Marijuana Decriminalization Advances in Canada

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http://www.freep.com/news/metro/can28_20030528.htm

The Canadian government proposed yesterday to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana but to set stricter penalties for those apprehended for trafficking the drug, reports the Detroit Free Press. Under the bill, anyone caught with up to 15 grams — enough for 15 to 30 joints — would only be fined. Penalties would be reduced for people growing up to 25 marijuana plants.

“We have to ask ourselves as a society: Does it make sense that a person who makes a bad choice can receive the lasting burden of a criminal conviction?” said Justice Minister Martin Cauchon. He said police would have more resources to go after large growers. Under the bill, the maximum sentence for illegal growers would increase from 7 to 14 years in prison. Trafficking would remain punishable by up to life in prison.

The bill also would include about $150 million for an education, research and treatment program aimed at persuading young people to not use drugs.

Pressure within Canada to change marijuana laws has been building because of the drug’s common use, a string of lower court rulings and a constitutional challenge in the nation’s Supreme Court to legalize the drug.

U.S. antidrug czar John Walters has said the United States would be forced to increase border searches if Canada decriminalizes marijuana. U.S. officials said legalizing the drug would increase supplies and trafficking.

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