Pubdate: Fri, 30 May 2003
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The Toronto Star
Author: Matthew M. Elrod


Drug Scheme Full Of Mixed Messages

Noting stiff opposition to proposed cannabis law reform, columnist Chantal 
Hebert rightly predicts that, "The ultimate outcome of this needlessly 
tortured process could be a legal vacuum."

Indeed, according to a recent Ontario Superior Court ruling, there has been 
no valid law prohibiting cannabis possession in Canada since we adopted the 
Charter in 1982.

While I appreciate that our legislators are finally looking at the issue 
and that most recognize that criminal sanctions are more harmful to users 
than cannabis, I believe a legal vacuum would be preferable to what the 
Liberals have in mind.

Tickets and fines are much easier for the police to hand out than criminal 

South Australia introduced an "expiation" regime in 1987, under which those 
caught in possession of small amounts are ticketed and fined.

Over the next six years tickets almost tripled, from 6,000 to 17,000 per year.

However, half the tickets went unpaid, so more users were criminalized 
after decriminalization than before.

Further, Australians discovered that the police are more apt to ticket the 
young, the homeless and visible minorities, magnifying existing 
geographical, racial- and class-based enforcement disparities.

Matthew M. Elrod,

Victoria, B.C.
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MAP posted-by: Tom