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Chretien backtracks on decriminalizing pot

By Hempology | December 26, 2002

From the Times Colonist, December 19th, 2002

By Janice Tibbetts

OTTAWA – Jean Chretien retreated Wednesday from the government’s plans to decriminalize marijuana
by declaring that no final decision has been made.

The prime minister’s position contradicts that of Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, who signalled last
week that he intended to introduce legalisation in the first four months of next year to wipe marijuana
possession off the criminal record books. Chretien, stressing that he has never tried pot, said the
debate over decriminalization is ongoing and that the government will have to make a decision “one day”.

The prime minister’s spokesman, Jim Munson, acknowledged that Cuachon “has made his intentions known,” but
cautioned that the justice minister’s plans are not final.

“There will be a very vigorous debate,” said Munson, who did not elaborate4.

Chretien made his comments in a year-end interview with Global TV in which he went out of his way
to say that he had never tried pot and he does not know what it is like to be high.

“I don’t know what is the feeling,” he said.

Cauchon, 40, has confessed to smoking marijuana in his youth and has made no secret of his belief that people
caught with less than 30 grams – about 25 or 30 cigarettes – should be fined rather than criminally charged.

He has been considering the prospect for six months and, until Wednesday, it appeared there was little
standing in his way, particularly after a House of Commons cimmittee recommended decriminalization last

Several marijuana enthusiasts predict that the government, which has promised decriminalization on and off
over the last 30 years, will never act.

Cauchon is a strong Chretien loyalists and his boss’s position could hamper attempts at a new marijuana law.

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