Welcome to the Drug War

If you are a member of Canada's Cannabis Culture, then prepare yourself
for a new wave of harrassment and abuse from Canadian police and other
authorities. . .


The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is now law in


By Dana Larsen

Photomanipulation by David Cheong

Welcome to the Drug War

Groups that support or oppose the bill

MPs for Decriminalization

A Decade of Deception

If you are found guilty of possessing even a tiny amount of marijuana,
you will
have a criminal record which will follow you for the rest of your life.

On June 19, 1996, the Senate passed Bill C-8, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It then sent the bill to the House of Commons so that Parliament could approve the minor changes that the Senate had proposed. The changes were accepted and the bill was given Royal Assent the next day. This means that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is now law in Canada.

The Senators Betray

The failure of the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to recommend significant amendments to the bill was a surprise to most of those who testified before them. Many of the Senators on the Committee had spoken publicly about their support for the decriminalization of marijuana and a drug policy based upon harm reduction, and yet they allowed the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to pass through their committee without any recommendations to roll back or even limit the brutal prohibitionist ideology inherent within it.

The Senators on the committee were told by every expert witness that came before them that the prohibition of marijuana and other drugs is counter-productive. They learned that prohibition hurts and kills people needlessly, and that it only intensifies and exacerbates any dangers and health risks associated with drug use.

Despite this, Committee Chair Senator Sharon Carstairs was quoted as saying
that the Senators on the Committee didn’t recommend decriminalization and harm reduction policies because they felt it would never pass the House of Commons. Clearly this is an unacceptable answer, especially when public opinion polls show that about 70% of Canadians support reducing the penalties for marijuana.

If you are found with an ounce of pot in your possession, you will be
trafficking, denied a jury trial, and rushed through the newly “streamlined”
justice system to a five year jail term.

If the only role of the Senate is to passively accept the dictates of Parliament then the Senate Committee certainly fulfilled its mandate. But if the Senators had taken their role as a voice of sober second thought more seriously then they might have done what they knew to be right instead of doing what they knew would be easy and nonconfrontational.

All or Nothing

The Senators were told by every expert witness that came before them that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act was more than just a “housekeeping” bill, and that it would dramatically step up the War on Drugs in Canada. It was explained to them over and over again that this bill would result in more Canadians going to jail for marijuana and other drug offences.

There was no reason for the Senate to take an all-or-nothing approach to amending the bill. Even if the Senators knew that a recommendation to decriminalize would not pass Parliament, there was plenty of room for them to modify the bill in other ways. A recommendation to simply maintain the status quo and not increase police powers and provisions for the seizure of property would have been a major improvement, and spared many thousands of Canadians from much pain and suffering. Yet the Senate Committee apparently decided that they couldn’t do it all, so they chose to do nothing instead.

Three hundred Canadians are arrested for a marijuana offence every day, and one hundred of them will be convicted and have a criminal record that will follow them for all of their lives. Every day that this bill is in force will see another sixteen Canadians sentenced to time in prison for involvement with marijuana. These numbers will only rise as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is integrated into police procedures.

If there are cannabis plants growing in your hom
e, it will be deemed a “fortified drug house” and seized to pay bloated
police budgets.

By allowing the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to become law without serious opposition, the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has literally sentenced millions of Canadians to continued harassment and humiliation by the police and the courts.

Senator Sharon Carstairs admitted that the Committee chose to rubber stamp this vicious law only to avoid a confrontation with the House of Commons. This is not sober second thought, this is sheer cowardice.

Senator Carstairssrc=”pics/c8carst.jpg”>
Senator Jessimansrc=”pics/c8jessi.jpg”>
Senator Losier-Coolsrc=”pics/c8losier.jpg”>

Senators Carstairs, Jessiman, and Losier-Cool: Deaf to the testimony
brought before them and blind to the pain and suffering inflicted by
continued prohibition, the Senate Committee passed the bill without

No Help for Hemp

In what is perhaps the greatest disappointment, the Senate Committee didn’t even make any recommendations which would free up the Canadian cannabis hemp industry. Although the Senators appeared to be enthusiastic about the prospects of hemp cultivation, they did not recommend that industrial strains of cannabis be exempt from the definition of marijuana, as requested by the Canadian industrial hemp lobby and prospective hemp farmers.

If a police officer ever decides to plant drugs on you, you will have no
opportunity to cross-examine him in the courtroom.

Instead, they made a recommendation that “mature cannabis stalks, that do not include leaves, flowers, seeds or branches,” be exempted from the definition of marijuana, along with any fibres derived from such stalks. This does not mean that commercial hemp cultivation is in any way permitted in Canada, it simply means that the raw fibre is no longer considered to be marijuana. This clears up the technicality that hemp fabrics and papers were illegal in Canada as they fall under the original definition of marijuana.

We asked for a Canadian hemp industry, they gave us permission to wear hemp shirts and use hemp paper.

Although this bill has never contained any provision to allow for the cultivation of industrial cannabis, this is the second time that there have been headlines indicating that hemp farming was now legal in Canada.

Reviewing the Reviews

The only good recommendation to come out of the Senate is that a joint Senate / House of Commons committee should be established to conduct an “extensive review” of Canadian drug laws and policies. The text of this recommendation is presented in the side bar at right.

If you are walking down the street and someone tries to sell you some drugs
you’ve never seen before, it may very well be a cop.

This recommendation echoes that made by the Parliamentary Committee that looked at the bill, which also passed the buck to a future policy review. This process has already begun, as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health has indicated that it will begin a review of Canada’s drug policies in October, to be completed in June of 1997.

Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Review looks doomed before it has even begun. David Dingwall, Canada’s Minister of Health, wants the review to focus on “demand reduction”. The Committee’s Terms of Reference make no mention of “harm reduction” at all, which should clearly be the ultimate goal of any sane and healthy drug policy.

This is a direct contrast to the direction of the drug policy review as recommended by the Senate, which specifically includes the development of a “national harm-reduction policy to minimize the negative consequences associated with illicit drug use in Canada.”

It is unclear at this time if Parliament will allow the Senators to join their Committee for drug policy review. If they do not, it is possible that the Senate will form a separate Committee to review the matter independently of Parliament, but this would require more courage than the Senate has exhibited in this matter so far.

The prohibition approach to drug control is
outdated and has proven ineffective in decreasing drug use, reducing crime, or improving public or individual
health.The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act will result in a significant
increase in rates of incarceration and in lengths of sentences, and will place
additional stresses on an already overburdened criminal justice system. It will not
contribute to public health but will accomplish exactly the opposite.The Controlled
Drugs and Substances Act represents a misguided approach to drug control, one
that is unnecessary and costly to Canadians.

Canadian Bar Association

It is certain that the Parliamentary Committee will do its utmost to ignore and avoid all of the anti-prohibitionist testimony brought before them. If there are Senators involved in the drug policy review then they may possibly provide enough of a counterweight to force an honest assessment of the evidence.

Nevertheless, even if the Senators are able to work political magic, this is still a faint and distant hope. While the Senators on the Committee try to convince their Parliamentary colleagues to take a realistic look at the issue of prohibition, the Canadian people will be suffering under the oppressive Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

While we wait for the review to begin in the winter, continue on until next summer, and then be discussed and debated and reviewed for another year or two, the police will be paying informants to sell drugs, the courts will be confiscating people’s homes because of a few plants in their basement, and kids with a half ounce in their pocket will get charged with trafficking and go to jail for five years less a day, without a trial by jury.

We must use this upcoming review to force change upon our government. If we have learned any lessons by now then we must know that Parliament is not our ally, and that they will fight any sort of progressive change every step of the way.

Our politicians do not lead, they follow, and we cannot wait for them to liberate us and our culture from the yoke of their oppression. They will have to pushed, bullied and cajoled into ending their brutal war against us. We must overwhelm them with the force of truth and decency, and give them no other choice but to accept us as what we are: natural, normal, human beings.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act fails to strike a balance between
controlling the illegal use of drugs and permitting legitimate medical and other

There are a number of substances that fall under this act that are extremely
useful in treating the pain of terminal illness and psychiatric conditions that
would otherwise not be controlled.

The CMA recommends the Bill be amended by adding the following clause:

This act and its regulations do not apply to a physician engaged in an
that falls within the legitimate practice of medicine.

Canadian Medical Association

What you can do…

Write regular letters to your local newspapers and call in often to radio talk shows.

Make and distribute posters, pamphlets and newsletters, stickers, buttons, t-shirts, and bumperstickers.

Grow more pot. The more people that grow their own pot the better off we’ll all be. Overgrow the government!

Support your local hemp stores. Look in the back page of this magazine to find the store in your area. If there’s no store in your area, then open your own!

Send money to constitutional challenge legal defence funds and to other activist victims of prohibition.

Talk to people. This is still the most effective method. Speak the truth with a smile and you will get results.

Smoke in public without shame. Shame, fear and ignorance are all than stand between us and freedom.

Attend hemp rallies. It was a misinformation campaign that made hemp illegal, and it will be a re-education campaign that sets it free.

Write to the government…

This bill will neither stop the flow of drugs into Canada, nor the
production of drugs within Canada…it does absolutely nothing to address the multiple
causes of drug use in society.In the guise of complying with international drug
control conventions, we are trampling all over international human rights
conventions. Our position is that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act should be
withdrawn completely.

Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy

For those of our readers who haven’t yet lost all hope in Canada’s Parliamentary democracy, or who have learned to enjoy the zen exercise of writing letters to the government, we have provided a list of those Canadian Members of Parliament who are known to be open to the idea of decriminalizing marijuana. It can provide a nice change to write a letter which is complimentary and supportive, and these MPs must be shown that their ideas have popular support, and they should be encouraged to actively promote decriminalization within their parties.

Our list is not comprehensive, and we expect that there are many other MPs who have sentiments of support for an end to the prohibition of marijuana. Please contact us if you have any information on other MPs who you think might support harm reduction and decriminalization.

Although there are only ten MPs on our list, their numbers include the Prime Minister, who has always left himself open to the possibility of decriminalization, and has never spoken out in support of prohibition in any significant way. Please contact all of these MPs and tell them that you also support a spirit of tolerance as opposed to the brutality of prohibitionism. If you live in their riding then please make an appointment to speak to them in person and encourage them to speak out more publicly with their views.

These individuals are not alone, as many other Parliamentarians also support an end to the War on Drugs. They have not spoken out about it because the issue has not been pressed upon them, and because most of their colleagues don’t care about the issue very much, and so will go with the crowd in whatever direction it seems to be headed. There are only a few die-hard prohibitionists in the federal Parliament, and we strongly encourage you to vote them out of office as soon as possible.

Contacts and Updates

To present a written submission or appear before the Committee please contact Nancy Hall, Clerk of the Standing Committee on Health, 6th Floor, 180 Wellington St., House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6. Phone 613-992-1775, or fax 613-996-1626.

You can write to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs at: The Senate, Ottawa, K1A 0A4. Committee clerk Heather Lank can be reached at: (613) 995-5013. Her fax number is