The Canadian Press:
Ottawa - The same day that voters in two U.S. states approved the
legalization of marijuana, the Harper government in Ottawa was bringing
into force tough new mandatory penalties for pot.
The states of Washington and Colorado both voted in favour of
ballot-box propositions Tuesday that remove criminal penalties for the
possession and sale of recreational marijuana, while a similar provision
in Oregon was defeated.
Tuesday was also the day that drug measures in the Conservative
government’s omnibus Safe Streets and Communities Act, passed last
spring, came into full force.
Canada’s new law provides a mandatory six-month jail term for growing
as few as six marijuana plants, twice the mandatory minimum for luring a
child to watch pornography or exposing oneself on a playground.
“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,”
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said in a release Tuesday, before U.S.
By day’s end, Colorado had voted to permit adults over 21 to grow up
to six pot plants in private, and Washington had voted to permit
state-licensed growers to sell adult individuals up to an ounce of
marijuana at a time.
Nicholson was not available Wednesday to comment on the American
state votes but his spokeswoman reiterated in an email that “our
government does not support the decriminalization or the legalization of
Contrast that with Geoff Plant, a former British Columbia attorney
general who supports the Stop the Violence BC coalition that is
campaigning for legal changes.
“The take-away for politicians is to realize voters on both sides of
the border are increasingly wanting this change, and that should make
politicians both nervous about what will happen if they don’t listen to
voters and also less nervous about the risk associated with change,”
In Mexico City, Luis Videgaray, the main adviser to Mexico’s
president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, said the Washington and Colorado
votes will force the Mexican government to rethink its efforts on
halting marijuana smuggling across the border.
And Sean McAllister, a former assistant attorney general in Colorado,
told Britain’s Guardian newspaper Wednesday that “I really think this
is the beginning of the end for marijuana prohibition, not only in the
U.S., but in many countries across the world, including the U.K. We
didn’t just legalize it, we created a regulatory system.”
Eugene Oscapella, who teaches drug policy and criminology at the
University of Ottawa, said one of the biggest impacts of Tuesday’s state
legalization votes may be on Canadian perceptions.
He noted 14 states have decriminalized pot, plus two that have now legalized.
“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,” Oscapella said.
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