Canadians Say 'Legalize It'

This week, the city of Santa Cruz files a lawsuit against John Ashcroft and the DEA for raiding their area's medical marijuana farm; a new Canadian poll shows 83 percent support decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana; a British Columbia couple receive organic certification for their medical marijuana garden; Canadian Prime Minister candidate Sheila Copps supports marijuana legalization; and Health Canada consults officials in the Netherlands about implementing medical marijuana distribution in Canada.

April 25 -- Wyoming's Casper Star Tribune reports: The city and county of Santa Cruz, CA, has sued Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Drug Enforcement Administration, demanding that federal agents stay away from a farm that grows marijuana for sick and dying people.

"This is an opportunity for us to stand behind the people in our community who are the most needy," said Santa Cruz Mayor Emily Reilly. "This is what we do well in Santa Cruz."

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in San Jose, comes in response to a DEA raid last September at a small pot farm located on a quiet coastal road about 15 miles north of town. Agents uprooted about 165 plants and arrested the owners, Valerie and Michael Corral.

April 28 -- The Ottawa Sun reports: Public support to relax Canada's marijuana laws is rising quickly, according to a new national poll that shows a decisive 83 percent want pot prohibition to be less stringent.

Only 14 percent of respondents to a Sun-Leger poll said they supported the status quo and thought marijuana should remain illegal in all circumstances.

"It seems that with just 14 percent now saying it should be illegal, that's really saying people think changes needed to be made soon in some way, shape or form," said Leger Marketing pollster Lesli Martin.

The poll comes just as the feds are preparing legislation which would decriminalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana, making it a summary offence instead of a criminal one.

April 28 -- The Winnipeg Sun reports: Eric Nash and his wife, Wendy Little, grow the healthiest legal pot in Canada.

Nash and Little are the first federally licensed medical marijuana growers in Canada to have their crop officially certified 100 percent organic.

It's a healthy bonus for the thousands of Canadians who could use it to ease suffering from a wide range of conditions, including multiple sclerosis, cancer, arthritis and AIDS, Nash says.

The Certified Organic Associations of B.C., an organization likely more accustomed to monitoring the production of carrots or spinach, granted Nash and Little certified organic status this month.

April 28 -- The Ottawa Sun reports: Add prospective prime minister Sheila Copps to the list of Canadians who would like to see the federal government decriminalize simple possession of marijuana.

With a growing legal clamour for Justice Minister Martin Cauchon to roll out the long-promised and frequently delayed legislation, Copps said she "absolutely" backs a change.

"I support it, but I haven't been on record, so I am now," the Liberal leadership candidate said in an interview.

Leadership candidate Paul Martin is on the record as saying possession of small amounts should not lead to a criminal record.

April 28 -- Canada's Globe and Mail reports: Under pressure from the courts to reform its medical-marijuana policy, Health Canada is considering a Dutch option in which marijuana would be made available to needy patients at the corner pharmacy.

Senior Health Canada officials visited the Netherlands in February to learn more about a new law that allows pharmacies to distribute government marijuana to patients with doctors' prescriptions.

The law, which became effective on March 17, makes the Netherlands the first country to treat marijuana as an ordinary prescription drug.

Health Canada allows approved patients to smoke marijuana to relieve illness symptoms such as pain and nausea. But there is no direct legal supply of the substance, forcing patients to buy it on the street or from growers who cultivate plants obtained from non-legal sources.

In January, Mr. Justice Sidney Lederman of Ontario's Superior Court declared the Marijuana Medicinal Access Regulations unconstitutional.

"Laws which put seriously ill, vulnerable people in a position where they have to deal with the criminal underworld to obtain medicine they have been authorized to take violate the constitutional right to security of the person," Judge Lederman wrote in a 40-page ruling.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.

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