Cannabis News Students for Sensible Drug Policy
  Canada Goes to Pot - We Should Follow
Posted by FoM on August 01, 2001 at 08:42:59 PT
Ryan H. Sager, Freelance Writer - Washington, DC 
Source: National Review 

cannabisnews.com The issue of drug policy hasn't gotten a lot of ink or bandwidth lately in the American press, and there's a good reason for that: There hasn't been much to say. In the last two decades, the drug war has been subject to about as much debate in the nation's capitol as the metric system.

While America snoozes, however, strange noises are beginning to seep across our borders, threatening to disturb our peaceful dreams. Right upstairs, our Canadian neighbors are engaging in a strange and unthinkable act conducting a full-throated debate over liberalizing their drug policies.

Undoubtedly, many Americans would be shocked to learn how far Canada has drifted from the U.S. on drug policy in the last year. After only a few months of preparation, regulations went into effect in Canada this week allowing many terminally and chronically ill patients to legally use and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. Also, the full decriminalization of marijuana has officially been put on the table, and could become a reality as early as next year.

The pace of events in Canada may seem accelerated, but that's because the impetus for change so far has come from the country's court system. It was a ruling by the Court of Appeals for Ontario last July that forced the Canadian government to allow for medical marijuana, and it is a Supreme Court case regarding the constitutionality of banning pot that could force the issue of full decriminalization.

But even if the courts have been behind Canada's movement on drug policy, the Canadian people seem prepared to go along for the ride. In fact one of the most surprising things, at least from an American perspective, about Canada's legalization of medical marijuana was that it faced no organized opposition. In sharp contrast to the U.S., almost no one in Canada was willing to speak out against a patient's right to what can be reasonably defended as medicine.

Canadians' openness to the idea of full marijuana legalization has also been demonstrated by recent polling. According to a poll by Ottawa's University of Lethbridge, just under half of Canadians favor such a policy. Furthermore, according to the same study, that number jumps to around 60 percent among 18 to 34-year-olds.

All of this has lead supporters of marijuana legalization in Canada to be extremely optimistic. "Legalization is possible within the next two years in Canada," said Richard Cowan, editor of Marijuananews.com and a resident of British Columbia. "In fact," he said, "I find it pretty likely." Mr. Cowan is optimistic about the Supreme Court case, but also feels that if the court doesn't make pot legal, Parliament will.

He may be justified in his rosy outlook. All five national parties in Canada have signed onto the creation of a Commons committee to study all non-medical drug use including marijuana. Along with a Senate committee established last year and headed by an outspoken backer of marijuana decriminalization, the Commons committee is expected to make a report as early as next summer.

In the meantime, major political voices in Canada have leant their weight to the idea of decriminalization. In May, former prime minister and Conservative Party leader Joe Clark called for marijuana use no longer to be considered a criminal offense. Also, the current justice minister, Anne McLellan, has said that she would "participate with enthusiasm" in upcoming hearings and that it was "appropriate" for Canada to consider liberalizing its drug policies.

While Prime Minister Jean Chretien has expressed reluctance on the issue, saying it was "not part of the agenda at this time," his opposition is seen as soft--and he is expected to retire in the next few years. The only interest group opposed to legalization to date is the Canadian Police Association. They have gained little traction, however, being contradicted by the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and even the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

While it is impossible to know what the outcome of this debate will be in Canada, one thing is for sure: If Canada legalizes, the U.S. will almost certainly feel the impact. As Mr. Cowan is fond of saying, Canada is too white to invade but too close to ignore.

Keith Stroup, executive director of America's National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws concurs in Mr. Cowan's sentiment. "The U.S. government is fairly adept at ignoring any major drug reform enacted in foreign countries," said Stroup, who feels that politicians in America have misrepresented legalization experiments in places such as the Netherlands. "With Canada in particular, I don't think that'll play," Stroup said, "we are intimately familiar with Canada and vice-versa."

The only other country America feels such an affinity for, one might venture, is England. Perhaps not coincidentally, England is also in the midst of a debate on their policies towards pot. On the heels of Portugal having decriminalized all drug abuse on the first of July, the Brixton neighborhood of London instituted a policy this month whereby marijuana is not technically legal, but police officers officially look the other way when it comes to pot smokers.

The issue has also gained national attention in England due to the support for decriminalization expressed by figures such as Home Secretary David Blunkett and unsuccessful Conservative Party candidate Michael Portillo. Though Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed opposition to marijuana legalization, it was announced last week that a Commons select committee will study the issue.

Certainly, events in Canada and England will not dictate policy in America and thank God, or we'd all be measuring the distance to a country with a decent health-care system in kilometers. But given the recent successes of the medical-marijuana movement in the United States, especially in the west, the time may be coming for a serious national debate on drug policy.

With our closest geographical neighbor and our closest cultural neighbor moving in the same direction, perhaps the United States can be brought along for the ride.

