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Canada: "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery Jailed, Ordered Extradited to US

Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson Monday ordered that his country's most famous marijuana legalization advocate be extradited to the US to serve a five-year federal prison sentence. Erstwhile pot seed entrepreneur and Cannabis Culture magazine publisher Marc Emery turned himself in to authorities and is now in custody awaiting imminent extradition to the US.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/marcandjodieemery.jpg
Marc and Jodie Emery (courtesy Cannabis Culture)
Emery and two employees, Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, were arrested in Vancouver in 2005 by Canadian police acting at the behest of US authorities, who had indicted the trio in Seattle for selling pot seeds over the Internet to customers in the US. After Rainey and Williams were offered plea bargains that allowed them to stay in Canada, Emery himself pleaded guilty to one count of marijuana distribution in exchange for a five-year sentence. He had faced up to life in prison for his pot seed sales.

Prior to his arrest in 2005, Emery was becoming an increasingly irritating burr under the saddle of prohibitionists on both sides of the border. He poured much of his pot seed profits into pro-pot political formations, both in Canada and across the border, agitating relentlessly for legalization as he vowed to "overgrow the government" and confronting then US drug czar John Walters when he visited Vancouver.

After Emery's arrest, then DEA administrator Karen Tandy issued a press release calling the bust a "significant blow to the US and Canadian marijuana trade, and to the marijuana legalization movement" and crowed about taking down Emery and his "propagandistic magazine."

But that was five years ago. Since then, Emery has continued to agitate for legalization, Cannabis Culture has continued to publish (albeit only online now), and he has used his own predicament as yet another tool toward his broader goal. He generated thousands of letters and phone calls to Ottawa in his support, as well as appeals from members of Parliament from all major parties.

Even on the steps of the British Columbia Supreme Court, where he turned himself over Monday morning, Emery was still talking. "I think the best thing that could happen to our movement is that the minister decides, foolishly, to extradite me. Canadians will be very, very angry and punish this government," he told reporters.

"If I'm extradited, I've told my supporters that every Conservative member of Parliament is to be hounded endlessly and unmercifully until they are defeated in the next or following elections," he said. "It's to be a life project for them as long as I am incarcerated in the United States or Canada."

Emery is seeking to serve his time in Canada, one of attorneys, Kirk Tousaw, told The Canadian Press. "The United States has already agreed to support Mr. Emery's treaty transfer back to Canada to serve his sentence here," Tousaw said. "We certainly would anticipate the minister of public safety would agree."

Emery, who has been arrested repeatedly for his marijuana activism, said he had no regrets. "I think of myself as a great Canadian -- I've worked my whole life for individual freedom in this country, I've never asked for anything in return," Emery told reporters. "And now I will be possibly handed over to the United States for a five-year sentence for the so-called crime of selling seeds from my desk to consenting adults all over the world and the United States. I'm proud of what I've done, and I have no regrets."

On Tuesday, Vancouver New Democratic Party MP Libby Davies called on Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to "stop the extradition" of Emery by allowing him to serve his sentence in Canada. American officials were agreeable to that approach, she said, but "your government has refused to cooperate." Davies pointedly added that Emery was being extradited to serve time in the US "for actions that are not worthy of prosecution under Canadian laws."

Read the latest update on the Cannabis Culture web site for more info on the continuing campaign to free Marc Emery.

Worldwide No Extradition Protest for Marc Scott Emery!

The extradition order to send marijuana activist Marc Emery to the United States for an expected five-year prison term has been signed by the Canadian Minister of Justice, Rob Nicholson.

Cannabis Culture has learned that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada made their decision shortly after Emery turned himself in to Canadian authorities this morning: The Prince of Pot will be handed over to the United States for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet.

READ THE JUSTICE MINISTER'S LETTER CONFIRMING HIS DECISION (PDF)
http://cannabisculture.com/v2/content/2010/05/10/Its-Official-Conservatives-Extradite-Marc-Emery

"If he sends me away, it will anger millions of Americans and millions of Canadians," he told the press. "I need them to be angry, otherwise we won’t get any change on this drug war."

Marc's lawyer and fellow marijuana activist Kirk Tousaw told Cannabis Culture that in all likelihood, Marc would be sent south across the border by the end of the week where he will eventually appear before a sentencing judge. Marc is expected to be sentenced to five years as part of a plea deal arranged with American prosecutors.

