Newsbrief: Canadian Justice Minister Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization Next Year, Rejects Legalization 9/13/02

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[Editor's note: Despite inadvertently referring to Canada's leader as "Premier Jacques Chretien" last week, DRCNet knows full well that he is Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Our apologies to our northern brethren.]

Responding to last week's release of the Canadian Senate panel report calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana (), Justice Minister Maurice Cauchon told reporters September 5 that Canada's pot laws are senseless and should be liberalized, but that marijuana should not be made legal.

"[Decriminalization] probably would be feasible as a first step," said Cauchon, who had made similar remarks in July, possibly attempting to preempt the Senate report's expected call for legalization ( "I feel there is strong support" for decriminalization, Cauchon said. "To keep the law the way it is now doesn't make any sense to me in the year 2002."

But he said the Senate panel call for legalization went too far. "The legislation actually is a sort of disconnect with Canadian reality," he claimed. He also said international treaties would prevent Canada from moving to legalize the weed. "The notion of legalizing marijuana is not possible from an international point of view," he said.

[Editor's note: This is false for at least two reasons. First, it ignores the option of amending the drug treaties by international agreement -- a step called for by the Senate panel. Second, it ignores the option that Canada and any nation has of giving notice and withdrawing from the treaty. Politics is one thing, but Canada has perfectly legal options for legalizing marijuana or any drug without violating its treaty agreements.]

Cauchon added that he is awaiting the report of the House committee studying the non-medical use of drugs before moving toward a new policy. That report is due in November. After that, Cauchon told reporters, he will move quickly to implement decrim, possibly as early as the beginning of next year.

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