On March 15, 2001, a special committee was struck in the Canadian Senate to examine the following elements of Canadian drug policy (quoting from volume I of the report):

- The approach taken by Canada to cannabis, its preparations, derivatives and similar synthetic preparations, in context;

- The effectiveness of this approach, the means used to implement it and the monitoring of its application;

- The related official policies adopted by other countries;

- Canada's international role and obligations under United Nations agreements and conventions on narcotics, in connection with cannabis, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other related treaties; and

- The social and health impacts of cannabis and the possible consequences of different policies.

This is the report which spurred the current move to decriminalize marijuana, with legislation expected to be passed either late this year or early in 2004. The report, however, went much further, as you'll see. All following quotes are taken from the summary (itself 54 pages long).

The first surprise comes in the glossary, where "abuse" is defined as a "Vague term with a variety of meanings depending on the social, medical and legal contexts." This has been a major point of contention for those who favour relaxed drug laws. According to current definitions, any drug use that isn't medical is considered abuse. No room is allowed for substances that aren't particularly prone to causing addiction (also an ambiguous term), but have no medical use.

Also impressive was the judicial reform proposed concerning marijuana. Not only was legalization heavily endorsed, but decriminalization was criticized as being a poor course of action.

We believe however that this approach is in fact the worst case scenario, depriving the State of a necessary regulatory tool for dealing with the entire production, distribution, and consumption network, and delivering hypocritical messages at the same time.

The report goes on to question one the fundamental assumptions of anti-drug policy: whether or not a drug-free society is in fact a valid objective.

No matter how attractive calls for a drug-free society might be, and even if some people might want others to stop smoking, drinking alcohol, or smoking joints, we all realize that these activities are part of our social reality and the history of humankind.

Also targeted was the hypocrisy of cannabis consumption being a victimless crime (that is, no crime at all):

As far as cannabis is concerned, only behaviour causing demonstrable harm to others should be prohibited: illegal trafficking, selling to minors and impaired driving.

Some of the most damning attacks were aimed at international drug prohibition policies:

We conclude from these observations that the international regime for the control of psychoactive substances, beyond any moral or even racist roots it may initially have had, is first and foremost a system that reflects the geopolitics of North-South relations in the 20th century.

It suggests that "the international classifications of drugs are arbitrary and do not reflect the level of danger they represent to health or to society" and "Canada should inform the international community of the conclusions of our report and officially request the declassification of cannabis and its derivatives."

The report contains enough statements of this nature to make any legalization activist's heart sing. These can only be truly appreciated through a full reading of the report, something I heartily recommend. It is both encouraging and frustrating, since, while it makes a strong case for more progressive legislation, it is essentially repeating what people on the pro-drug side of the debate have been saying for decades.

Source: http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/Committee_SenRep.asp?Language=E&Parl=37&Ses=1&comm_id=85 accessed October 1, 2003.

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