YOU CAN STILL HELP! Please contact Judge Ricardo Martinez in Seattle, Washington and tell him that he should let Marc Emery return home to Canada with a no-prison sentence instead of the 5-year term in the plea deal.

Mail: Honorable Ricardo S. Martinez
U.S. Courthouse
700 Stewart Street, Suite 13134
Seattle, WA
98101-9906
USA

You can also contact Conservative Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews and tell him to allow Marc to sever his time in Canada as part of the Treaty Transfer process.

Office of Public Saftey
Phone: 613-944-4875
E-mail: webmail.psepc-sppcc.gc.ca
Web Contact Form: https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/abt/min-eng.aspx

You can also call the Minister of Justice's Rob Nicholson and voice your displeasure in his decision.
Telephone: (905) 374-4007
Telephone: (613) 995-1547
Office #2: (905) 353-9590
Office #3: (905) 871-9991
Office #4: (905) 354-0527
Email: NichoR@parl.gc.ca

Mail: The Honourable Rob Nicholson
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

I've heard that from about a dozen people now, that the voicemail message box is full. I suggest calling the Canadian Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, (613)991-2924 fill up his voicemail and tell him that if Marc Emery applies for a prison transfer from the USA to Canada, that the Minister should approve it right away.

Contact your Member of Parliament in Canada. Call other Canadian Conservative MP's. Call the media, a call in talk show, call your family and friends. Send out text messages. Twitter. Blog.

Be unbashful. Don't be afraid or nervous. People are waking up. More and more people are ready to listen to you and take your concerns seriously.

Join the world wide protest to help liberate Marc Scott Emery from being Extradited to Amerikkka... Protest with us, in person or from home, Anything to Help Get Thousands of People To Call The Justice Minister Rob Nicholson... Monday is Extradition Decision Day...

Bring Signs, Posters, flags, flyers... Handbills in car windows at every red light, signs that read Call The Justice Minister for Marc Emery.
Date: 
Sat, 05/22/2010 - 12:00pm - 4:20pm
Location: 
360 University Avenue
Toronto, ON M5G 1S4
Canada

Marc Emery Will Be Extradited; Headed for Five Years in America's Gulag

As the Canada Press reports:
Marc Emery's lawyer says the self-described “Prince of Pot” has been ordered extradited to the United States. Kirk Tousaw says he received word from the federal justice department shortly after the long time marijuana advocate turned himself into custody today that the minister has decided to sign off on his extradition. Mr. Emery has been out on bail since last fall, when he was released from custody as the minister made the final decision in his case. He made a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors last year, agreeing to plead guilty in connection to his Vancouver-based seed-selling business in return for a sentence of five years in prison. It's not clear when Mr. Emery will be sent to the U.S., but Mr. Tousaw says he expects it will happen within the week.
Emery turned himself in this morning. This was the day Justice Minister Rob Nicholson had to decide whether to okay the extradition, deny it, or postpone a decision. Emery spoke briefly before vanishing into the gulag:
“I think of myself as a great Canadian – I've worked my whole life for individual freedom in this country, I've never asked for anything in return,” Mr. Emery told reporters outside B.C. Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver, with his wife by his side and a throng of supporters carrying “Free Marc” signs. “And now I will be possibly handed over to the United States for a five-year sentence for the so-called crime of selling seeds from my desk. I'm proud of what I've done, and I have no regrets.”
Well, I, for one, can rest easier tonight knowing this dangerous criminal is behind bars.
Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada

Canada: Tories Reintroduce Mandatory Minimum Marijuana Bill

Canada's Conservative government this week reintroduced a controversial bill, now called S-10, that would impose mandatory minimum prison sentences on people who grew as few as six marijuana plants or produced any amount of hashish. The bill is part of a broader Conservative "tough on crime" agenda being reintroduced after Prime Minister Stephen Harper suddenly ended the last session of Parliament last winter.

Last year, the bill, then known as C-15, passed the lower house, but had been amended by the Senate to raise the floor for mandatory minimum sentences to 201 plants and exempt aboriginal people from the mandatory minimums. That didn't set well with the Harper government, which has since appointed enough Conservatives to the Senate to give the party a majority as well as the House of Commons. It now plans to shove through its original, hard-line bill.

