Marijuana Decision Still Up in Air: PM
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Author: Janice Tibbetts, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, December 19, 2002
Copyright: 2002 The Ottawa Citizen
Contact: [email protected]
Decriminalization debate continuing, Chrétien insists in year-end interview Position contradicts Cauchon pledge of new law early in 2003.
Jean Chrétien retreated yesterday from the government's plans to decriminalize marijuana by declaring that no final decision has been made.
The prime minister's position contradicts that of Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, who said last week that he intended to introduce decriminalization legislation in the first four months of next year.
Mr. Chrétien, who said he has never tried marijuana, said that the debate over decriminalization is ongoing and that the government will have to make a decision "one day."
Mr. Chrétien's spokesman, Jim Munson, acknowledged that Mr. Cauchon "has made his intentions known." But Mr. Munson cautioned that the justice minister's plans are not final.
"There will be a very vigorous debate," said Mr. Munson.
Mr. Chrétien made his comments in a year-end interview with Global TV and in response to a caller who opposed changing marijuana laws.
Mr. Chrétien went out of his way to say that he had never tried pot and he does not know what it is like to be high.
"I don't know what is the feeling," he said.
Mr. Cauchon, 40, has admitted to smoking marijuana in his youth and has made no secret of his belief that people caught with less than 30 grams -- about 25 or 30 cigarettes -- should be fined rather than criminally charged.
He has been considering the prospect for six months and, until yesterday, it has appeared that there was little standing in his way, particularly after a Commons committee last week recommended decriminalization.
Several marijuana supporters predict that the government, which has promised on-and-off over the past 30 years to decriminalize, will never act.
Mr. Chrétien said that no matter what the government decides to do, it won't please everybody.
"When you decide on a thing like that, you make some people unhappy and others happy. You cannot please everybody all the time."
Some provincial justice ministers have questioned why Mr. Cauchon has chosen to tackle the divisive issue, and critics have suggested any move to legalize marijuana would create difficulties with the U.S. and its tough approach to drugs.
Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Mr. Cauchon, said the minister's statements do not conflict with Mr. Chrétien's comments.
He said there would be a lot of debate "in cabinet, in caucus, and in the public forum" before legislation is introduced.
But Mr. Murphy did not back away from Mr. Cauchon's suggestions that a new law is on the way.
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