Cannabis Canada, spring96 – Clause 3: The True Face of Prohibition
For purposes of this act a substance included in Schedules I, II or III shall be deemed to include any substance;
(a) that is produced, processed or provided by a person who intends that it be introduced into the body of another person for the purpose of producing a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect substantially similar to or greater than that of a substance included in Schedule I, II or III, and that, if so introduced, would produce such a substantially similar or greater effect; or
(b) that is represented or held out to produce, if introduced into a human body, a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect substantially similar to or greater than that of a substance included in Schedule I, II or III.
The most controversial aspect of Bill C-7 was Clause 3, which considered anything that had an effect similar to that of a substance already listed in the bill as being punishable as if it was that substance.
Although the government claimed that the sole purpose of the clause was to deal with new variations on chemical drugs, the wording would have allowed the government to ban products like Herbal Ecstasy, Ephedra, and caffeine pills.
Clause 3 represented a very significant change in policy from the original framework of the Narcotic Control Act, and provides a clear look into the mind of the prohibitionist. It made no reference to the potential health effects of the substances it was banning, concerning itself only with the way they can make you think and feel.
Despite denying that it was ever their intent to ban herbal medicines, the government still removed Clause 3 from the final version of Bill C-7 because of widespread public opposition.
Many herbal stores had launched campaigns to oppose this section of the bill, and Paul Szabo stated in parliament that their subcommittee had received about four thousand letters and petitions from concerned Canadians.
Mr Szabo seemed bewildered as to why this broadly worded clause frightened so many Canadians. He claimed that public apprehension was due to “misinformation”, and speculated that public emotion had been whipped up by herbalists “for business reasons, so that people would go out and stock up on these products.”
He even went so far as to call those who had organized the opposition “political opportunists” whose actions were “totally inappropriate when we are dealing with the people of Canada on matters that are important to them.” He was apparently unaware of the irony of making such a claim while secretively passing major legislation on the day of the Qu?bec referendum and in the absence of the official opposition.
Paul Szabo claimed that Clause 3 was necessary because “the rapid changes in the technology of drug production makes it necessary for us to respond quickly to new drugs.” He claimed that the thirty day wait necessary to add a drug to the schedule by ordinary means was simply too long.
However, Hedy Fry explained that Bill C-7 also empowers the Minister of Health to add items to the drug schedules within 24 hours “on an urgent and emergency basis… in the interests of the safety of the public.” This means that under Bill C-7, even without Clause 3, the Minister of Health can arbitrarily ban any substance she chooses with only one day of notice to the public. This kind of sweeping power is excessive and completely unnecessary.
It’s interesting to note how Paul Szabo used misdirection to claim another political point from the removal of clause 3. He stated in Parliament that “some also argue that a softer approach should be taken on illicit drugs because they cause fewer health problems than alcohol and tobacco, which were omitted from the bill. Alcohol and tobacco are no longer omitted from Bill C-7. If we are to be successful in taking a hard line on their use under our laws, we cannot get soft on drugs.”
The reason that alcohol and tobacco were specifically omitted from Bill C-7 was because they clearly have a “stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect” similar to or greater than that of many of the listed drugs.
Although alcohol and tobacco are no longer specifically excluded from Bill C-7, this is simply because the removal of clause 3 makes it unnecessary to do so. In fact, the government has shown by its own actions that alcohol and tobacco are no different than the drugs which they have arbitrarily chosen to ban.
It’s a sad fact that the Ministry of Health is more interested in ensuring that tobacco and alcohol are available to Canadians than it is in determining a rational drug policy and helping those Canadians who choose to use other, possibly safer drugs, to do so in a safe manner.
Despite widespread public reaction against
Clause 3, Paul Szabo explained that it was not withdrawn because of what he considered an unfounded misconception, but rather because of concern about “the violation of a fundamental legal principle,” which is that you cannot ban something without naming precisely what it is you’re banning.
However, Paul Szabo seemed to consider this fundamental legal principle a nuisance, and hinted at the end of his speech that Clause 3 could make a comeback in future legislation. He stated that “I suspect it will have to be reconsidered should problems arise with new drugs arriving on the streets of Canada.”
Clause 3 revealed the true intent of the prohibitionist regime, and the public was rightfully horrified. Instead of prohibiting particular substances because of their supposed dangers, this clause shamelessly banned certain states of consciousness, regardless of how they were obtained.
Clause 3 clearly demonstrates that those who wrote Bill C-7 are more interested in controlling your state of mind than they are in keeping you healthy.