"All I'll say is I wasn't impressed by the amendments made in the Senate and again we will be introducing it into the Senate. The bill that we will introduce I'm confident will have a much better chance of passing," Justice Minister Rob Nicholson told The Canadian Press in an interview Sunday. "They watered down some of the provisions with respect to the penalties. They wanted a separate aboriginal system. And again we want the bill to apply to everybody. And the penalties we were comfortable with."

The bill comes even as for the last two years, a majority of Canadians have voiced support for legalizing marijuana. In previous incarnations, the bill excited furious opposition, not only from pot aficionados, but also among researchers, drug policy groups, public health and harm reduction groups, and within Parliament itself.

"The bill is a disaster for Canada," said activist Jacob Hunter of Why Prohibition, which is organizing opposition. "S-10 will imprison thousands of Canadians for victimless crimes, send people to jail for growing 6 marijuana plants, making any hashish or baked goods, and a host of other offenses," he said.

"There is no evidence that S-10 will work," Hunter said. "Indeed, every scientific study says it will fail. We know that prohibition has never worked, and we know that mandatory minimum sentences only increase the violence in our society."

Canada: Poll Finds Majority Still Want to Legalize Marijuana, But Not Other Drugs

Marijuana legalization continues to garner majority support in Canada, with 53% of respondents to a new Angus-Reid poll saying they supported legalization. That figure is unchanged from the previous Angus-Reid poll on the issue two years ago.

Support for legalization was highest in pot-producing British Columbia (61%), neighboring Alberta (59%), and Canada's most populous province, Ontario (57%). Legalization had less than majority support only in the Atlantic provinces (47%) and the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (34%).

But while supporting marijuana legalization, Canadians also indicated they support many of the Conservative government's anti-drug proposals. Most non-controversially, 83% supported introducing a National Drug Control Strategy with media campaigns aimed at stopping young people from using drugs. Even the government's draconian mandatory minimum sentence proposal for marijuana growers and drug dealers won 70% support.

What Canadians do not support is scrapping the previous government's marijuana decriminalization proposal or eliminating harm reduction programs, such as needle exchanges and the Vancouver safe injection site. Only 36% of respondents agreed with those measures.

While support for freeing the weed remains strong in Canada, support for legalizing other drugs, which was never very high, is declining. Only 6% supported legalizing ecstasy, 5% supported legalizing crack, powder cocaine or heroin, and only 4% supported legalizing methamphetamine. All of those figures represent a drop of a least three percentage points from the previous Angus-Reid poll on the issue in May 2008.

Declining support for drug legalization and support for government anti-drug measures may be a consequence of Canadians' fears that the country has a drug problem. Some 42% of respondents think Canada "has a serious drug problem that affects the whole country," while 40% said the problem is limited to certain locales and populations, and only 11% said Canada did not have a serious drug problem.

Feature: The Clock is Ticking on Canadian "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery's Extradition

Canadian "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery's battle to avoid being extradited to the US to serve a five-year federal prison sentence for selling pot seeds over the Internet continues as the clock ticks down toward May 10 -- the date by which Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is to decide whether to okay his extradition or not. Emery and his supporters are fighting to the bitter end, and they're picking up some significant support along the way.

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Marc and Jodie Emery (courtesy Cannabis Culture)
Last month, members of all three major English speaking political parties, including the ruling Conservatives, handed in 12,000 signatures on petitions to parliament demanding he not be extradited and addressed the House of Commons on the issue. Shortly thereafter, the French speaking Bloc Quebecois announced it, too, was joining the cause of keeping Emery in Canada.

Emery was Canada's best known marijuana legalization advocate and a leading funder of marijuana reform groups there and in other countries when he was arrested in Vancouver on a US warrant for marijuana seed-selling after being indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle. He faced up to life in prison under the US charges.

Emery, his supporters, and other marijuana reformers have argued that he was arrested for political reasons -- for his support of the legalization cause -- and the gleeful words of then DEA administrator Karen Tandy provided valuable ammunition for the claim. Emery's arrest was "a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the US and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement," Tandy said in a statement the day of the bust.

"His marijuana trade and propagandist marijuana magazine have generated nearly $5 million a year in profits that bolstered his trafficking efforts, but those have gone up in smoke today. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery's illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on," Tandy gloated.

