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Pot Laws Need Thorough Overhaul: Coleman Should Be Pushing Ottawa For Change, Not Harassing BC’s Municipal Politicians.

By admin | September 15, 2004

Times Colonist
September 13, 2004.

To a tough former cop like Solicitor General Rich Coleman, watching people buying pot over the counter is an affront.

Coleman says it’s still against the law for marijuana to be sold, but that’s not entirely true. The sale of marijuana for medical purposes is legal. But because the government hasn’t been able to supply the drug to those who need it, the Ontario Court of Appeal has essentially said they can get it wherever they can find it.

So “compassion clubs” have been operating openly in Victoria and Vancouver, distributing pot to users who simply are asked to sign a bit of paper saying they need it for medical purposes. Police in Vancouver last week finally began charging some, but when police in Victoria have laid charges the court have stayed them.

Provincial court Judge Loretta Chaperon, who stayed charges of possession laid against two men running Ted’s Bookstore on Johnson Street, said she was satisfied they were operating a compassion club “to provide persons with medical need with a safe, reliable supply of marijuana.”

In Vancouver, owners of a number of stores on Commercial Drive have acknowledged selling pot over the counter with the tacit approval of some city councillors. Coleman accused city politians of a “ho-hum” attitude. He noted that the stores are operating under city bylaws, and a council committee said it will decide next month whether their licences should be taken away.

The day after the solicitor general made his comments, Vancouver police raided a Commercial Drive cafe where marijuana was being sold openly, and charged six people with trafficking.

Coleman should be hounding the lawmakers in Ottawa, not City politians. Prime Minister Paul Martin has said he will bring in a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot this fall, but seems reluctant to stick his neck out too far.

Everyone knows the law has to be changed. Distribution for medical purposes is a shambles. One-third of patients acquiring marijuana grown under Health Canada supervision are sending it back because it’s too weak and burns too hot.

In Quebec, the government is pardoning first-time possessors of small amounts of pot. Statistics Canada says almost three in 10 teenagers are using it. And the law is being enforced so arbitarily that while store-owners are not being prosecutors for selling the drug, others are being sent to prison for three months for passing a joint around.

Decriminalizing possession of a few grams won’t stop trafficking. Users will still be breaking the law. Enforcement will go up because police will feel the punishment is more approproiate. Fines will be as arbitary as convictions are today.

In 2002 the Senate said pot possession should be made legal and producers licensed. Something has to be done to end the present farce. But Martin’s over-cautious approach won’t be nearly enough.

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