The Senate Committee’s Conclusions

From the Conclusions and Recommendations section of the Senate Report on Cannabis:

“It is time to recognize what is patently obvious: our policies have been ineffective, because they are poor policies”
— Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs

Le Dain – Already Thirty Years Ago
(*as of 2002)

“The  Le Dain Commission concluded [in 1972] that the criminalization of cannabis had no scientific basis. Thirty years later, we note that:

  • Billions of dollars have been sunk into enforcement without any greater effect: there are more consumers, more regular users and more regular adolescent users;
  • Billions of dollars have been poured into enforcement in an effort to reduce supply, without any greater effect: cannabis is more available than ever, it is cultivated on a large scale, even exported, swelling coffers and making organized crime more powerful; and
  • There have been tens of thousands of arrests and convictions for the possession of cannabis and thousands of people have been incarcerated; however, use trends remain totally unaffected and the gap the Commission noted between the law and public compliance continues to widen.

“It is time to recognize what is patently obvious: our policies have been ineffective, because they are poor policies.” Page 607

Ineffectiveness of the Current Approach

Clearly, current approaches are ineffective and inefficient – it is throwing taxpayers’ money down the drain on a crusade that is not warranted by the danger posed by the substance. It has been maintained that drugs, including cannabis, are not dangerous because they are illegal but rather illegal because they are dangerous. This is perhaps true of other types of drugs, but not cannabis. We should state this clearly once and for all, for public good, stop our crusade.” Page 610

Public Policy Based on Guiding Principles

“From this concept of government action ensues a limited role for criminal law. As far as cannabis is concerned, only behaviour causing demonstrable harm to others shall be prohibited: illegal trafficking, selling to minors, impaired driving.” Page 611

A Clear and Coherent Federal Strategy

“We are recommending the creation of the position of National Advisor on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency to be attached to the Privy Council.” Page 611

National Strategy Sustained by Adequate Resources and Tools

The current and future scale of drug and dependency-related issues warrants the Canadian Government earmarking the resources and developing the tools with which to develop fair, equitable and well-thought out policies. Page 612

A Public Health Policy

We are able to categorically state that, used in moderation, cannabis in itself poses very little danger to users and to society as a whole, but specific types of use represent risks for users.”

“We would add that, even if cannabis were to have serious harmful effects, one would have to question the relevance of using the criminal law to limit these effects.” Page 614

A Regulatory Approach to Cannabis

“The prohibition of cannabis does not bring about the desired reduction in cannabis consumption or problem use. However, this approach does have a whole series of harmful consequences. Users are marginalized and over 20,000 Canadians are arrested each year for cannabis possession. Young people in schools no longer enjoy the same constitutional and civil protection of their rights as others. Organized crime benefits from prohibition and the criminalization of cannabis enhances their power and wealth. It is a well-known fact that society will never be able to stamp out drug use – particularly cannabis use.”

“We believe, however, that the continued prohibition of cannabis jeopardizes the health and well-being of Canadians much more than the regulated marketing of the substance. In addition, we believe that the continued criminalization of cannabis undermines the fundamental values set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and borne out by the history of a country based on diversity and tolerance.” Page 617

A Compassion-based Approach for Therapeutic Use

“The Committee recommends that the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations be amended to provide new rules regarding eligibility, production and distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. In addition, research on cannabis for therapeutic purposes is essential.” Page 619

Provisions for Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Cannabis

“The Committee recommends that the Criminal Code be amended to lower permitted alcohol levels to 40 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, in the presence of other drugs, especially, but not exclusively cannabis; and to admit evidence from expert police officers trained in detecting persons operating vehicles under the influence of drugs.” Page 620

Research

“The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada create a national fund for research on psychoactive substances and dependency to fund research on key issues – more particularly on various types of use, on the therapeutic applications of cannabis, on tools for detecting persons operating vehicles under the influence of drugs and on effective prevention and treatment programs; that the Government of Canada mandate the Canadian Centre on Psychoactive Substances and Dependency to co-ordinate national research and serve as a resource centre.” Page 621

Canada’s International Position

“The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada instruct the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to inform the appropriate United Nations authorities that Canada is requesting that conventions and treaties governing illegal drugs be amended; and that the development of a Drugs and Dependency Observatory for the Americas be supported by the Government of Canada.” Page 622