For four years, he and his employees and fellow indictees, Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, negotiated with federal prosecutors, before Rainey and Williams struck plea deals that allowed them to simply remain in Canada. Then, last September, Emery himself agreed to a plea bargain that would see him serve five years in US prison.

Emery was detained in Canada on September 28 and was jailed until mid-November before he was released pending the justice minister's decision on whether to approve his removal to the United States. Since then, the campaign to block his extradition has gone all out. Even in prison, Emery did podcasts -- "potcasts," the magazine calls them -- and since his release, he has been as media-friendly as ever. He has used his Cannabis Culture magazine as a bully pulpit and established a No Extradition! web site to further the cause.

The high point of the campaign so far came on March 12 when three members of parliament, Conservative MP Scott Reid, New Democratic MP Libby Davies, and Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh stood before parliament in Ottawa to deliver the petitions. All three told the Commons that extraditing Emery for what is considered a non-serious offense in Canada was unfair.

MP Reid, a Conservative leader in the House, reminded the Commons that the Extradition Act specifies that the justice minister "shall refuse to surrender a person when that surrender could involve unjust or undue or oppressive actions by the country to which he is being extradited."

Reid pointed out that Health Canada used to refer medical marijuana patients to Emery's seed bank. He also noted that Canadian courts had found that $200 fines were appropriate for seed sellers, while Emery faced up to life for the same offense in the US.

"It appears to me that we have assisted a foreign government arresting a man for doing something that we wouldn't arrest him for doing in Canada," said MP Dosanjh. "As a former premier and a former attorney-general, I sense a certain degree of unfairness in the process. Countries don't usually extradite people to countries where they could face inordinate penalties."

"Many dedicated individuals have collected approximately 12,000 petitions reflecting a strong belief that Mr. Emery or any Canadian should not face harsh punishment in the US for selling cannabis seeds on the Internet when it is not worthy of prosecution in Canada," said MP Davies. "The petitioners call on Parliament to make it clear to the Minister of Justice that such an extradition should be opposed. I am very pleased to present this; I think it is a very strong reflection of Canadians' views on this matter and we hope that the Parliament of Canada will act on this, and certainly the Minister of Justice will take this into account."

"My prospects are getting better," said an ever optimistic Emery. "There have been more than 50,000 communications -- phone calls, letters, emails -- to the justice minister, and we have members of all four major political parties, including the governing party, presenting petitions urging the minister not to extradite. We also have the last three mayors of Vancouver agreeing to sign a statement urging the government not to extradite."

Support is palpable in his adopted hometown, Emery said. "I can't go 50 feet in this city without people stopping me on the street," he said from his downtown Vancouver building. "I have lots of support in this province and throughout the country. I enjoy a lot of positive affirmation. For me, this has been excellent -- I've been giving interviews all over the world, and the movie 'Prince of Pot' is being translated into Mongolian! The national TV network there has permission to do two documentaries on pot, and I'm in both of them."

Now, all eyes turn toward Justice Minister Nicholson. A month from now, he will decide whether to extradite Emery or not -- or he may punt. The minister has the option of applying for an extension on his decision.

There is precedent for the minister to seek an extension, said attorney Kirk Tousaw, who has worked on Emery's case. "Renee Boje was committed for extradition, and the decision sat on the desk of three different justice ministers for five years," he pointed out. "Renee was a US citizen who committed offenses in America, so she seemed like a much more reasonable prospect for extradition than Marc, who has never gone to America or committed any crimes there."

In the meantime, the campaign to keep Emery in Canada continues to gather support and argue the position that his was a politically motivated prosecution. "If the minister believes the prosecution to be politically motivated, he is prohibited from extraditing," said attorney Kirk Tousaw, who has worked on Emery's case. "I don't know if he will take that position. The minister may need a lot of time to consider his options."

The calculations may be as much political as legal, Tousaw said. "This is a minority Conservative government that is attempting to pass unpopular mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, and there will be an election sometime this year or early next year," he argued. "I think that extraditing Marc Emery will be politically costly to the Conservative Party. I'm not sure they can afford to do it if they want to form a majority government."

"The government does want to extradite me," said Emery, "but the public pressure not to do it is substantial. There is nothing to be gaining by extraditing me, and it will piss off a couple of million voters in the next election."

