While Canadian activists seek their freedom in the courts, a cabal of Canadian politicians has joined forces with US pot-haters, to mutate Canada’s proposed new marijuana law, Bill C-38, into a punitive piece of anti-pot legislation.
Bill C-38 was originally based on recommendations from the Canadian Parliament’s “Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs,” which originally suggested decriminalization of growing under four plants and possession of under 30 grams.
By the time the bill was written, however, decriminalization opponents had lobbied successfully to keep cultivators criminalized, and to reduce the maximum possession amount to 15 grams. Still, the bill wasn’t tough enough for pot-haters, both in Canada and the US.
Early in 2003, Canadian Justice Minister Martin Cauchon met with US Attorney General John Ashcroft to discuss Bill C-38 before it had even been read in Canadian Parliament. Some Canadian Parliamentarians were outraged that Cauchon was seeking US pre-approval on proposed Canadian legislation.
Anti-prohibitionist MP Libby Davies denounced the unauthorized meetings. “I believe that every Canadian Member of Parliament has a privilege to see legislation tabled in Parliament before the Minister decides to blow smoke to his friends in Washington,” she told Parliament, urging an investigation that never happened.
In an interview with Cannabis Culture, Davies speculated about why US anti-drug officials are obsessed with Canadian decriminalization. “I think they are fearful that if Canada moves toward it, it will have a huge negative impact on their war on drugs,” she said. “It will be exposed as the fraud it is, a war mostly on poor people.”
A second round of anti-pot political skullduggery was soon to follow. On July 8, 2003, dissident Liberal backbenchers Dan McTeague, Brenda Chamberlain, Roger Gallaway and Judi Longfield met with Barry Crane, the White House’s “Deputy Drug Czar.”
They gathered at the US Embassy in Ottawa, and their meeting would have remained a secret had not an anonymous bureaucrat released the minutes of the meeting to Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper.
The minutes say the MPs expressed “deep concern” about the proposed decrim, and wanted the United States to pressure Canada to stop it. MPs urged US officials to “make the consequences of passing the legislation clear to Canada.”
MPs suggested that the US officials needed to bring in trade and border issues in order to defeat the bill. Prime Minister Jean Chretien complained to the media about members of his party going behind his back to attack the proposed legislation.
“I’m very surprised that they would use that route,” Chretien told reporters. “We in Canada, we’re passing laws in Canada. In this case, we had a report from the Senate committee, and a House of Commons committee. It’s been debated for years, and we made a proposition on legislation.”
According to media reports, the pot debate has produced “heated arguments” among members of the governing Liberal party. With Chretien set to retire soon, his authority has been diminished in his party.
His chosen successor, Paul Martin, has made it clear that he opposes any relaxation of the pot laws.
Two months after meeting with US officials, Liberal MP Chamberlain introduced a private member’s bill that challenged her own party’s proposed law.
Chamberlain’s bill would add two-year mandatory minimum jail sentences and fines up to $100,000 for anyone growing over 25 plants.
Chamberlain’s nasty jab inspired a copycat bill by Alliance MP Jay Hill, that proposed a mandatory minimum of one year (two on subsequent offenses), for anyone caught trafficking within half a kilometer of a school. Neither proposed bill will pass, but they show the level of anti-pot sentiment among some members of the government.
Meanwhile, dissident Liberal MP McTeague told the media that the UN’s Office of Drugs and Crime was against Canada decriminalizing because it would violate the UN’s anti-drug agreements.
McTeague threatened that Canada would be punished by the UN if it changed the law.
However, virtually all legal interpretations of the UN conventions agree that the treaties allow for the option to decriminalize possession, as well as providing for constitutional exceptions, religious and magical freedoms, and other openings.
On October 20, ostensibly to speed up the passage of Bill C-38, the Liberal government passed it back to the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs (SNUD), the committee where it was born. By passing the bill back to the SNUD, the government claimed they could avoid running it through the already overworked Justice Committee. But the government also created an opportunity for pot opponents to rework the bill.
Before the SNUD had even begun their work on the bill, an anonymous source told the Toronto Star newspaper that the SNUD would be used to toughen Bill C-38, adding mandatory minimum prison sentences for cultivators, just like in Chamberlain’s private member’s bill. Mandatory minimum prison sentences are a US-style anti-drug tactic that in Canada is only reserved for murderers ? so far.
According to the same anonymous source, the SNUD would also be used to reduce the possession amount further from 15 to 10 grams.
As of this writing in mid-November, the bill sits in the committee, unlikely to pass before the government breaks for Christmas.
Most observers do not expect the bill to pass before Chretien officially retires, and so probably there will be no decriminalization in Canada this year, not even the half-baked decrim that had been proposed.
Any new pot law will likely be brought in under the leadership of Paul Martin, and will end up closer to the vision of the pot-hating traitors in Canada’s government.