Chronic Illness
  • South of the Border: Two States Pass Historic Legalization Voter’s Initiatives

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The Safe Streets and Communities Act:
Increased Penalties for Cannabis Offences

This month, many of the provisions in the Safe
Streets and Communities Act will come into force.  On November 6, 2012 the mandatory minimum provisions came into effect, and on November 20, 2012 conditional sentences will no longer be available for many cannabis offences.  Please note that an offender charged with an offence subject to a mandatory minimum sentence is not eligible for a conditional sentence.

According the to the Act, imposing mandatory minimum sentences for “serious” drug offences is intended to combat organized crime and protect youth.   However, the “serious” drug offences to which minimum sentences apply include the production of as few as six cannabis plants.  This means a great number of ordinary Canadians may now face mandatory minimum sentences for small-scale personal cultivation.   Not only is it wrong to call
these individuals “serious drug criminals”, increasing penalties for cannabis offences goes against both the global move away from heavy-handed prohibition, and the 2002 Senate Report on Cannabis.

Effective November 6, 2012: Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Cannabis Offences

Trafficking and Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking  Cannabis

Trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking cannabis will trigger an automatic one year mandatory minimum sentence if any of the following factors are involved:

  • the offence benefited organized crime;
  • the offence involved violence or threat of violence;
  • the offence involved the use or threatened use of weapons; or
  • the offender had a previous drug conviction within 10 years.

Trafficking and possession for the purpose of
trafficking will trigger an automatic two year mandatory minimum sentence if any of the following factors are involved:

  • the offence was committed near a school or an area frequented by people under 18 years of age youth or in the presence of a person under 18 years of age;
  • the offence was committed in a prison; or
  • the offence was committed in concert with or in relation to a person under 18 years of age.

The government’s intention appears to be to apply the above-mentioned trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking mandatory minimum sentences only if the amount involved is above 3 kg.  However, the actual legislation is  ambiguous on this point.

Importing/ Exporting Cannabis

Exporting or importing cannabis will trigger a one year mandatory minimum sentence if any of the following factors are involved:

  • the offence was committed for the
    purpose of trafficking;
  • a position of trust or authority was abused; or
  • the offender had access to an area that is restricted to authorized persons and the; or offender used that access to commit the offence.

Production (Growing) Cannabis

Production or growing cannabis will result in an automatic six-month mandatory minimum sentence if there were:

  • between 6 and 200 plants; and
  • the plants were being grown for the purpose of trafficking.

Production will result in an automatic nine-month mandatory minimum sentence if there were:

  • between 6 and 200 plants;
  • the plants were being grown for the purpose of trafficking; and
  • any of the following factors apply:
    – used real property that belongs to a third party ( includes rental properties);
    – the production constituted a potential security, health or safety
    hazard to persons under the age of 18 years who were in the location
    where the offence was committed;
    – the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; or
    -the person set or placed a trap, device or other thing that is likely
    to cause death or bodily harm at or near the cannabis garden.

Production will result in a one year mandatory minimum sentence if there were:

  • between 201 and 500 plants; and
  • the plants were being grown for the purpose of trafficking.

Production will result in an 18-month mandatory minimum sentence if there were:

  • between 201 and 500 plants;
  • the plants were being grown for the purpose of trafficking; and
  • any of the following factors apply:
    – used real property that belongs to a third party;
    – the production constituted a potential security, health or safety
    hazard to persons under the age of 18 years who were in the location
    where the offence was committed;
    – the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; or
    – the person set or placed a trap, device or other thing that is likely
    to cause death or bodily harm at or near the cannabis garden

Production of Cannabis Derivatives (Hash, Oil, etc.)

Production of cannabis derivatives, such as hash, resin or extracts, will result in a one year mandatory minimum sentence if the substance produced was for the purpose of trafficking.

Production of cannabis derivatives will result in an 18-month minimum sentence if the substance was produced for the purpose of trafficking and any one of the following factors apply:

  • used real property that belongs to a third party;
  • the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to persons under the age of 18 who were in the location where the offence was committed;
  • the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; or
  • the person set or placed a trap, device or other thing that is likely to cause death or bodily
    harm at or near the cannabis garden

Ending Conditional Sentences for Serious Drug Offences

On November 20, 2012, conditional sentences (a sentence of house arrest) will no longer be available for trafficking in amounts of cannabis over 3 kg, importing/ exporting cannabis, and producing cannabis (even if the above factors do not apply) as these offences carry a maximum sentence of 10 years or more.