A month from now, we will know whether the Conservative government is willing to sacrifice the gadfly Emery on the altar of the drug war, or whether it is too concerned about the potential backlash to either reject extradition or postpone the decision.

Canada: Half Support Marijuana Decriminalization, Poll Finds

An EKOS Research Associates poll has found that half of all Canadians support marijuana decriminalization, while only 30% oppose it, with 20% apparently uncertain or without strong views on the matter. That's a 5% increase in support since EKSOS last polled on the issue a decade ago.

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The numbers are lower than those reported in recent Angus Reid polls on marijuana legalization. In those polls, support for legalization was 55% in July 2007, 51% in October 2007, and 53% in May 2008.

A notable aspect of the EKOS poll is the high number of undecideds. While opposition to decriminalization has been declining (down from 37% in 2000), uncertainty has also been increasing, up from 16% in 2000. Optimistically one hopes the new undecideds are former opponents.

Also notable about the EKOS poll is the political context. Canada is six years into Conservative rule, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week released a Youtube video in which he said he rejected marijuana legalization.

In the EKOS poll, the Conservatives were the only party with less than majority support for decriminalization at 39%. Some 63% of left-leaning New Democratic Party voters supported decrim, as did 59% of Green Party members, 58% of the Bloc Quebecois, and 53% of the main opposition party, the Liberals.

Regionally, support for decrim was strongest in British Columbia (54%), Ontario (53%), and Quebec (51%). Support was lowest in the prairie provinces of Alberta (45%) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (45%).

Support for decriminalization was also strong among young people (58% for under-25s), and, while declining with age, was still above 50% for every age group except the over-65s. Among seniors, support declined to only 38%.

Harper and the Conservatives have been pushing a harder line on crime, drug offenses, and marijuana offenses in particular. This poll is only the latest indicator that the Conservative push may not be in line with public opinion.

Feature: UN Anti-Drug Agency Complains Latin American Decriminalization Trend Undermines Prohibition Regime

In its annual report on countries' compliance with the global drug prohibition regime, released Wednesday, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) challenged the trend toward the decriminalization of drug possession in Latin America, saying it undermines the three international treaties that define the international framework for drug prohibition. Critics were quick to strike back, saying the INCB was overstepping its boundaries.

Under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the INCB is charged with being the "nattering nanny" of the global prohibition regime. It "identifies weaknesses in national and international control systems and contributes to correcting such situations."

Its powers are primarily rhetorical, and it used them in the annual report to lash out at creeping decriminalization in the Western Hemisphere:

The Board notes with concern that in countries in South America, such as Argentina, Brazil and Colombia (and in countries in North America, such as Mexico and the United States), there is a growing movement to decriminalize the possession of controlled drugs, in particular cannabis, for personal use. Regrettably, influential personalities, including former high-level politicians in countries in South America, have publicly expressed their support for that movement. The Board is concerned that the movement, if not resolutely countered by the respective Governments, will undermine national and international efforts to combat the abuse of and illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs. In any case, the movement poses a threat to the coherence and effectiveness of the international drug control system and sends the wrong message to the general public.

Brazil quasi-decriminalized drug possession in 2006 (drug users are still charged, but cannot be sentenced to jail terms), a series of Argentine court decisions in recent years culminating in a Supreme Court decision last year has decriminalized marijuana position (and implies the looming decriminalization of the possession of any drug), and Mexico last year decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drug for personal use. In addition, possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized in 13 US states.

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The "influential personalities" to whom the INCB critically referred, include former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Colombian President Carlos Gaviria, and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, who, as members of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy last year issued a report highly critical of the US-led war on drugs in the region. That report called on the US to decriminalize marijuana possession and treat drug use as a public health -- not a criminal -- matter. To that list could be added former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who just this week reiterated his call for a debate on drug legalization (See related story here.)

While the former presidents have yet to respond to the INCB's critique, non-governmental organizations working in the field have come out swinging. They accuse the INCB of overstepping its bounds and attempting to block necessary and desirable drug law reforms.

"There are too many consumers and small-time drug offenders overcrowding Latin American jails. This is not only inhumane, it also means justice systems are diverting their scarce resources and attention away from big traffickers," said Pien Metaal, Drugs and Democracy Program Researcher for the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute (TNI). "Part of the overcrowding problem stems from disproportionate prison sentences for nonviolent offenders."

