Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Author: Richard Foot, CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, March 04, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Edmonton Journal
Contact: [email protected]
Canada's pro-marijuana activists are vowing to sabotage federal plans to decriminalize the drug, should Parliament decide to soften the law against small-scale pot users.
Angry that the Liberal government wants to simply decriminalize -- but not legalize -- marijuana, activists across the country are threatening to make any decriminalization law unworkable by burying police in paperwork and tying up the courts in red tape.
Getting small-time pot growers and smokers out of court and away from the criminal justice system is one of the main purposes of Bill C-10, the revised marijuana legislation being considered by the House of Commons.
People caught possessing or growing small amounts of marijuana are now subject to criminal arrest and prosecution.
The proposed bill says anyone caught with up to 15 grams of pot, or caught growing up to three marijuana plants, should only receive a simple ticket with fines of between $100 and $500 -- and no accompanying criminal record.
The legislation isn't popular with marijuana users and activists, most of whom want the government to fully legalize the stuff. Vancouver's Marc Emery -- the self-proclaimed "Prince of Pot" who is Canada's most high-profile legalization agitator -- says if Bill C-10 becomes law and police start issuing tickets to marijuana users, he will rally the country's pot smokers to dispute their fines in court as part of a deliberate campaign to cripple the system.
Emery predicts if police are forced to come to court to justify their tickets -- to prove through lab tests and paperwork the weeds or joints they seize are indeed marijuana -- and judges are forced to adjudicate hours of ticketing hearings, then the courts and police will eventually throw up their hands in frustration.
"We'll rally everybody," says Emery, who publishes Cannabis Culture Magazine and also owns the popular, Internet-based program Pot-TV.
"We'll end that whole fine scheme within three months."
In Montreal, Marc-Boris St.-Maurice, leader of the Canada Marijuana Party, says if decriminalization takes effect, his party will launch a contest with prizes for pot smokers who rack up the most tickets.
"Whoever gets the most tickets wins an ounce of pot, or maybe 50 joints," says St.-Maurice.
The RCMP's senior drug officer says he believes that under a decriminalized law, "people probably aren't going to pay tickets" for minor marijuana offences.
Chief Supt. Raf Souccar, director-general of the Mounties' drugs and organized-crime section, says one problem with the proposed legislation is that it lacks the teeth to punish offenders who refuse to pay their fines.
He also worries about the amount of time and paperwork that would be required of police if pot smokers worked en masse to disrupt a ticketing system.
MARIJUANA IN CANADA
* Number of marijuana users: 2.3 million
* Annual marijuana consumption: 770,000 kilograms
* Annual marijuana production: 2.6 million kilograms
* Amount of domestic production consumed in Canada: 30 per cent
* Number of grow operations (personal use and commercial): 215,000
* Number of people employed in marijuana growing: 500,000
* Price of an ounce (29 grams) of top-grade, AAA marijuana, the equivalent of 20-50 joints: $250
* Annual number of reported arrests for offences covering all illegal drugs: 90,000
* Number of reported marijuana offences in 1999: 35,000
* Number of reported marijuana offences in 2001: 71,600 (70 per cent possession, 16 per cent trafficking, 13 per cent cultivation, one per cent importation)
* Percentage of population (ages 12-64) that has used marijuana at least once: 30
* Number of youths aged 12-17 who use it daily: 225,000
* Average age of introduction to marijuana: 15
* Percentage of regular marijuana users at risk of developing dependency: 5-10 per cent
* Substance abuse costs associated with all illegal drugs: $1.4 billion. Of alcohol: $7.5 billion. Of tobacco: $9.6 billion.
* Annual cost of enforcing the marijuana laws for courts and police: $500 million
Sources: 2002 Report of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs; Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse; Marijuana Party of Canada; Marc Emery, Vancouver
Legalization advocates ready plans to scuttle enforcement of federal decriminalization law.
Related Articles & Web Sites:
Cannabis Culture Magazine
CannabisNews Canadian Links
Millions of Canadians Inhale Despite Pot Laws
Senate Report on Cannabis: Get Whole Story
CannabisNews -- Canada Archives