Canada Toughens Marijuana Sentences As US States Legalize


The Fresh Scent

Talk about irony, eh? The very same day American voters in two states legalize, the Stephen Harper government in Canada brought into force tough new mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana.
As Washington and Colorado both on Tuesday approved measures loosening their pot laws, drug measures in the Conservative government’s Safe Streets and Communities Act, passed last spring, came into full force in Canada, reports Bruce Cheadle of The Canadian Press.

Canada’s new marijuana law dictates a mandatory six-month jail term for growing as few as six cannabis plants — which is twice the mandatory minimum for luring a child to watch pornography or exposing oneself on a children’s playground.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Canadian Minister of Justice: “Today our message is clear that if you are in the business of producing, importing or exporting of drugs, you’ll now face jail time”

“Today our message is clear that if you are in the business of producing, importing or exporting of drugs, you’ll now face jail time,” crowed Justice Minister Rob Nicholson on Tuesday. By day’s end, Coloradans had voted to allow adults over 21 to grow up to six marijuana plants in private, and Washingtonians had voted to permit state-licensed stores to sell adults up to an ounce of cannabis at the time.
Nicholson wasn’t available for comment on Wednesday, but his spokeswoman said in an email that “our government does not support the decriminalization of the legalization of marijuana.”
“People have begun increasingly to realize the current system, the use of the criminal law, imports terrible, terrible collateral harms — and it doesn’t stop people from using drugs,” said Eugene Oscapella, who teaches drug policy and criminology at the University of Ottawa.
“It’s not a pro-pot measure,” Oscapella said of the American votes. “This is a pro-sensible drug policy measure, looking at minimizing the harms of drugs in our society.”
Canada’s Liberals are the only party in the country with an official policy of supporting legalization. That came after delegates to last January’s party convention voted 77 percent in favor of legalizing, regulating and taxing cannabis for personal use.
“Any public opinion poll I’ve seen shows that Canadians believe there is a profound futility in the current punitive approach of the law, that we’re filling our jails without people who shouldn’t be in there, and that the law does not serve a practical purpose,” said Bob Rae, the interim Liberal Party leader.
Legalization is “a direction the country needs to take and will take over time,” according to Rae, who said the Conservative government is “swimming against the tide.”