Decriminalization has not been shown to increase drug use. Portugal decriminalized the possession of all drugs for personal use nine years ago, and its usage rates are squarely in the middle of European averages. Similarly, the Dutch experience with de facto personal legalization has not led to Dutch usage rates outside the European norm, nor are marijuana usage rates in American states where it is decriminalized substantially different from those where it is not.

John Walsh, head of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), criticized the INCB for "reminding" governments that the treaties require that drug possession be criminalized. "Apparently it's the INCB that needs reminding, both about the limits of its own role and about what the treaties actually require," said Walsh. "Not only does the INCB lack the mandate to raise such issues, the INCB misreads the 1988 Convention itself, asserting an absolute obligation to criminalize drug possession when the Convention explicitly affords some flexibility on this matter."

Walsh noted that while the 1988 Convention requires each party to "establish as a criminal offence [...] the possession, purchase or cultivation of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances for personal consumption," an article within the convention explicitly states that such laws are subject to each country's "constitutional principles and basic concepts of its legal system." Thus, he argued, countries have "a certain latitude" within the global prohibition regime to reform their drug laws.

"In the case of the Argentine Supreme Court ruling, it is arrogant interference by the INCB to question the judgment of the highest judicial authority of a sovereign State. The INCB has neither the mandate nor the expertise to challenge such a decision," said Martin Jelsma, TNI Drugs and Democracy Program Coordinator.

The INCB also expressed its concern about medical marijuana in Canada:

Canada continues to be one of the few countries in the world that allows cannabis to be prescribed by doctors to patients with certain serious illnesses. […] Until 2009, cannabis could be either obtained from a Government supplier or grown in small amounts by the patient, or a person designated by the patient, with the sole limitation that only one patient could be supplied by a licensed supplier. In 2009, following court decisions stipulating that that approach unjustifiably restricted the patient's access to cannabis used for medical purposes, the Government increased the number of cultivation licenses a person could hold from one to two. The Government intends to reassess the program for controlling medical access to cannabis. According to article 23 of the 1961 Convention, a party to the Convention, if it is to allow the licit cultivation of cannabis, must fulfill specific requirements, including the establishment of a national cannabis agency to which all cannabis growers must deliver their crops. […] The Board therefore requests the Government to respect the provisions of article 23.

But as with the case of the decriminalization decision by the Argentine Supreme Court, the Canadian courts were acting within their "constitutional principles and basic concepts of its legal system."

And in the US:

While the consumption and cultivation of cannabis, except for scientific purposes, are illegal activities according to federal law in the United States, several states have enacted laws that provide for the 'medical use' of cannabis. The control measures applied in those states for the cultivation of cannabis plants and the production, distribution and use of cannabis fall short of the control requirements laid down in the 1961 Convention. The Board is deeply concerned that those insufficient control provisions have contributed substantially to the increase in illicit cultivation and abuse of cannabis in the United States. In addition, that development sends a wrong message to other countries.

The INCB also again went after Bolivia, which enshrined the coca leaf in its constitution as part of its cultural heritage in 2008 and which has called for coca to be removed from the 1961 Single Convention. The tone, however, was a bit softer than last year, when it reprimanded Bolivia over coca production, coca chewing, and other traditional uses of the Andean plant:

The Board wishes to remind the Governments of all countries concerned, in particular the Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, that unless any further amendments to the 1961 Convention are put into effect, the use or importation of coca leaf from which cocaine has not been extracted, for purposes other than those allowed under the 1961 Convention, constitutes a breach of obligations under the Convention.

"The INCB again shows itself to be out of touch with reality by demanding that Bolivia stamp out coca use, also wrongfully prohibited in the Conventions," said TNI's Pien Metaal. "The controversies around Article 3 of the 1988 Convention and the erroneous treatment of the coca leaf in the 1961 Convention are two examples of why the drug control treaty system, including the role played by the INCB, needs to be revised."

Along with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the INCB is the bureaucratic backbone of the global prohibition regime. That it continues to work to uphold the prohibitionist principles of the regime is no surprise. That it is now subject to increasing criticism and attack in the face of the myriad failures of global drug prohibition is no surprise either.

