Canadian Senator Urges Drug Policy Review, Endorses Legalization of Marijuana, "Soft" Drugs 6/18/99

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(reprinted from the NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)

June 17, 1999, Ottawa, Ontario: Senator Pierre Claude Nolin (Progressive Conservative Party-De Salaberry) introduced legislation this week to establish a nonpartisan committee to review and lessen Canada's drug policies.

"In the future, we should have a much more lenient policy toward users of all drugs," Nolin said, calling illicit drug use a public health issue, not a criminal one. "My personal opinion is that we should legalize the use of soft drugs."

Nolin chastised the Canadian government for refusing to implement the recommendations of previously appointed commissions that advised decriminalizing marijuana. He said that the Le Dain Commission endorsed removing criminal marijuana penalties thirty years ago, and stressed that their findings remain valid today. Nolin also highlighted a shelved 1979 Health Canada report recommending the federal government decriminalize marijuana.

"The problems arising out of the criminalization of drug users, out of its economic and social costs and out of the non-decreasing supply have still not been dealt with," he said. "The Canadian government [should] justify departing from the prohibition policy by stating that criminalization goes against the fundamental principle of moderation in our criminal justice system."

Nolin's resolution mandates the appointment of a "Special Senate Committee" to "reassess Canada's anti-drug legislation and policies." This review would include a "study of harm reduction models adopted by other countries," and explore alternatives to marijuana prohibition, including decriminalization.

Recently, Member of Parliament Keith Martin (Reform Party-Esquimalt) introduced legislation in the House of Commons to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill, C-503, mimics a position adopted by the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs recommending marijuana offenders be fined, but no longer arrested. The Royal Canadian Mounted Polices also recently announced their support for decriminalization.

A transcript of Senator Nolin's remarks is available online at http://www.parl.gc.ca/36/1/parlbus/chambus/senate/deb-e/149DB_1999-06-14-e.htm#
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Visit the Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy at http://www.cfdp.ca/. A transcript of the Foundation's Eugene Oscapella appearing on Canadian Broadcasting can be found at http://www.radio.cbc.ca/insite/AS_IT_HAPPENS_TORONTO/1999/6/15.html.

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