MP Libby Davies on Bill C-15 and Mandatory Minimums

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".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”.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

Click here for a list of all Canadian Senators – click names for contact info.

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Comments

3 Comments

  1. Anonymous on

    Pretty obvious what’s going on here. Politicians will say anything to get elected and then they will do whatever the hell they want, regardless of public opinion or established facts. Why do fewer and fewer Canadians bother to vote anymore? What’s the point? It’s a matter of choosing one self centered money grubbing bastard over another.

    It is now very clear that the two major Canadian political parties really don’t give a crap about the citizens of this country and the next biggest party isn’t significantly better. Anyone who uses or supports Cannabis would be insane to vote for any of them. Voting for a fringe party like Marijuana or Green is also pretty pointless. The whole country is not going to suddenly vote in the Green Party so voting for them is a waste of effort.

    What’s the answer? Never vote and simply ignore the laws that go against common sense. It is the duty of every Canadian to thumb their nose at the government and the justice system until and unless they seriously revise the Cannabis laws. Grow as much dope as you can and if you get caught, make the most of your $70,000 a year accommodations, not having to worry about paying rent and utilities, buying and preparing food or paying for gym memberships. Before they banned tobacco smoking from prisons, they were actually unpleasant. Prison really was hell in those days. Now they are nice clean healthy facilities. After they kick you out of the health spa, just start growing dope again until they give you another room. It’s a no lose situation, except of course for the average Canadian taxpayer who will be financing the health spas.

  2. joe and his six pack on

    Well the Government is a Corporation in which we the people higher them in voting them in. So the way we need to fight this government is through the court take them to court and sue their ass off just. People are not there cattle to do as they please it is time to challenge these laws in the court to get these ass hole off our backs once and for all. As people of Canada we have the right to a life and that the police state is not wanted here. It is time to send these USA style want a bee where they belong on the other side of the border. Rise up using the courts and we will be victorious because the government has fail to act on the court orders that called the Canadian medical qualifying system void because they make it too hard to get. So this bill C -15 is how they deal with it So it is up to the people to plead not guilty and fight and sue them for damagers also along with the police sue them when they come Lets bring them to court and set them straight.

  3. Concerned Canadian on

    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.
    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.”
    Liberal Health Promotion Critic MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, Dr. Keith Martin: “In the medical profession our first principle is ‘do no harm’. We are actually doing terrible harm if we continue to address substance abuse uniquely as a criminal issue from the federal level. The blinders have to come off; we have to take a medical perspective if we are going to turn this thing around.”
    Back in 2001, former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark expressed support for decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot. The Canadian Medical Association Journal in the past has called on Ottawa to decriminalize possession of small amounts for personal use.
    In 2002, then-Liberal justice minister Martin Cauchon promised the Chretien-led government would introduce legislation to decriminalize marijuana. But it never happened.
    “I don’t know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand.” Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
    The Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, often referred to as the Le Dain Commission after its chair Dean Gerald Le Dain, was a Canadian government commission that was begun in 1969 and completed its work in 1972. The final report recommended that cannabis be removed from the Narcotic Control Act and that the provinces implement controls on possession and cultivation, similar to those governing the use of alcohol. The report also recommended that the federal government conduct further research to monitor and evaluate changes in the extent and patterns of the use of cannabis and other drugs, and to explore possible consequences to health, and personal and social behaviour, resulting from the controlled legal distribution of cannabis.
    A total of 365 submissions were presented at the hearings and an additional 50 were forwarded to the Commission’s office. About 12,000 people attended and participated in these hearings which included testimony from a number of prominent individuals including John Lennon on December 22, 1969 in Montreal.
    Although the report was widely praised for its thoroughness and thoughtfullness, its conclusions were largely ignored by the federal government.
    Anne McIlroy, guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 October 2002
    Prime Minister Jean Chrétien seems prepared to risk the ire of the United States and decriminalise the use of marijuana.
    Last week, the Liberal government laid out its agenda for this session of parliament and included plans to decriminalize cannabis.
    Mr Chrétien, who has announced he will retire in 2004, is sniffing the wind for a legacy. Decriminalising marijuana has the sweet smell of something Canadians might remember him for, so the normally cautious Mr Chrétien appears to be prepared to move ahead. Not that he has ever smoked any himself.
    “When I was young the word marijuana did not exist. I didn’t know. I learned about the world long after that. It was too late to try it, ” Mr Chrétien, 67, recently told reporters.
    But his 39-year-old justice minister confesses to having inhaled. “Of course I tried it before. Obviously,” said Martin Cauchon. He is keen to decriminalise marijuana, which would mean that people caught smoking the drug would get tickets instead of heavy jail sentences, punitive fines or a criminal record.
    The UK took a similar step earlier this year. But Britain isn’t next door to the United States, where the government of President Bush continues to push an aggressive zero tolerance drug policy, for both itself and its neighbours.
    John Walters, the Bush administration’s drug tsar, has publicly stated that if Canada decriminalises marijuana it could face serious disruptions to border trade, which is crucial to the Canadian economy. Other US politicians have warned of dire consequences if Canada becomes the pot patch of the north.
    Fear of angering the US is one reason why Mr Chrétien has left himself room to back away from decriminalising marijuana. He has said his government will look at decriminalising pot, but has stopped short of actually promising to do so.
    But momentum is clearly building. Last month a Canadian senate committee made headlines, recommending that anyone over the age of 16 be able to smoke marijuana freely.
    If it is ever implemented, the recommendation would mean joints would be legally available to teenagers long before a pint of beer. The report, which filled four volumes, was extensively researched. It also urged amnesty for the 600,000 Canadians convicted of possessing marijuana.
    The senate committee argued that the recreational use of pot is no more harmful that smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, both legal vices that provide healthy annual tax revenues. There is no reason marijuana shouldn’t be legal and sold at the local store, the committee said.
    Canada is also moving ahead with plans to allow the use of medical marijuana, for people undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from HIV/Aids.
    In November, a special committee of Canada’s House of Commons is due to report on the non-medical use of drugs. If it recommends decriminalisation, it will give Mr Chrétien the green light to move ahead.
    There is no chance he will follow the advice of the senate committee and legalise marijuana, but decriminalisation looks increasingly like safe middle ground. Pot wouldn’t be legal, but getting caught smoking it wouldn’t mean a jail term and restricted job possibilities.
    Yes, the US government would be upset, but a retired Mr Chrétien won’t be around to face the consequences. His heir apparent, former finance minister Paul Martin, would be in charge. He might not mind standing up to Mr Bush on the issue. His aides have let it be known that he ate a hash brownie when he was a much younger man.