Cannabis prohibition should not continue, but the Conservative government wants to introduce even worse prison penalties in the form of an American-style Drug War for Canadians. The activists across Canada did an amazing job on Monday, gathering outside of Member of Parliament offices and raising awareness about Bill C-26. The media attention was fantastic! Here are the news stories about Monday’s events, including video coverage at the bottom of the page.
BC: Demo Today to Protest ‘Draconian’ Pot Bill
The Province, Vancouver
‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery, head of the B.C.
Marijuana Party and editor of the Cannabis
Culture Marijuana Magazine, poses in his
Vancouver office in July.
Politicians’ offices will be going to pot today. Marijuana advocates across Canada are hoping to get protesters out at noon at the constituency office of each of the 308 members of Parliament. The potheads will be protesting what they see as draconian new minimum sentences proposed in Bill C-26.
“For the first time we’re looking at a situation where the government wants to impose mandatory minimums for marijuana offences,” said Vancouver lawyer Kirk Tousaw, who served as campaign manager for the self-titled Prince of Pot, Marc Emery, president of the B.C. Marijuana Party.
“A person who grows one marijuana plant would face a minimum of six months in jail. And [that]mandatory penalty for one plant goes up to nine months in jail if it’s in a rental house or in a residential area.”
While the former federal Liberal government considered decriminalizing marijuana, the current Conservative government has announced its intention to increase pot sentences as part of its get-tough-on-crime platform. “It’s pretty draconian stuff,” said Tousaw. “I think this is a dangerous, dangerous piece of legislation for all Canadians.”
Critics have questioned whether mandatory sentences are practical, since marijuana is such a prevalent drug that prisons might quickly fill with offenders. Pot protesters — some dressed in prison garb — are expected at all constituency offices in Greater Vancouver and will stay there for a minimum of 90 minutes.
BC: Activist To Bring Dope To His MP
PORT ALBERNI — A well-known Vancouver Island pot activist will be huffing and puffing outside his local MP’s office at high noon Monday. “I would bring a big pot plant, but it’s too cold out,” said Michael Mann. Mann will be at Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney’s Port Alberni digs to protest Bill C-26, which aims to enact mandatory minimum jail sentences for certain drug offences.
But according to Mann, Bill C-26 — currently being debated in the House of Commons — could be interpreted to classify sharing a joint as being akin to trafficking or having connections with organized crime. “They want to jail people for using cannabis is what this boils down to,” he said, adding the bill has sparked a nationwide grassroots campaign by marijuana activists and supporters of the legalization of pot to inform the public.
At noon on Dec. 17, Canadians are expected to gather at their local MP’s offices to ask them to vote against the bill. According to marijuana activists, mandatory minimums have failed to curb drug use and sales in the United States and will only fill jails with non-violent marijuana offenders. “We’ll have to build more jails if this bill passes,” he said. “It’s such a waste.”
Mann has had a legal licence to grow marijuana for his personal medicinal use for seven years. However, he said that since the Conservatives took over in Ottawa, disturbing signs have arisen that the “moral right” is unhappy with current laws that allow a small number of residents to grow and use cannabis legally. He’s concerned there may be a steady push to terminate the program that allows some 1,400 Canadians to use and legally produce marijuana for medicinal purposes. Telephone messages left for Lunney were not returned.
BC: Jail too stiff for growers?
Fighting the law: Adam Scriven is protesting
a bill imposing tougher sentences for pot growers.
The Burnaby resident will be part of a nationwide
day of protest against mandatory jail sentences
proposed by the federal Conservatives.
A plan to put more pot growers behind bars has a Burnaby activist smoking mad. Adam Scriven said a handful of people will gather outside Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian’s office Monday, part of a nationwide day of protest against mandatory jail sentences proposed by the Conservative government. Introduced last month, Bill C-26 includes a one-year mandatory prison sentence for those dealing marijuana while involved with organized crime or using a weapon. It also includes two-year prison sentences for those running a grow operation of 500 plants or more.
Scriven, a stay-at-home dad, says the bill won’t reduce grow operations or drug violence. “Mandatory minimums don’t work,” Scriven said in interview Thursday. “This is taking us to an American-style drug policy.” Scriven also said grow operations are only dangerous because they aren’t inspected. “There’s nothing different about growing pot than growing any other plant,” Scriven said. “You could have the exact same fires if you were improperly growing tomatoes.”
