CANNABIS CULTURE – New Democratic MP Libby Davies says the Conservative and Liberal ‘War On Drugs’ and the mandatory minimums that go with it “will be a colossal failure for Canada, both economically and politically”.
The Conservative and Liberal parties both supported the controversial drug legislation, Bill C-15, which passed the House last week.
The bill must now pass the Senate before it becomes Canadian law. Bill C-15 includes mandatory minimums for small amounts of marijuana and a long list of other draconian measures (click here for more info on Bill C-15).
Cannabis Culture spoke with Member of Parliament Davies shortly after the bill’s passage in the house.
Cannabis Culture: The House has now passed Bill C-15. Your thoughts?
Libby Davies: I think it is really bad news. The evidence shows very, very strongly – overwhelmingly – that mandatory minimum sentencing is not an effective policy when it comes to drug crime. My fear is that we are going to see more people in jail, and more people fighting charges because they know they will be facing a mandatory minimum sentence. That means more court time and more backlogs.
CC: What would the final passing of Bill C-15 mean for Canadians?
Libby Davies: I am worried about the impact on marijuana users.
Although the Conservatives claimed this was about going after the big traffickers and kingpins, we know that enforcement is leveled mostly at low-level dealers and users. It’s the people who are visible; it’s the people on the street and the small operations. This bill could be leveled at a very wide spectrum of people and one of our biggest concerns is how it will hit the medical marijuana community.
One of the things that I tried to get from the minister was some idea of how many more Canadians will be put in jail and how much extra it will cost. Of course, he did not provide that information.
I also challenged him to show any evidence – anything – even one report that shows mandatory minimum sentences work. Of course, he couldn’t produce anything.
CC: Why did the Liberals support this bill?
Libby Davies: I was very, very disappointed with the Liberal response. I think they are totally concerned with political optics rather than telling the truth of what this bill is about.
We had twenty-three amendments in the committee from the NDP that weren’t approved because the Liberals wouldn’t support them. My hope was that we might have at least taken out some of the worst elements of the bill to minimize the damage but the Liberals did not agree to that.
We also had very excellent witnesses at the justice committee, including from the United States, because we wanted to show that the experience in the US with mandatory minimum sentences has been just appalling. It’s been horrific, and a number of states are now repealing, or have repealed, their mandatory minimum regimes. So we wanted to show that it would be a disaster for Canada to take this path.
CC: What were some of the amendments?
Libby Davies: The first set of our amendments tried to take out the mandatory minimums, which of course failed. We tried to get an exemption for medical marijuana. We tried to insert the word ‘commercial trafficking’ so it was clearer – as it stands, you could give one plant to someone and it would be considered trafficking.
We did manage to have two amendments passed, one which changed the minimum number of plants for a mandatory minimum from 1 to 5, and the other, to have a review of the bill after two years once it comes into force.
CC: Do you think the bill will pass the senate?
I’m pretty sure the Liberals will support it in the senate as well. It would be very unusual at this point, with the liberals supporting it in the house, that they wouldn’t support it in the senate. I hope they decide to call lots of witnesses.
CC: At this point, what can Canadians who are opposed to this bill do to help?
Libby Davies: If people are concerned about this bill, they must let their member of parliament know that the passage of this bill was not a positive thing, and actually something that will be very harmful to Canada. Continue the pressure on the politicians. The criminalization of drug users is damaging to the whole country, and I think it is really important for politicians to have the courage to stand up and speak the truth about the Drug War and how harmful it is.
How To Stop Bill C-15
Please call or email your Senators and tell them to vote NO! on BILL C-15
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