3 Cannabis legalization in Canada

Cannabis legalization in Canada

The legal status of marijuana in Canada is under dispute. Superior and appellate courts in Ontario have repeatedly declared Canada's marijuana laws to be of no force and effect. However, historical challenges to marijuana laws at the federal level have not resulted in the deletion of the appropriate articles from the Criminal Code of Canada and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Police and prosecution services in other Canadian jurisdictions still pursue criminal charges for marijuana possession. [http://www.ThePotLawHasFallen.ca ThePotLawHasFallen.ca ] ] [http://www.cannabisculture.com/articles/5115.html Another Judge Agrees: Canada's Pot Laws Are Unconstitutional and DO NOT EXIST! ] ]

The cultivation of cannabis is currently illegal in Canada, with exceptions only for medical usage. However, the use of cannabis by the general public is broadly tolerated,http://www.sesresearch.com/library/polls/POLNAT-W03-T113.pdf] and a vigorous campaign to legalize cannabis is underway nation-wide.Fact|date=August 2008 This article describes the history of prohibition of cannabis in Canada and the political efforts to reverse it.

In 2001, the "Globe and Mail" reported that a poll found that 47% of Canadians agreed with the statement, "The use of marijuana should be legalized" , compared to 26% in 1975. [http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01.n923.a01.html] A 2008 poll found that more than half of Canadians supported legalization [http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/view/30688/canadian_majority_would_legalize_marijuana/ Canadian Majority Would Legalize Marijuana] ] . The recent development after the last election is however the opposite, a much more restrictive law with higher minimum penalties for drug crimes and a national anti-drug strategy including prevention and treatment. [ [http://www.nationalantidrugstrategy.gc.ca/nads-sna.html National Anti-Drug Strategy] ]

History of drug prohibition in Canada

Early drug prohibition

Drug prohibition in Canada began with the Anti-Opium Act of 1908, which was introduced based on a report by then-Deputy Minister of Labour, Mackenzie King. Following the Asiatic Exclusion League riot of 1907, King went to Vancouver to investigate causes of the riots and claims for compensation. Some of the claims came from opium manufacturers seeking compensation for damage done to their production facilities by the mob that attacked Chinatown and Japantown. While in Vancouver, King interviewed members of a Chinese anti-opium league and came away in favour of suppressing the drug because “opium smoking was making headway, not only among white men and boys, but also among women and girls.”cite journal|last=Hewitt|first=Steve|pages=84|title=”While Unpleasant it is a Service to Humanity”:The RCMP’s War on Drugs in the Interwar Period|journal=Journal of Canadian Studies|volume=38|issue=2|date=2004] In his report, King summarized the progress of the anti-opium movement in China, the United States, England, and Japan to make the point that Canada was lagging behind in this international movement. King’s recommendations were the basis for the 1908 Opium Act that prohibited the sale, manufacture, and importation of opium for other than medicinal use.cite paper|first=Catherine|last=Carstairs|title=”Hop Heads and Hypes”: Drug Use, Regulation and Resistance in Canada, 1920-1961|url= http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp03/NQ53757.pdf|publisher=Universityof Toronto|version=Phd dissertation|date=2000|accessdate=2008-01-02 ] rp|24 This was followed by the Opium and Drug Act of 1911, which outlawed the sale or possession of morphine, opium, or cocaine. Smoking opium became a separate offence, punishable by a maximum penalty of $50 and one month in jail.rp|24 King introduced the new legislation based on recommendations from the chief constable of the Vancouver police and to bring Canada’s drug laws in line with resolutions passed at an American-led international anti-opium conference in Shanghai.rp|25 The name of the 1911 Act is significant because it separates opium, associated with Chinese users, from “white drugs,” so labelled because of the colour of both the drugs themselves and the race of those presumed to be consuming them.

The next wave of legislation began with the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act of 1920, which was amended in 1921 and again in 1922 before being consolidated in 1923. Penalties became stiffer in the 1920s, with far more prison terms being handed out compared with the earlier period when fines were typically given.rp|25 Maximum prison sentences also increased from one to seven years and in 1922, possession and trafficking became a deportable offence.rp|25 The catalyst for these laws also differed from the earlier ones in that they were largely the result of the agitation of moral reformers, particularly those in Vancouver who had stirred up a full-blown moral panic over the drug issue in the early 1920s.rp|25 Race remained a persistent theme, and the drug prohibition movement was closely related to the move to totally exclude Chinese immigrants from Canada, which led to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act.rp|46

Cannabis prohibition

Cannabis was added to the Confidential Restricted List in 1923. Historians usually point to the 1922 publication of Emily Murphy’s "The Black Candle" as the inspiration for the addition. Murphy was a suffragist and police magistrate who wrote a series of articles in "Maclean’s" magazine under the pen-name “Janey Canuck,” which formed the basis of her book. She uses numerous anecdotes culled mostly from anti-drug reformers and police to make her arguments, which make strong links between drugs and race and the threat this poses to white women. One chapter is entitled [http://www.freeworldnews.com/p2_17to25.html#Marahuana--A_New_Menace Marahuana – A New Menace] , and makes the startling claim that the only ways out of cannabis addiction are insanity, death, or abandonment.

