Drug War Briefs: Canada and Santa Cruz, CA: Compare and Contrast

September 4 -- The Toronto Starreports: Canada should legalize the use of marijuana by adults, a Senate committee recommended today.

The special committee said the current system of prohibition doesn't work and should be replaced by a regulated system, perhaps like that used for alcohol.

"Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue," said Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, the committee chair.

The committee also recommended amnesty for anyone with a criminal record for possessing pot. An estimated 600,000 Canadians have been convicted of simple cannabis possession. The report follows a two-year study of public policy related to marijuana.

September 5 -- The Ottawa Citizen’s Dan Gardner delivers an analysis of the Senate Committee’s marijuana legalization findings: The report is astonishingly thorough, marvelously researched and -- a rare thing for policy reports -- sharply written. With methodical precision, the report takes the mickey out of one myth after another. The "gateway theory?" Drivel. Marijuana causes violence? Silly. "Amotivational syndrome?" Nonsense. The idea that punitive policies reduce marijuana use while more liberal policies send use soaring? Balderdash.

And on and on and on. No responsible politician or journalist can spout off about marijuana ever again until they read this report.

Of course, in the long, turbulent history of marijuana in the Western world, there have been precious few responsible politicians -- or journalists, to be honest. If we are blessed with such men and women today, the Senate report may be the shot that started the revolution. If not, the report will become just another in the long line of wise studies ignored by the fools who lead us.

September 6 -- Canada’s Daily Courier reports: Decriminalizing marijuana might be a "first step" in reforming drug laws that seem out of date, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said Thursday.

The marijuana law needs to be changed, he said, and decriminalization -- which would let people possess and use small quantities of cannabis without facing a criminal record -- is a logical option.

September 6 -- The San Jose Mercury News reports: Federal drug agents on Thursday raided a nationally known cooperative that grows medicinal marijuana in Santa Cruz County, arresting a married couple that founded the organization a decade ago.

Valerie and Michael Corral were arrested at their home in the hills near Davenport on federal charges of intent to distribute marijuana and conspiracy. But by the end of the day, the couple were released from custody in San Jose after the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to file charges against them.

It was unclear late Thursday whether the couple would ever be charged, a source in the U.S. Attorney's Office said (ed. note: the Feds have 5 years to press charges).

Valerie Corral received national attention for her role in helping to draft California's Proposition 215, the 1996 measure that permits patients and their caregivers to grow their own pot for medicinal purposes. She and her husband have complied fully with the measure, said sheriff's spokesman Kim Allyn.

The collective was conceived by Valerie Corral after she discovered that marijuana helped suppress epileptic seizures stemming from a head injury suffered in a car accident three decades ago.

"To their credit, Valerie and Michael Corral held true and strict to the guidelines," Allyn said.

Thursday's raid was the latest battle in a war pitting local police and sheriff's deputies against federal authorities after the passage of Proposition 215 -- which U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft maintains violates federal drug laws.

September 7 -- The Sacramento Bee reports: California's attorney general on Friday requested a meeting with top U.S. drug officials to discuss "a growing list of provocative and intrusive incidents of harassment" by federal agents against medical marijuana growers.

Raids of locally sanctioned pot operations are being carried out with disdain for local law enforcement, undermining joint efforts "to fight dangerous drugs and the major narco-terrorist organizations that manufacture and distribute them," state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.

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