DRUG WAR BRIEFS: Our Neighbors Up North

December 10- The Toronto Star reports: The federal government may introduce legislation early in the new year to decriminalize the use of marijuana, says Justice Minister Martin Cauchon.

"If we're talking about that question of decriminalizing marijuana, we may move ahead quickly as a government," he said today outside the House of Commons.

"I don't like to give you a date or a time frame, but let's say the beginning of next year, the four first months of next year."

Cauchon said the long-awaited bill would depend partly on the views of a special Commons committee that studied the use of non-medical drugs.

The committee released the first of two reports Monday, recommending that heroin addicts in major cities should have safe-injection sites and needle-exchange programs. It also said two prisons should be converted into treatment centres for inmates.

A second report is due Thursday. That report is expected to recommend that growing pot for personal use should not be a crime.

Sources familiar with the work of the committee said the move to decriminalize marijuana would still make the possession of pot illegal, but the punishment would be a fine rather than a criminal record.

"If you're going to decriminalize marijuana where is a person supposed to get it?" said one well-placed source, who confirmed that the committee is in favour of letting Canadians grow their own pot.

December 11- The San Jose Mercury News reports: Valerie and Michael Corral, the founders of a medicinal marijuana farm that was busted in early September, are now Deputy Valerie Corral and Deputy Michael Corral by order of the Santa Cruz City Council.

Taking another pot shot at the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the council voted 7-0 Tuesday to give the Corrals the "authority to cultivate, distribute and possess medical marijuana."

The Corrals' attorney, Ben Rice, maintains that the "deputy" status allows the Corrals to carry a controlled substance because they are enforcing local drug laws -- in this case, the city of Santa Cruz's ordinance regulating the way medicinal marijuana can be distributed.

But the DEA indicated it wasn't amused by the Corrals' new "deputy" status.

"No one in the United States is allowed to distribute illegal drugs -- period," Richard Meyer, a DEA spokesman, said after the council's vote.

(ed. note; The U.S. government distributes a monthly tin of 300 marijuana joints to each of 7 adult patients, grandfathered into the now defunct Compassionate Investigative New Drug program, ended by the Bush I administration. The marijuana is grown at the University of Mississippi.)

Valerie Corral said Santa Cruz is the third city in California to deputize medicinal marijuana providers. One person has been deputized in Oakland and two in San Francisco, she said.

December 12- Canadas CBC News reports: A Canadian proposal to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana is causing concern in the United States.

U.S. Drug Control Policy Director John Walters warned that relaxed marijuana laws will wind up harming Canadians.

"When you weaken the societal sanctions against drug use," he said, "you get more drug use. Why? Because drugs are a dangerous addictive substance."

Robert Maginnis, (ed. note; of the religious conservative Family Research Council, and) a drug policy adviser to the Bush administration, warned that the U.S. would not look on any changes kindly.

"It creates some law enforcement problems and I think it creates some trade problems and some perception problems, especially in the U.S., with regard to whether Canada is engaged in fighting drug use rather than contributing to drug use," he said.

Maginnis said decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana would encourage more illegal trade in the drug and he warned that the U.S. would likely retaliate.

"We're going to have to clamp down even stronger on our border if you liberalize and contribute to what we consider a drug tourism problem," he said.

"I don't want to get to the point where we're calling for a boycott of Canadian products."

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson at kcnelson@premier1.net.

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