Although her anti-drug screeds were widely read and helped spread the drug panic across the country, historian Catharine Carstairs disputes that the short chapter in Murphy’s book on cannabis inspired the drug’s inclusion on Canada’s restricted substance list. Specifically, Murphy was not respected by the Division of Narcotic Control because of the creative liberties she took in presenting research they had assisted her with.rp|31 "n" 24, 49

More likely, cannabis was added to the list because of Canadian involvement in international conferences where it was discussed. According to one government official, cannabis was outlawed after the Director of the Federal Division of Narcotic Control returned from League of Nation meetings where the international control of the drug was broached.rp|49 Cannabis did not begin to attract official attention in Canada until the latter 1930s, and even then it was minimal.rp|51 The first seizure of cannabis by Canadian police was not until 1937.rp|48 Between 1946 and 1961, cannabis accounted for only 2% of all drug arrests in Canada.rp|112

Current developments

In October 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a new national anti-drug strategy. A proposed bill would have dealers facing one-year mandatory prison sentences if they are operating for organized crime purposes, or if violence is involved. Dealers would also face a two-year mandatory jail sentence if they are selling to youth, or dealing drugs near a school or an area normally frequented by youth. Additionally, people in Canada who run a large marijuana grow operation of at least 500 plants would risk facing a mandatory two-year jail term. Maximum penalties for producing cannabis would increase from 7 to 14 years. [ [http://www.justice.gc.ca/en/news/sp/2007/doc_32182.html Speaking Notes for Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice of Canada, 2007-11-20] ]

Canadian cannabis political parties

At a federal level, the Marijuana Party of Canada is leading the campaign for cannabis legalization. In the January 2006 federal election, the party received 9,275 votes (0.06% of the national popular vote). Provincial parties also exist, including the British Columbia Marijuana Party, Bloc pot, Saskatchewan Marijuana Party, and the Marijuana Party of Nova Scotia.

The Green Party of Canada and the NDP also support the legalization of cannabis.

"De facto" tolerance of cannabis

As in many other countries of the world there is a "de facto" tolerance among most Canadians towards the private consumption of marijuana in Canada.

Medical marijuana legislation

Health Canada permits marijuana for approved patients who can demonstrate a medical need for it. Chris Buors, a marijuana activist, was sentenced to six months in jail in November 2004 after pleading guilty to cannabis distribution and marketing charges arising from his operation of the Manitoba Compassion Club which served patients suffering from a variety of illnesses.Lynn Harichy was also put through the criminal courts for creating awareness for medical marijuana. Lynn suffered from multiple sclerosis and passed on December 23rd 2003 before she could see any real progress of her struggle and efforts.

Cannabis refugees in Canada

There are cases of users of medical marijuana in the United States who, on being persecuted in their own country, have fled across the border to Canada, where they have sought asylum under the United Nations refugee convention. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/bush/story/0,7369,758761,00.html] This began occurring in the early part of the 2000s when the U.S. Attorney General, John Ashcroft, ordered a clampdown on the use of medical marijuana in the United States. Some of those who have fled are wanted by the U.S. federal government on charges related to their use of marijuana.

Older proposals

On May 27 2003, the Liberal Party of Canada introduced [http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?pub=bill&doc=C-38&parl=37&ses=2&language=E a bill] that would have decriminalized small amounts of cannabis. Possession of 15 grams or less would have been punishable only with a fine, and those possessing between 15 and 30 grams would be either ticketed or arrested for criminal charges at the officer's discretion. Personal cultivation of up to three plants would have also become a summary offence, while the punishment for cultivation in larger amounts would have been more severe. The bill looked likely to pass into law, but it died when Parliament prorogued. An identical bill was introduced in November 2004, which also died when the 2006 election was called. After the Conservative victory, the new government did not resurrect this bill. [ [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060403/marijuana_crime_harper_060403/20060403?hub=Canada CTV.ca | Harper's crime agenda getting mixed reviews ] ]

DEA extradition attempts

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is attempting to extradite Marc Emery, a cannabis activist and seed distributor from Vancouver, along with Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, his employees, to the United States, where they could face life sentences for allegedly selling seeds and laundering the profits into pro-cannabis legalization activities.Fact|date=November 2007

The Vancouver plan

This is a draft by the city authorities in Vancouver called "Preventing Harm from Psychoactive Drug Use" that aims to regulate the sale of cannabis. [ [http://vancouver.ca/fourpillars/pdf/PrevHarmPsychoSubUse.pdf Preventing Harm from Psychoative Substance Use ] ]

Key court decisions

All of these decisions have invalidated the prohibition of marijuana based on the insufficiency of the exemptions provided for legitimate medical users of the drug. However, the laws have been and will probably continue to be modified in order to adapt them to constitutional requirements. As such, there is the possibility that a judge will uphold as valid a newer revision of the law. This also does not stop prosecutors from pursuing charges against marijuana users. Therefore, marijuana users cannot be assured that they will not be condemned for their use of the drug.