By legalizing pot, the government would take profits away from crooks and reduce the violence associated with Canada’s drug trade, he said. “People don’t get shot up for codeine. People don’t get shot up for Aspirin,” Scriven added. “Why give them a gold mine when you could sell it for the price of coffee?”
Burnaby MPs say they will vote against the bill. Bill Siksay, NDP MP for Burnaby Douglas, says similar laws have already failed in the U.S. “They fill up the prisons, they disrupt families, but they don’t solve the problem,” Siksay said in an interview Thursday. “We’ve given far too many people criminal records for marijuana use, and we’ve clogged the courts for way too long.” Instead, the government should decriminalize marijuana, Siksay said. We need to upset the apple cart when it comes to drug policy, he added. Peter Juilan, NDP MP for Burnaby New Westminster, agreed, saying the federal government should spend more money on front line policing. “The bill is the wrong approach to take,” he added.
James Moore, Conservative MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, did not return phone calls Friday. But Rob Nicholson, the Ontario MP who introduced the bill, said the bill sends a message to crooks that the government won’t tolerate drug trafficking. “Drug producers and dealers who threaten the safety of our communities must face tougher penalties,” Nicholson said in a news release. “That’s why our government is moving to impose mandatory jail time for serious drug offenses that involve organized crime, violence or youth.”
The bill also included a mandatory two-year jail sentence for dealing drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to youth, or for dealing those drugs in places normally frequented by youth. It would increase the maximum penalty for pot production from seven to 14 years, and includes tougher penalties for trafficking date-rape drugs. A 2004 addiction survey found the number of Canadians who reported using an injection drug at some point in their life rose to 4.1 million in 2004 from 1.7 million in 1994. The release also states that cash, guns and cocaine are smuggled into Canada in exchange for locally grown marijuana.
ALBERTA: Marijuana activists will gather at MP offices
The Sundre Round Up
An exciting new grass-roots political campaign is beginning to grow across Canada. In response to the Americanization of Canadian drug policy by the Conservative Party of Canada, ordinary Canadians are standing up to ask a simple question” Why?
On November 20th, 2007 the Conservative government of Canada introduced Bill C-26, imposing mandatory minimum jail sentences for cannabis (marijuana) offences in an attempt to appear “tough” on crime. In reality, the government’s own experts have said time and again — most recently in the Department of Justice analysis accompanying the CPC’s other “get tough” crime bill — that these extreme measures simply don’t work.
This American-style legislation has been met with sweeping condemnation from experts and members of the public across Canada. At noon on December 17, 2007, ordinary Canadians will be gathering at their local Member of Parliament’s office to ask their MPs to filibuster and if necessary vote against Bill C-26 and to force them to justify any continued support for the failed and harmful policy of marijuana prohibition.
“Mandatory minimums have already failed to curb drug use and sales in the US and simply ended up filling their jails to brimming with non-violent marijuana offenders,” said Kirk Tousaw, a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer that has practiced on both sides of the border. “Worse, the evidence on marijuana is pretty unequivocal: prohibition is causing more harm than it prevents. So the question for Parliament is why? Why does marijuana prohibition have the support of the House of Commons?”
Tousaw, whose UBC Master’s in Law thesis examined Canadian cannabis policy, said: “Cannabis and cannabis policy has been studied extensively and thoroughly by our government and many others. The conclusions are unequivocal. Prohibition doesn’t reduce use or supply. Prohibition supports organized crime by providing criminals with constant revenues. Prohibition creates dangerous black markets with no controls and causes people to grow marijuana in suburban basements instead of on farms and in greenhouses. And marijuana itself is far safer than virtually all of our legal drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, prescription and over-the-counter medications. The public understands this perfectly — 63% support legalization. Yet Parliament has ignored all of this. Why?”
To find out the answer, on December 17, 2007 Canadians will meet at MP’s offices across Canada. Starting at noon, these citizens will ask their representatives to meet and explain what the MP’s marijuana position is. If the MP supports prohibition, he or she will be asked why. Event organizer Jacob Hunter put it this way: “We want them to answer a simple question: Why? We want to see the evidence they used to formulate their carefully considered position. We want to know why they still support the failure that is prohibition.”
