Marijuana is currently a hot topic of debate throughout Canada, and has been for the past few years. Marijuana was first banned in 1923 under the Opium and Drug Act, but since 1997 the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act have controlled it. In 2000, over 30,000 Canadians were charged with possession of marijuana. Currently, the marijuana laws are not enforced equally across the country, which has prompted the interest in changing the laws or possibly decriminalizing marijuana. Also, those convicted of marijuana related crimes usually don’t go to jail, but they do receive a criminal record.
There are currently two committees researching the possibility of legalizing marijuana in Canada. One committee is the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, and the other is The House of Commons Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs. The Senate committee reported in September of 2002, and stated that marijuana is not a gateway drug. They also reported that marijuana should be treated more like tobacco or alcohol. The House of Commons committee’s report stated that although marijuana is unhealthy, the punishments for having even a small amount of marijuana are disproportionably harsh. The House is promoting the decriminalization of marijuana to make it legal to possess an amount of marijuana not exceeding 30 grams, which is about one ounce. These two committees seem to come to the same conclusion that marijuana is placed in the same class as more hard-core drugs such as heroin and cocaine, when it should not be, as they view marijuana as a safer drug. As stated previously, the Senate states that marijuana is not a gateway drug. A gateway drug is the term used to identify drugs that are not narcotics, but their use will lead the user down the path to harder drugs like heroin.
Support for the Decriminalization of Marijuana
There is actually a political party in Canada called the Marijuana Party of Canada, and it has many supporters. These supporters believe that the only route to take is full decriminalization of marijuana, which is not likely to happen. One argument of these supporters is that the current penalties for marijuana possession are too harsh. Realistically, there is not chance that marijuana will ever be completely decriminalized in Canada, as the effects from this would be damaging to Canada’s relationship to the United States. President George W. Bush has already stated that full decriminalization of marijuana would lead to longer and more thorough border searches, due to the possibility of increased drug trafficking across the border. This is why the Canadian government is leaning more toward decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana rather than legalizing it. The theory behind the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use should be tied to a national drug strategy that promotes awareness and prevention, and provides for comprehensive treatment. The government would sponsor programs to educate youths about the dangers of marijuana, and also support programs to aide citizens who have addictions to marijuana.
Opposition to the Decriminalization of Marijuana
There is also strong support on the other side, opposing the decriminalization of marijuana. Their argument is that by legalizing, or even decriminalizing small amounts or marijuana will lead to an increase of the use of other drugs. They also contradict the view of those who support the decriminalization of marijuana by stating the marijuana is indeed a gateway drug that will lead users to start using narcotics like heroin and cocaine. They believe that people who start off using marijuana and get addicted will start searching for new ways to get high, and basically start down the path of drug use to harder, more addicting, and more life threatening drugs.
Another point that the opposition makes is the message that decriminalizing marijuana would send to young people. Kids in schools would be heavily influence by older children who are already using marijuana, and it would spread throughout the schools. All your life you are being taught that drugs are bad, and now all of a sudden, they are legal This would increase drug use not only of marijuana, but also of hardcore drugs. If marijuana is legal, than these other drugs can’t be too bad, right That is the question that the younger generation will be thinking to themselves.
The government also says that the money saved by not running anti-marijuana ads and programs, they can use the money to fund support groups, etc. That must be one of the most preposterous ideas that anyone has ever had. Instead of promoting a healthy lifestyle for youngsters, scratch the anti-drug ads, and then use that money to help them once they become addicted If the government is going to decriminalize marijuana, they might as well have no drinking age, and legalize other drugs as well. They could run tons of support programs with all the money they would save by having no anti-drug campaign.
Reformed Marijuana Laws
The Canadian Legislature has introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana, and with that bill comes an outline of the new reforms made to the marijuana laws. First of all, the law distinguishes between penalties for adults and youths, youths being under the age of 18. The possession laws are broken down into different amounts of possession. For the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana, or the amount to roll about 15 joints, would result in a ticket. For adults, the fine is $150, and for a youth, its $100 and a phone call to your parents. Next in line is hash, or the resin left over when marijuana is smoked. For possession of 1 gram or less, it would be $300 for an adult and $200 for a youth. If the possession occurs where aggravating factors are present, such as being on school grounds, driving a vehicle, or committing another offense while in possession, would be fines of $400 and $250 for adults and youths respectively.
For possession of 15 to 30 grams of marijuana, the police have a decision to make. They can either give the offender a ticket, or, they can issue a criminal court summons. The ticket would be $300 for an adult and $200 for a youth. If you were sent to criminal court however, and were convicted, you could face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
The one positive effect that this bill would have is the increase of penalties for those who grow marijuana. If you were caught growing one to three plants, you could face up to 12 months in jail, or a fine of up to $5000. For growing four to 25 plants, you could be fined up to $25,000, 18 months in jail, or if pursued by indictment, up to 5 years in jail. For growing 26-50 plants you would receive up to 10 years in jail, and if you were growing more than 50 plants, the maximum sentence would be 14 years in jail.
Both sides of the issue make valid points, but I think anyone would agree that the opposition to the decriminalization of marijuana has a stronger case. After fighting such a hard war against drugs, it doesn’t make any sense to legalize small amounts of marijuana, although 30 grams is not that small. Canada needs to realize that the repercussions of decriminalized marijuana would be monumental, not only to the citizens of Canada, but also to the relationship that Canada shares with the United States. I do not think that Canada will ever decriminalize marijuana, even though some parts of government support it, the rest realize the implications. Marijuana is a gateway drug that has proven health hazards. You are decriminalizing marijuana, but at the same time running campaigns against cigarette smoking. That does not make any sense whatsoever. I’m sure that this issue will die out in the next few months or over the next year, or, it might be an issue in Canada for years to come. Either way, I don’t see marijuana being decriminalized anytime in the near future.