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Push on to pass marijuana bill before Chretien’s retirement

By Hempology | September 26, 2003

From the Times Colonist, September 26 2003

By Janice Tibbetts

OTTAWA – Jean Chretien and Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, fearing a bill to decriminalize
marijuana possession will be discarded if it doesn’t pass this fall, are reviving efforts
to push it through Parliament before the prime minister retires.

Cauchon says his drug bill – which also seeks to strengthen penalties against marijuana
grow operations – is a top priority in the final days of the Chretien government.

“We hope to pass the cannabis reform before Christmas,” Cauchon said Thursday.

The justice minister said the proposed legislation is second only to a bill to
strengthen laws against child pornography, which he wants to pass in Parliament
even if it adjourns early, before the Liberal leadership convention in November.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office have also confirmed there will be a major
push to get a new marijuana law through Parliament.

Government House Leader Don Boudria is working on a plan to sent the controversial bill
to a new committee for consideration because the justice committee, which normally
holds hearing on the department’s proposed laws, has too much on its plate.

All-party Parliamentary committees held public hearings on proposed bills before
legislation is voted on in Parliament.

The stepped-up approach to the pot bill is a change of course for the Liberals. Boudria,
who sets the legislative agenda, said recently that it would be ambitious for marijuana
legislation to pass before Christmas.

Liberal leadership hopeful Paul Martin has been lukewarm in his support for decriminalizing
marijuana and it is expected that the bill will be one of many that will be up for review
once Chretien is out of the picture.

Cauchon will also promote the bill next week at a meeting with provincial justice
ministers, most of whom oppose easing marijuana laws and want the justice minister
to proceed with dozens of other unfinished initiatives that have been in the works
for years, such as proposed changes to divorce laws and creating a national sex
offender registry.

“There are so many other things that are important to be done and decriminalizing
marijuana is not one of them,” said Alberta Justice Minister Dave Hancock, summing
up the sentiment of several of his counterparts.

Provincial governments are responsible for the administration of justice and are for
enforcing the Criminal Code.

The marijuana bill proposes to decriminalize possession of 15 grams or less, so that
people would be fined from $100 to $400 instead of receiving criminal records.

The bill also proposes to double the maximum jail terms for people caught with marijuana
grow operations.

Police, who oppose the legislation, estimate that 15 grams is the equivalent of 15 to
30 cigarettes, depending on how they are rolled.

Martin has said that he opposes decriminalization except for people caught with a
“very, very small quantity” for personal use, although he has not elaborated.

The prime minister in waiting, who also wants to improve Canada’s damaged relationship
with the United States, could also review the bill because the Americans are against

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