R. v. Parker 2000 Ontario Court of Appeal

R. v. Parker was the landmark decision that first invalidated the marijuana prohibition. However the declaration of invalidity was suspensed for one year. It concerned the case of an epileptic who could only alleviate his suffering by recourse to marijuana. The Court found that the prohibition on marijuana was unconstitutional as it did not contain any exemption for medical use. [http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onca/doc/2000/2000canlii5762/2000canlii5762.html CanLII - 2000 CanLII 5762 (ON C.A.) ] ]

R. v. Long 2007 Ontario Court of Justice

The Ontario Court of Justice held in R. v. Long that the prohibition in the "Controlled Drugs and Substance Act" against the possession of marijuana were unconstitutional in the absence of an accompanying constitutionally acceptable exemption for medical marijuana. The current exemption depended on the government supplying marijuana, which it was only doing as a result of the policy. However, the policy did not impose a legal obligation upon the government to supply marijuana to those who needed it for medical purposes. The court held that without such an obligation, the exemption was constitutionally unacceptable, as access to marijuana depended on the implementation of a policy rather than the application of a law. If the government wanted to control the supply of marijuana, it had to impose an obligation upon itself to supply marijuana to eligible persons. The court held that if the government was obliged by law to supply marijuana in accordance with the policy, the exemption would be constitutionally acceptable. [http://www.canlii.org/en/on/oncj/doc/2007/2007oncj340/2007oncj340.html CanLII - 2007 ONCJ 340 (CanLII) ] ]

A notice of appeal was filed by the Crown on August 23, 2007.

R. v. Bodnar/Hall/Spasic 2007 Ontario Court of Justice

In R. v. Bodnar/Hall/Spasic, the Ontario Court of Justice followed the "Long" decision, holding that the prohibition against possession of cannabis in the Controlled Drug and Substance Act is invalid and of no force or effect. Hon. Justice Edmonson stated in his ruling that "there is no offence known to law that the accused have committed." [http://www.thepotlawhasfallen.ca/ ThePotLawHasFallen.ca ] ]

fetkopoulos v. Canada 2008 Federal Court

As of January 10, 2008, Justice Barry Strayer of the Federal Court of Canada struck down the federal regulations concerning the growing of medical marijuana by licensed producers.Prior to the case, a producer was prohibited from growing for more than one person.The Marijuana Medical Access Regulations require all medical marijuana users to obtain their perscription from a limited number of sources:
*(1) Grown by that person.
*(2) Produced by a designated individual for that person, or
*(3) a licensed dealer.At the time, there was only a single licensed dealer in Canada, which grew in Manitoba and processed in Saskatchewan, making it difficult to access. A multitude of users requested a single designate, of which all applications were denied except for one, which they argued was a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 7 on the grounds that it would force sufferers to go through illicit channels to obtain medical marijuana.As a result, the subsection 41(b.1) [http://www.canlii.org/ca/regu/sor2001-227/sec41.html] is considered of no force or effect. [http://www.law.ualberta.ca/centres/ccs/Current-Constitutional-Issues/Court-Strikes-Down-Marihuana-Regulation.php Centre for Constitutional Studies ] ]

This, however, does not concern the non-medical use of marijuana.


ee also

* Legal issues of cannabis
* Marijuana parties
* Heaven's Stairway
* Cannabis rescheduling
* Drug liberalization / Drug prohibition

External links

* [http://www.medicalmarihuana.ca/ Canada Medical Marijuana]
* [http://www.cannabisculture.com/articles/4382.html The Vancouver Plan]
* [http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?pub=bill&doc=C-38&parl=37&ses=2&language=E Failed Decriminalization Bill]
* [http://www.sesresearch.com/news/press_releases/PR%20November%2025%202004.pdf NORML Canada/SES Research - Surveying Canadian opinion on Legalization]
* [http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/Committee_SenHome.asp?Language=E&Parl=37&Ses=1&comm_id=85 2002 Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illicit Drugs]
* [http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/ledain/ldctoc.html The Report of the Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs - 1972] - LeDain Commission Report
* [http://www.thepotlawhasfallen.ca/ ThePotLawHasFallen.ca]
* [http://mysticoutlaw.blogspot.com/ Mystic Outlaw] - blog commenting on cannabis prohibition/legalisation

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