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The 2012 Cannabian Freedom Walk IV Chronic Illness

On Monday October 22, 2012, Jennifer Collett successfully completed the second annual Cannabian Freedom Walk IV Chronic Illness. The 141 km walk from Peterborough, Ontario to Toronto, Ontario took three days to complete.

Ms. Collett is walking to raise awareness regarding the difficulties faced by medical cannabis users with chronic illnesses.  She faults the Federal Government for its defective Marihuana Medical Access Regulations.  Furthermore, Ms. Collett is encouraging the Provincial Government to take a greater interest in the health and safety of its residents by taking a more active role in the regulation of medical cannabis in Ontario.

Unfortunately, Ms. Collett’s arrival coincided with former-Premier McGuinty’s proroguing of the legislature and the State funeral for former Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Lincoln Alexander.  She had anticipated meeting with Liberal M.P.P. Jeff Leal (Peterborough), but the meeting was cancelled due to the week’s events.

After meeting her supporters in front of the Ontario Legislature, the walk continued to the Ministry of Health where Ms. Collett met with Colin Le Fevre, Special Assistant to the
Minister of Health. Ms. Collett also met with O.P.P. Sergeant Mike Stacey, who helped facilitate the meeting. While no concrete steps were taken at this meeting, several strategies were discussed regarding getting the Minister of Health more involved in medical cannabis issues. It is hoped that this meeting will be the first of many.

When asked about the Senate Report on Cannabis, Ms. Collett had this to say:

“The fact that we are now celebrating the 10 year anniversary of this report and no change has come with it, is mind blowing to me.  Ten years of increasing costs on a decreasing budget, with an increased ripple effect of stress and trauma associated with this prohibition, can only lead to an inability to sustain quality of life compounded with an unhealthy society.”

If you would like to know more about the walk please contact Jennifer at cannabianfreedomwalk@gmail.com

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South of the Boarder:
Two States Pass Historic Legalization Voter’s Initiatives

On November 6, 2012, as Canada took a step in the wrong direction by increasing penalties for cannabis offences, two American states made history as voters approved initiatives to legalize cannabis use.  Washington and Colorado are now on their way to creating a legal, regulated marketplace for recreational cannabis.

Colorado’s Amendment 64 will legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, and production of up to six plants in an enclosed, locked space.  The Amendment will also create a regulated system of cannabis establishments such as large-scale producers, quality control facilities and retailers through which individuals choosing not to grow may obtain up to one ounce of cannabis.  The entire system will be taxed at a rate of 15%.  Interestingly, the first $40 million in tax revenue collected pursuant to Amendment 64 will be used to further public education infrastructure.  Amendment 64 includes also legalized industrial hemp, and will create a regulated system for its production and distribution.

Washington’s Initiative 502 will create a regulated, state-controlled cannabis industry, consisting of stand-alone producers and retailers.  Adults over 21 yeas of age will be able to purchase cannabis from the retailers and possess and use cannabis without fear of criminal sanction by the State.  The system will be taxed at a rate of 25% with 40% of the tax revenue going directly to municipal coffers.  The Initiative does not change the legal status of industrial hemp.

Many cannabis users opposed Initiative 502.  The Initiative deems a driver to be driving while impaired if their blood THC content exceeds 5 nano-grams
per millilitre.  However, THC stays in the blood stream for weeks or months.  This means regular cannabis users may, in effect, be prohibited from driving despite not being impaired. Medical cannabis users are particularly wary of this aspect of Initiative 502.

Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 are huge steps towards outright legalization.  The amendments classify cannabis as a legal commodity which can be produced, traded and used subject to State regulations.  This is substantially different than decriminalization laws in the United States and elsewhere which simply exempt some cannabis crimes from criminal sanction.

It is important to note the developments in Washington and Colorado are overshadowed by federal law prohibiting the possession, production and trafficking of cannabis.  American federalism would allow federal prosecutors to charge and convict individuals in Washington and Colorado who are lawfully abiding
the State law.  This is similar to the treatment of individuals charged and convicted under federal law for lawfully following State medical cannabis laws.

However, these changes should still be seen as great steps towards the repeal of prohibition in the United States and elsewhere.  Alcohol prohibition ended, in part, because many states had repealed prohibition at the state level.  More change is coming.

Thank you.

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Senate Report on Cannabis – 10th Anniversary Campaign

stacks of Cannabian t-shirts