Newsbrief: Canada Decriminalization Bill Dies Quiet Death 11/14/03

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The marijuana decriminalization bill promoted by the government of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is dead. The bill and all other pending legislation was killed Wednesday afternoon when Chretien prorogued (or adjourned) Parliament before his pending retirement. Parliament will resume in a new session beginning January 12, but Chretien's successor, Paul Martin, has shown little enthusiasm for reintroducing a decrim bill.

Chretien's Cannabis Reform Bill (C-38) will not be mourned by many. Old-school drug fighters, such as Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament Randy White and Canadian police associations, opposed any liberalization of the marijuana laws, as did US drug czar John Walters. And marijuana reform advocates were chary of the bill because while it would have made the possession of a small amount of marijuana a non-criminal offense punishable only by a fine, it also included provisions that would have increased penalties for all but the smallest marijuana cultivation operations.

While parliamentary action to change Canada's cannabis laws may be on indefinite hold, the Canadian Supreme Court has already heard arguments in a series of cases challenging the government's ability to outlaw marijuana possession and distribution. A decision in those cases, which cite the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, is expected any week now.

To read the bill online, visit:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/2/parlbus/chambus/house/bills/government/C-38/C-38_2/C-38TOCE.html

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