Michael Ignatieff : Liberals Will Reintroduce Marijuana Decrim Bill

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Canada: Liberals Will Reintroduce Marijuana Decrim Bill
By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in Global, Legislation
Friday, Oct. 1 2010 @ 7:59AM

Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said his party will reintroduce legislation to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

The Opposition Leader told an audience of about 200 people in Montreal on September 27 that the Libs would bring back Martin Cauchon's decrim bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of under 15 grams of cannabis and replace them with fines, reports Jeremiah Vandermeer at Cannabis Culture.

Liberal Critic for Justice, Montreal MP Marlene Jennings, who joined Ignatieff at the event, the first night of his cross-country Open Mike tour, added that she will push for Health Canada to streamline the process of granting medical marijuana permits. Many federal medical marijuana patients have chafed at the slowness of the authorization process.

Introduced in 2003, the original Cauchon decrim bill would have lessened or eliminated penalties for possession of small amounts of cannabis or cultivation of under 25 plants, but increased penalties for growing more than 25 plants.

According to a 2003 Stop The Drug War article, here are the main points of the bill:

• Possession of 15 grams or less is no longer a crime but a "contravention" (similar in seriousness to a traffic violation) punishable only by a fine. Fines increase from the set minimum according to whether "aggravating" factors, such as possession while driving or near a school, are involved.

• Possession of 15 to 30 grams may be charged as either a contravention or a criminal offense at the discretion of the officer involved. The same aggravating factors may be applied in making the charging decision.

• Penalties are lowered for the cultivation of three or fewer plants to a maximum of 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. Under current law, all cultivation is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

• Penalties are lowered for the cultivation of four to 25 plants to a maximum of 18 months and a $25,000 fine, but prosecutors have the option of charging cultivation in this range as an "indictable offense" (akin to a felony) punishable by up to five years in prison.

• Penalties are increased for the cultivation of more than 25 plants. For 26-50 plants, the penalty is a maximum of 10 years in prison, plus fines, and for more than 50 plants, 14 years in prison, plus fines.

• Penalties for trafficking remain unchanged, with the maximum sentence remaining life in prison, although not even the largest hard drug trafficker has received more than a 20-year sentence in recent years. Canadian drug trafficking laws do not differentiate between marijuana and other controlled substances.

• There are no provisions regarding medical marijuana.

According to Stop The Drug War, some activists worry that while the Liberal proposal decreases penalties for simple possession, in large areas of Canada where possession busts are considered not worth the time and bother, it could actually increase marijuana enforcement.

Ignatieff has opposed marijuana policy reform in the past, saying in March that "legalizing marijuana would create problems" with the United States.

He also made this weird statement at another town hall meeting:

"If I had to tell you as a parent or as someone who has spent his whole life working with young people, the last darn thing I want you to be doing is smoking marijuana. I want you to be out there digging a well, digging a ditch, getting a job, raising a family... doing stuff, instead of parking your life on the end of a marijuana cigarette."

Hmm.

The Liberal leader said at the time that he "enjoys an occasional drink" and didn't seem to mind if his anti-pot attitude made him "appear conservative."

Canadian citizens are asked to contact Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff and politely let him know you support full decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, but won't settle for sneaky, back-door legislation that may lead to increased enforcement.

You can email Ignatieff at Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca, or call (613) 995-9364 for his office in Ottawa.

"Though Ignatieff's ideas for decrim may be just a small step forward or more of the same bad policies we already have, the Liberal's picture of Canada's future cannabis laws looks a lot prettier than Stephen Harper and the reigning Conservative government's vision, which would bring mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana offenses to Canada for the first time," said Jeremiah Vandermeer of Cannabis Culture.

Bill S-10, the proposed Conservative drug legislation, includes mandatory sentences of nine months in jail for growing as few as six plants, and 18 months in prison for making and sharing cannabis cookies, hash, or other extracts.

Activists and lovers of freedom are invited to gather this Saturday, October 2, at Members of Parliament's offices across the country for Canada-wide rallies against conservative drug laws, to call attention to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative government's Bill @-10.

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