Canada: Federal Government to Appeal Ruling Okaying Safe Injection Site

The Conservative federal government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper will ask the Canadian Supreme Court to overturn a provincial court ruling that okayed Vancouver's InSite safe injection site. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government will appeal because the case raised important questions about the division of powers among the federal and provincial governments, the CBC reported Tuesday.

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InSite (courtesy Vancouver Coastal Health)
InSite is the only supervised drug injection site in North America. It has been in place since 2003, when British Columbia health authorities won a temporary exemption from Canada's federal drug law. While the then-Liberal government approved, the now-governing Conservatives do not.

Over 20 peer-reviewed studies showed the supervised injection site to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and incidences of drug overdoses while increasing the number of drug users accessing rehabilitation services.

InSite originally won a three-year exemption from the federal drug law. Under tremendous pressure, the Conservatives grudgingly gave InSite a 15-month extension, and then extended it to 22 months ending in June 2008.

But fearing the Conservatives' intentions, InSite operator the Portland Hotel Society, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), and two InSite clients filed a lawsuit in the BC courts seeking to have the provincial government, which under Canadian law is responsible for health care, declared the sole authority over InSite -- not the federal government or federal drug laws.

InSite and its supporters won in the BC Supreme Court in 2008 and won again last month in the province's highest court, the Court of Appeals. It is those decisions, which puts decisions on whether to keep InSite open firmly in the hands of BC health officials, that the federal government now seeks to overturn.

In his remarks Tuesday, Justice Minister Nicholson said nothing about shutting down InSite, instead saying the appeal was about clarifying provincial versus federal powers. "The case we'll be presenting before the court is to ask for clarification," he said. "I think it is important to do that."

But Portland Hotel Society director Mark Townsend was running out of patience with the Conservatives. "The courts have now ruled twice in favor of InSite," he said in a statement Tuesday. "Last time, they thought the feds were so out of line they made them pay all the costs. We wish Stephen Harper would stop wasting court time and the taxpayers' money and start helping to solve the drug problem in our community."

So does New Democratic Party MP Libby Davies, who represents Vancouver's east side, including the InSite location. "InSite saves lives," said Davies. "The science proves it, and the BC Supreme Court and BC Appeal Court agree," she continued. "Yet the Conservatives continue to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on legal fees to try to shut it down. If the Conservatives are really so tough on crime, they should respect the law and support these harm reduction strategies that work," said Davies. "Evidence-based success should be shaping our drug policy, not Conservative ideology."

Canada: Federal Government to Appeal Ruling Okaying Vancouver Safe Injection Site

The Conservative federal government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper will ask the Canadian Supreme Court to overturn a provincial court ruling that okayed Vancouver's InSite safe injection site. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government will appeal because the case raised important questions about the division of powers among the federal and provincial governments, the CBC reported Tuesday. InSite in the only supervised drug injection site in North America. It has been in place since 2003, when British Columbia health authorities won a temporary exemption from Canada's federal drug law. While the then Liberal government approved, the now governing Conservatives do not. InSite originally won a three-year exemption from the federal drug law. Under tremendous pressure, the Conservatives grudgingly gave InSite a 15-month extension, then extended it to 22 months ending in June 2008. But fearing the Conservatives' intentions, InSite operator the Portland Hotel Society, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), and two InSite clients filed a lawsuit in the BC courts seeking to have the provincial government, which under Canadian law is responsible for health care, declared the sole authority over InSite—not the federal government and the federal drug laws. InSite and its supporters won in the BC Supreme Court in 2008 and won again last month in the province's highest court, the Court of Appeals. It is those decisions, which puts decisions on whether to keep InSite open firmly in the hands of BC health officials, that the federal government now seeks to overturn. In his remarks Tuesday, Justice Minister Nicholson said nothing about shutting down InSite, instead saying the appeal was about clarifying provincial versus federal powers. "The case we'll be presenting before the court is to ask for clarification," he said. "I think it is important to do that." But Portland Hotel Society director Mark Townsend was running out of patience with the Conservatives. "The courts have now ruled twice in favor of InSite," he said in a statement Tuesday. "Last time, they thought the feds were so out of line they made them pay all the costs. We wish Stephen Harper would stop wasting court time and the taxpayers' money and start helping to solve the drug problem in our community."
Location: 
Ottawa, ON
Canada

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