ALBERTA: Cannabis is the least of our problems
By DAVE MABELL
A pro-marijuana group took its protest to Lethbridge streets Monday. Warmly-dressed protesters rallied in front of MP Rick Casson’s office, after parading their signs through the city centre. They were opposing the Conservative government’s plans for compulsory jail terms for people selling street drugs. Tamara Cartwright, spokesperson for more than a dozen who turned out for the city’s first pro-pot demonstration, said the planned law changes could make criminals of people like her who rely on marijuana for pain control.
“All this means is that hard-working Canadians that use a bit of weed will be sitting in jail rather than working,” she said. “This is not the solution.” Speaking for the Southern Alberta Cannabis Club, she said public education and government regulation — like liquor — would be a better response than an American-style “war on drugs.”
“Addiction is a medical issue and should be treated as such,” Cartwright said. “Prohibition is a waste of our tax money.” The Coaldale woman hoped to take that message to Casson, during a meeting scheduled later in the day. Demonstrations were planned Monday in front of scores of MPs’ offices across Canada, in response to Bill C-26 introduced late last month in Parliament.
The bill calls for a mandatory prison sentence when police can link a marijuana seller with organized crime, and a two-year minimum when anyone is found with a grow-op where more than 500 plants are being raised. The maximum sentence for growing cannabis could double to 14 years, if Parliament passes the bill as tabled by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.
“Cannabis is the least of our problems,” said Cartwright. Yet the Harper government seems determined to spend at extra $62.5 million tax dollars “on an American style drug war that has proven not to be successful.”
Protesters claimed while one-third of Canadians oppose full legalization and regulation of marijuana, the rest are moderately or strongly in favour. A recent SES Research poll, they said, found just eight per cent of Canadians who were interviewed remained in favour of criminal prohibition.
ALBERTA: Pot Bill Generates Buzz
By Krista Sylvester
Calgary 420 Cannabis Community held a National Day of Action in front of Steven Harper’s constituency office in Glenmore Landing yesterday. The small group was part of a national protest against Bill C-26, which slaps mandatory minimum jail time for cannabis-related offences.
“Legalize, Regulate and Educate,” was the message protesters were trying to send to politicians yesterday during a pro-marijuana rally in front of Stephen Harper’s constituency office. Protesters of Bill C26, the Conservative Party’s proposal to instil mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences, took their defiance against the proposal to 308 constituency offices across the country yesterday during the National Day of Protest.
Keith Fagin of the protest group Calgary 420 was outside of Harper’s office in protest of the bill that would set the minimum jail sentence for cannabis offences at nine months. “It’s crazy to make someone spend nine months in jail for using marijuana. We’re here to get the politicians to vote ‘No’ against the bill. It’s just going to cost taxpayers more money to put ordinary people in jail. It’s crazy to make someone spend nine months in jail for using marijuana,” Fagin said, adding that a lot of people need the drug for medicinal purposes. What they should be doing is ending prohibition and then there would be less crime. Tax it and legalize it and use the money towards health care.” Fagin was part of a group of about 10 people who marched with signs.
Lyle Strand, 53, was also on hand to rally for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use with his 41-year-old wife Sandi who is legally blind and has severe diabetes. She also suffers severe migraines and has used pot to ease the pain. “It’s terrifying to think if I am thrown in jail for nine months for using marijuana. It is difficult enough to deal with diabetes out here I can’t imagine if I was put in jail,” she said. “I have explored so many options but they have bad side effects. This is what helps me deal with the pain. It doesn’t make it go away but it makes me able to deal with it. It keeps me functioning.”
Bill C26 was introduced by federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson on November 20. The bill seeks amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
SASKATCHEWAN: Mill, Marijuana Protesters Rally At Legislature
It was pot versus pulp at the steps of the Saskatchewan legislature Monday, vying for public attention. A busload of former mill workers came down from Prince Albert to try to pressure the provincial government into getting a new deal to reopen the city’s pulp mill.
While leaders from the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union and NDP opposition members addressed the crowd and media, a group of marijuana supporters arrived. The group, complete with a man dressed as a marijuana leaf, stood on the steps as a protest against Canada’s drug laws. One man handcuffed himself to the front door. Security had to cut him free with bolt cutters. He was given a warning by police.
