Canada's war on marijuana ramps up with amendments to Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

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      Earlier this year, John Anderson bought an exhaust fan at one of a number of hydroponics stores in Nanaimo.

      He needed the device because aside from teaching at Vancouver Island University, the criminology professor runs a home business with his partner, producing dried dog treats under the brand name Kali Wags.

      “I said to the fellow who ran the store, the proprietor, ‘This is amazing; to whom do you sell?’ ” Anderson recalled for the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “And he said, ‘I would say that 85 percent of our business is to people who use cannabis for medical purposes.’ ”

      Anderson cited this conversation to underscore who will likely be impacted heavily by Canada’s intensified war against marijuana.

      On November 6, amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act imposing mandatory minimum prison sentences for pot offences came into force. For example, possession of at least six cannabis plants is now punishable with six to nine months of imprisonment. If the same offence was committed for trafficking, the maximum penalty is increased to 14 years.

      “Health Canada estimates that there are 400,000 Canadians that are using cannabis for medical purposes, but only 14,000 of them are licensed,” Anderson noted.

      On the same day that the legal changes took effect, voters in Colorado approved a law amendment allowing adults to grow up to six plants.

      Also on the November 6 American election day, Washington-state voters okayed the licensing of recreational-marijuana growing, processing, and retail sales. And on November 20, researchers at UBC and SFU released a report suggesting that if the cannabis industry was regulated in B.C., it could generate $2.5 billion in tax and licensing revenue over five years.

      For Anderson, the new mandatory minimum jail time for pot crimes in Canada is a “retrogressive step”.

      Changes to the drug laws are part of the Safe Streets and Communities Act approved by the Conservative majority in Parliament last spring. The omnibus crime measure consolidated a number of bills that previously didn’t pass.

      One of these was Bill C-15, which contained mandatory minimums for marijuana offences. Quebec MP Justin Trudeau, now the front-runner in the race for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, voted in favour of the measure in 2009. For this, Canada’s self-styled Prince of Pot, Marc Emery, blasted Trudeau as a “fuckin’ hypocrite”, claiming that the two of them smoked pot together in the past.

      However, in a talk with high-school students in Charlottetown on November 13, Trudeau declared that he is a “huge supporter of decriminalization”. Trudeau needs to convince activists like Steve Finlay of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Canada. “I do not have faith yet in Justin Trudeau’s understanding or commitment of it,” Finlay told the Straight by phone.

      Kirk Tousaw is the executive director of the Beyond Prohibition Foundation. “Whether Mr. Trudeau sincerely believes that cannabis should be legalized because he understands the issue or whether he has been led there as a result of public opinion and the shifting tides in the United States, I don’t know,” Tousaw told the Straight in a phone interview. “I’m not sure that it particularly matters to me, because at the end of the day, what people advocate for is legislative change. And if we get there because politicians want to get elected or if we get there because politicians actually embrace a scientific and rational analysis of the harms and failures of cannabis prohibition, I’m just happy if we get there.”


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      Nov 22, 2012 at 4:55am

      Pull our head out of our ass Harper. You and your laws are has beens.

      Saying anything just to get elected

      Nov 22, 2012 at 7:21am

      Let me get this straight. First Trudeau votes for Bill C-15. Next, he's a "huge supporter of decriminalization."

      Perhaps soon we will hear he's a Filipina at heart, just like dear ol' Cristy Clarke.

      This guy has about as much substance a box of frozen waffles.

      Randy MacInnis

      Nov 22, 2012 at 9:06am

      I agree with Kirk Tousaw, however, wouldn't it be nice if Justin and all politicians were honest, first with themselves, then constituents. Silly me, how many times has this issue been supported by past politicians, Trudeau senior comes to mind. For them its all about votes. I love the statement, "why would I want to vote for anyone who considers me a criminal". If all the Politicians who have ever smoked pot and all those that still do had the balls to stand up and speak out, there would be no issue , insted, most are gutless lying hypocrites.


      Nov 22, 2012 at 10:29am

      The next puppet to replace Harper has long been (s) elected, no need to vote and pretend we have a choice. When only people like Justin can get away with using pot it's time to move to Washington.


      Nov 22, 2012 at 10:41am

      This article is about so much more than Justin Trudeau. How about a pic of something relevant to the topic of changing the law so it reflects Canadian society's values?

      Rolland Miller

      Nov 22, 2012 at 2:45pm

      After a recomendation by the Ledain Commission of the 1960's to legalize Marijuana in Canada it is about time this happened.

      Marijuana is the most useful of all plants and is a gift from God.


      Nov 22, 2012 at 8:56pm

      The world, in however small increments, is moving towards legalizing pot. So what's the deal with the contrarian Harper? Is he in thrall to Big Pharma, which stands to lose Big Bucks if maryjane is used to prevent all kinds of afflictions?


      Nov 23, 2012 at 1:11am

      Does Herr Harper want to keep it illegal so organized crime can become ever richer as they continue to control our country? Money IS Power. This Robogater does not seem to even know prohibition has never worked. All his new prisons are for????

      Darren Pearson

      Nov 24, 2012 at 9:26am

      End gang violence with a stroke of the pen...End prohibition!!!


      Nov 24, 2012 at 2:50pm

      re: "Does Herr Harper want to keep it illegal so organized crime can become ever richer as they continue to control our country?"

      Well yeah, of course... street gangs are necessary in a democracy. They motivate citizens into begging for more government control, ultra-violent prisons and higher taxes, which equals bigger pensions and extra helicopter fishing trips for the bureaucratic elite and their soulless bovine spouses.