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Federal Government Committed to Marijuana Decriminalization: Martin

By admin | July 23, 2004

Canadian Press
by Alexander Panetta,
Friday, July 22, 2004.

The federal government is committed to marijuana decriminalization and will reintroduce legislation to make it happen, Prime Minister Paul Martin said in his first statement on the issue since winning re-election.

The Liberal government will bring back a bill that died with the election call and re-table it after Parliament resumes sitting in October, he said Wednesday following a meeting of his new cabinet. “The legislation on marijuana – the decriminalization of minor quantities of marijuana – that legislation will be introduced.”

According to the original bill, anyone caught with 15 grams of pot or less would receive a ticket instead of criminal charges. But those caught trafficking more than 15 grams would receive harsher penalties.

Critics say the bill could lead to more cases of intoxicated driving and cause traffic snarls at the Canada-U.S. border while American customs agents intensify their search for drugs.

They also bemoan the 15-gram ceiling for non-criminal use, calculating that it would become legal for someone to carry more than 30 joints at a time.

Detractors have already successfully lobbied the government to drive down the initial maximum amount from 30 grams. Some felt the original limit was so high that it practically made drug-dealing legal.

Wednesday’s announcement came on the same day as a study concluded that the number of Canadians who have used marijuana or hashish nearly doubled in 13 years.

In 2002, an estimated 12.2 per cent of Canadians admitted to smoking marijuana – up from 6.5 per cent in 1989, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday.

But Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, sworn into cabinet just one day earlier, dismissed the suggestion that decriminalization would lead to greater use.

“I’m not so sure whether that argument has any validity. I don’t know what the correlation is,” he said after attending his first federal cabinet meeting.

“My view is that, if you make something illegal, some people are more attracted to it. . .If you allow people to possess it in small quantities for personal use, the allure kind of disappears for some people.”

Martin had also said while campaigning for the June 28 election that he planned to reintroduce the marijuana bill.

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