Later, during question period, politicians ignored the pot protest and focused on the mill. (The article continues, but only about the mill and not marijuana.)
SASKATCHEWAN: Pot protesters oppose Bill C-26
The Regina Leader-Post
Tim Selenski of the Head to Head store in
Regina handcuffed himself to one of the front
doors of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building
in Regina on Monday to protest federal Bill C-26.
A group of protesters gathered at the provincial legislature Monday to protest amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act proposed by the Harper government. Bill C-26 would see the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences for possession of drugs with the purposes of trafficking. The protest was part of the National Day of Demonstration protesting marijuana prohibition and Bill C-26. Protesters all around the country were urged to lobby local politicians to demand they end support for the proposed amendments.
Under the proposed bill, mandatory minimum sentences would be imposed where previously there were none. For example, anybody caught producing less than 200 marijuana plants with the intent to traffic would be sentenced to at least six months in jail. The bill includes “aggravating factors” which may increase the minimum sentence. For example, if the offence was committed on or near a school, or any place frequented by people under the age of 18, the minimum sentence would increase to nine months. Other aggravating factors include the use or threat of use of a weapon, and involving anyone under 18 years in the commission of an offence.
“Our strategy to get tough on illegal drugs really concentrates on the traffickers, on the elements that have relationships with organized crime, with violent offenders, or with youth,” said Andrew Scheer, Conservative MP for Regina-Qu’Appelle. “It’s not anything out of line with what Canadians want.” Scheer said he believes the bill would make it more difficult to produce and traffic drugs and be associated with organized crime.
However, protesters said that the bill would do little to prevent the darkest parts of the criminal world from dealing marijuana, and punishes small-time dealers and users. “The profit lies at the core of everything,” said protester Jason Green. “Large-scale growers and dealers, this is not deterring them. This is going to increase their profit margins. The price of cannabis is going to shoot up.” Green said that in the United States, where the War on Drugs began, marijuana is the same price as cocaine. “You put more profit in it, it perpetuates more people dealing,” he added.
“Bill C-26 is trying to make marijuana more illegal than it already is. There are more important things they should be worrying about — like the coke and heroin dealers that are killing people — than marijuana, which doctors prescribe to help people feel better,” said protester Kristin Swenson.
One protester, who identified himself only as Mike, said he turned to growing his own plants to avoid buying it from a dealer. “(Marijuana) is a stepping-stone because of having to go to an illegal drug user where you are within arms reach of all the other narcotics,” he said. Under the proposed amendments, Mike said he would face the same sentence for the few plants that he grows for personal use, as a person with a larger operation who actually intends to sell. Other critics point to the fact that some of the aggravating factors are open to immense interpretation, such as what constitutes trafficking, what constitutes an area frequented by minors, and what constitutes a public safety hazard.
Scheer insists that the proposed amendments target organized crime and violent offenders. Offenders who are caught with weapons would face a minimum sentence of one year. “It’s aimed at the darker element of the drug trade,” he said, adding the bill does offer those convicted of a drug offence, who do not fall under the aggravating factors, may be given the option of seeking treatment to reduce their sentences.
However, protesters aren’t convinced. “If mandatory minimum sentences really helped prevent crimes, the U.S. would be the safest nation in the world, but it’s not. What makes us think these draconian measures will have better results in (Canada)?” said protester Pete Jacobson.
QUEBEC: Pot advocates prepare protest
Canwest News Service
Marijuana advocates are hoping to get protesters out at noon today at constituency office of Members of Parliament. They will be protesting against what they see as draconian new minimum sentences proposed in Bill C-26.
“For the first time, we’re looking at a situation where the government wants to impose mandatory minimums for marijuana offences,” said Vancouver lawyer Kirk Tousaw, who was campaign manager for Marc Emery, president of the B.C. Marijuana Party.
While the former federal Liberal government considered decriminalizing marijuana, the Conservative government has announced its intention to increase pot sentences as part of its get-tough-on-crime platform.
MEDIA COVERAGE VIDEOS
CityTV News did record the Vancouver center (MP Hedy Fry) protest with Marc Emery and Jodie Emery, but we have yet to obtain a copy of the coverage.