Source: National Review (US)
Author: Ryan H. Sager, Freelance Writer - Washington, D.C.
Published: August 1, 2001
Copyright: 2001 National Review
Contact: letters@nationalreview.com
Website: http://www.nationalreview.com/

Related Articles & Web Sites:

NORML
http://www.norml.org/

Marijuana News
http://www.marijuananews.com

Canadian Links
http://freedomtoexhale.com/can.htm

Marijuana Regulation Draws Fire
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread10483.shtml

Canadian Cannabis Decision May Spark New Thinking
http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread10469.shtml

CannabisNews Articles - Canada
http://cannabisnews.com/thcgi/search.pl?K=canada


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Comment #10 posted by SWAMPIE on August 01, 2001 at 23:58:27 PT
THE TRUTH,NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH......
An idea that was thrown at me by the owner of my shop is that they may either close the borders,which we know won't happen,or piss-test you in and out to see what your levels are,or worse yet,if you test positive for any substance,you won't be able to cross the border until you are clean.We all know that this whole drug-war is ridiculous in every fashion,but the anti's will keep paying other people to think for them as long as they get their government retirement pension to take care of their cannabis-smoking kids and grandkids....go figure.....Canada,I really hope you are watching this website,the truth is here!!!!!!!!!!!

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #9 posted by kaptinemo on August 01, 2001 at 14:10:53 PT:

The antis would die of apoplexy, first
Otherwise known as "I was so mad, I didn't know whether to s**t or go blind."

The question's been raised, before, and is more relevent than ever: what happens when Canada re-legalizes? More to the point, what will the US's reaction be?

Well, what can it do? Pass trade restrictions? Then Detroit might have a hard time filling orders; a Hell of a lot of cars assembled here have parts made there. Not to mention electronic devices; not all modems come from Taiwan, children. Trade is the key...and it's a card the US dare not use.

So, what's left? Can't use trade embargoes, for the reason I've just given. Travel restrictions on US citizens? Soviet-style gunpoint demands for "Your papers, NOW!"? Mexican border style Customs stations at The Great Bridges? Machine-pistol toting, dog handling Customs men? Illuminated concrete gun turrets? Electrified fences? Razor wire, land mines, anti-personnel lasers, F-117's stealth fighters with smart bombs standing by to chase down weekend tokers crossing back into the US after a holiday in Toronto?

When does the rank stupidity reach such a level that it's obvious to the most benighted citizen of the US that the DrugWar can't work?

We'll find out soon enough, children. The Canucks are on a roll. I'll place my bets with Mr. Cowan: two years, and I'll be able to go North and visit old friends, share a pipe and not have to be furtive about it.

And hopefully come back to a country properly ashamed for what it, in it's madness, did to so many who did not deserve it.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #8 posted by -TC- on August 01, 2001 at 14:08:42 PT:

Pro-legalization statement
I'm hoping to go to school in Canada, and after reading
this I'll be sending in my application today! Go Canada!
Finally people are realizing the mistake they've been
making for so many years (banning marijuana). If only
the American government wasn't as thick headed. Face
the facts, listen to the people, and LEGALIZE!


[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #7 posted by TroutMask on August 01, 2001 at 12:55:46 PT
How about Mexico
How about Mexico? If, sorry, WHEN Canada legalizes and starts to reap the benefits of increased tourism from around the world, won't Mexico be inclined to legalize also? And if Mexico and Canada legalize how can we not?

-TM

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #6 posted by MakeItKind on August 01, 2001 at 12:52:09 PT
Who knows?
"Unfortunately, most companies drug policies mandate termination or coerced treatment irrespective of the source of the positive urine drug testing result. Most employers that resort to urine testing are doctrinaire and believe in black and white answers. No one should rely on the "trip to Canada" excuse and feel that their continued employment is assured as a result. Rather, testing should only be legal for just cause (e.g., testing the engineern for alcohol or other impairing drugs after a derailment)."


That's true but if weed was legal in Canada it would send a message to a lot of Americans. I think there a lot of people who are on the fence and would ultimately turn pro-legalization if Canada were to. This would generate public sentiment that it is just not acceptable for a company to fire someone for doing something 100% legal ie: toking it up in Canada. My point is that this just gives more legal leverage and who knows, maybe a court decision making arbitrary drug testing illegal. Who knows, I wasn't implying any sort of finality to the issue.



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #5 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on August 01, 2001 at 11:26:56 PT:

Wrong, Unfortunately
MakeItKind: Unfortunately, most companies drug policies mandate termination or coerced treatment irrespective of the source of the positive urine drug testing result. Most employers that resort to urine testing are doctrinaire and believe in black and white answers. No one should rely on the "trip to Canada" excuse and feel that their continued employment is assured as a result. Rather, testing should only be legal for just cause (e.g., testing the engineern for alcohol or other impairing drugs after a derailment).

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #4 posted by TroutMask on August 01, 2001 at 11:24:34 PT
You're right MakeItKind
Since THC metabolites are potentially detectable for weeks after consuming marijuana, marijuana is the only drug that drug testing "effectively" finds. Once there is an excuse for a positive THC result, drug testing is in big trouble. They all suck anyway, so good riddance to the b@stards.

-TM

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #3 posted by MakeItKind on August 01, 2001 at 11:18:15 PT
Poor ol' drug testing industry!
Well boo hoo. What will happen to the drug testing industry when "Americans" can legally go to Canada to light up a couple spliffs? How can you descriminate against someone who does something completely legal. All you have to say if you test positive is "Hey, I was in Canada bro." Canada, I thank you for your courage! Legalize!

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #2 posted by Patrick on August 01, 2001 at 10:52:28 PT
Tourism or Immigration?
Tourism perhaps! Immigration applications may increase 10 fold!!!

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #1 posted by Sudaca on August 01, 2001 at 10:10:24 PT
predictions
"Also, the full decriminalization of marijuana has officially been put on the table, and could become a reality as early as next year"

Canadians will see a surge in tourism.

[ Post Comment ]


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