Hemp & Marijuana in the Senate
On April 18th, the Senate Committee on Bill C-8 heard testimony from thehemp and marijuana lobbies. The hemp delegation was made up of Geof Kime,Dr Alexander Sumach, and Larry Duprey. The marijuana delegation was madeup of myself, Marc Emery, Robert Hamon, Andy Rapoch and Nicholas Bureau.
The day’s hearings began at 10am, although many of the Senators drifted inbetween 10 and 10:30. First to testify was the hemp delegation.
Geof is the partner of Joe Strobel, and in 1994 they were Canada’s firstmodern legal hemp farmers. Geof talked about the history of agriculturalhemp in Canada, from its proud beginnings in 1606 to its current status asa banned crop. He took the Senators through hemp’s decline in the 1930s,followed by a complete ban in 1938.
Geof explained how the most recent research done into Canadian hemp was in1971, by Dr Ernie Small. Dr Small grew 350 different strains of cannabisin Ottawa. His research concluded that there are different varieties ofcannabis, and that it is possible to differentiate between cannabis hempand cannabis marijuana.
Geof also explained his difficulties in applying for a license to grow thecrop, but was also optimistic about hemp’s potential as a profitable crop,if released from the control of the Ministry of Health.
Dr Alexander Sumach
Dr Alexander Sumach is the author of Grow Yer Own Stone and Treasury ofHashish, and his work regularly appears between the pages of thismagazine. He is also a member of the Canadian Industrial Hemp Lobby, andhas travelled to Europe on three separate occasions over the past twelvemonths to study the rapidly growing European hemp market firsthand.
Dr Sumach explained that Europe, and Germany in particular, are movinginto first place in a rapidly emerging world hemp market. According to DrSumach, the Europeans “sell hemp with confidence, and fully intend to takethe lead over nations such as Canada, who are watching from thesidelines.”
Larry Duprey is the owner of Montreal’s Chanvre en Ville, and is also amember of the Hemp Industries Association of North America, and theCanadian Industrial Hemp Lobby.
Larry spoke briefly about the health and environmental dangers ofsynthetic fabrics, then moved on to describe Canada’s over-reliance uponUS cotton. He explained that cannabis is much better suited to theCanadian climate than is cotton, and that unlike cotton, which requires”more than half of all the pesticides and herbicides used in NorthAmerican agribusiness,” cannabis is a hardy crop with few natural enemies,and thus requires few, if any, pesticides.
Marc Emery was the first to speak from the “marijuana delegation,” and heintroduced himself as an advocate and trade representative of the Canadianmarijuana industry, which he described as being the largest naturalresource industry in BC, with a value of $800 million in BC alone.
Marc began his presentation by describing what a marijuana high feelslike. He described it as a “warm, gooey, fun sensation,” which can lead tointrospection, listening more attentively to his children, and gettingmore out of the trash on television.
Marc explained that prohibition found its beginnings in racism against theChinese, and that Canada’s first drug law was passed in 1908 in order toallow for the deportation of Chinese labourers who had become unnecessaryafter the railroad had been built and the gold mines were exhausted.
Marc brought the human tragedy of marijuana prohibition into focus,explaining how the government spends large amounts of tax money todegrade, humiliate, and persecute marijuana users.
Extremism in the defence of liberty
As usual, Marc was the most “extreme” of those who testified. For example,most of those on the panel were opposed to allowing marijuana to beadvertised, while Marc enthusiastically supported advertising as a way ofconvincing people to turn away from alcohol.
Marc also disagreed about educating children to believe that drug use iswrong. He argued that children will naturally want to experiment withdrugs, and that for him to tell his child that marijuana smoking was wrongwould be hypocritical. He explained that the first time his oldest son hadsmoked pot was when they were on a helicopter ride together, as he hadwanted it to be a special experience for him, and not something his sonwould take for granted.
During my brief presentation I summarized eighteen months ofcorrespondence with the government, much of it in the form of Access toInformation requests. My research clearly shows that the federalgovernment’s defence of prohibition is not based upon any sort ofofficially documented evidence.
I explained how the standard letter from the Department of Justice claimsthat if marijuana were decriminalized the rate of its use would increase,that international treaties forbid decriminalizing marijuana, and thatmost Canadians support the current prohibitionist regime. However, thegovernmental records I obtained revealed that rates of marijuana use arenot affected by decriminalization, that international treaties do in factallow Canada to decriminalize marijuana, and that about 70% of Canadianssupport the decriminalization of marijuana in some form.
They Paid Attention
The Senators seemed attentive while we made our presentations, and thequestions they asked showed that they had been paying attention, and thatthey had also spent some time reading our magazine and other submittedmaterial.
Of the ten Senators at the hearing, five of them openly stated that theysupported the decriminalization of marijuana. The others seemed supportiveof the idea, and none of them expressed shock or anger at any of thestatements made by Marc Emery or myself.
I have to admit that it was a refreshing experience to speak before theSenate. Most of my other communication with politicians has beenfrustrating to the extreme. Yet while testifying before the Senatecommittee I felt as if these people actually cared about what we weresaying, and that they were possibly going to do something to help us endthe prohibition of cannabis. I hope that my optimism is not misplaced.
The Senate Committee will hear the last testimony on April 24th, and thenwill begin its clause by clause analysis of the Bill. This will likely nottake more than a month, and so it is possible that the Senate Committeewill bring its recommendations before the Senate by the beginning of June.
For more information, or to get a copy of the trancgi of those whotestified before the Senate, contact Committee Clerk Heather Lank by phoneat 1-800-267-7362, or by email at[email protected].
Please request the transcript hearings. It’s good to let the Senate knowthat we’re going to be reading up on what they say and do.