Pubdate: Wed, 07 May 2003
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Neil Boyd


U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci suggests that decriminalization of cannabis 
will not lead to "border friction" if the new law also contains tougher 
penalties for trafficking and cultivation (Ambassador softens U.S. stance 
on pot-law changes, May 3). We need greater clarity from Canadian officials 
about the intent of the proposed amendments.

Last December, a House of Commons committee recommended decriminalization 
of both the cultivation and possession of small amounts of cannabis. The 
point of this change was to indicate that marijuana consumption should be a 
matter of public health, not a criminal law matter.

There are good reasons for federal and provincial governments to discourage 
use of this drug, but few good reasons for labelling the informed adult 
user as a criminal. Further, current law already provides a maximum penalty 
of life imprisonment for trafficking in cannabis and its derivatives.

There seems to be little room for tougher penalties.

At the same time, there are many good reasons to be concerned about the 
illicit commercial trade in cannabis -- violent rip-offs, drive-by 
shootings, theft of electricity, neighbourhood blight and hundreds of 
millions of dollars in untaxed income.

A critical first step on the road to reducing or eliminating these problems 
is to endorse last December's proposal from the House of Commons -- to 
permit the user to bypass the black market, by growing and consuming to 
meet personal needs. The proposed changes would allow the police and the 
courts to draw a clearer distinction between the activities of personal 
cultivation and commercial distribution.

Neil Boyd


School of Criminology

Simon Fraser University
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