Pubdate: Wed, 15 Mar 2006
Source: Brandon Sun (CN MB)
Copyright: 2006, Brandon Sun
Author: Alan Randell
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Regarding the editorial Dude! Chill Out Over Pot Laws (March 12): if 
you had bothered to do even a cursory amount of research, you would 
have known that the Liberals' marijuana decriminalization initiative 
would not have contributed to a solution to marijuana "crimes" in the 

Let me quote from page 597 of the Report of the Senate Special 
Committee on Illegal Drugs issued in September, 2002. "The term 
"decriminalization" is obviously loaded with contradictions. Even 
though the term purports to remove it from the ambit of criminal law, 
cannabis consumption remains illegal. The sanction may be less 
severe, but a sanction still applies, one that, in some cases, can 
have the same impact as a criminal sanction and entail even greater 
discrimination: a young or disadvantaged person unable to pay the 
fine faces a far greater risk of ending up in prison than an adult or 
socially secure individual. As explained to the Committee by Dr. 
Kendall (Dr. Perry Kendall, Medical Health Officer for B.C.):

"However, a cautionary note should be sounded. If Canada did adopt 
this recommendation, we should be concerned and thus take steps to 
avoid the situation in Australia, or to repeat that situation, where 
the imposition of a cannabis expiation program actually led to a net 
widening effect, because the police now ticketed individuals that 
they had previously ignored. Many of those so ticketed failed to 
appear to pay their fines, and subsequent numbers entered the 
criminal justice system for non-payment of fines and subsequently 
received criminal convictions. There was an unintended result in that 
the number of persons criminalized is as large, or perhaps larger, 
than before the measure was implemented.

"In spite of its merits and success, the Dutch system of controlled 
cannabis sale, a form of de facto decriminalization, has no way of 
regulating production and distribution, which is still controlled at 
least in part by organized crime, or exercising quality control, 
specifically the concentration of THC. In the opinion of some 
authors, decriminalization is in fact simply less severe prohibition. 
In other words, in the guise of a socially responsible and rational 
measure, decriminalization in fact furthers a prohibitionist logic. 
Same grounds, different form. This model has no greater capacity for 
prevention or education than a strict prohibition model. Even worse, 
the prohibition model is based on clear and consistent theory, 
whereas the same cannot be said of decriminalization as an approach.

"Some say that decriminalization is a step in the right direction, 
one that gives society time to become accustomed to cannabis, to 
convince opponents that chaos will not result, to adopt effective 
preventive measures. We believe however that this approach is in fact 
the worst case scenario, depriving the state of a necessary 
regulatory tool for dealing with the entire production, distribution, 
and consumption network, and delivering hypocritical messages at the 
same time."

I do hope that I have at least encouraged you to read the Senate 
report and to reflect its recommendations in any future editorials 
you may write on our ridiculous drug laws.

Alan Randell

Victoria, B.C.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman