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Pot advocates say revived plan a drag

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Prime Minister Paul Martin says he'll revive plans to decriminalize
marijuana, but pot advocates say the government's plan is a drag.

Martin said yesterday he'll press ahead with legislation to decriminalize
small amounts of pot, although he'd like a parliamentary committee to lower
what's considered a "small amount" from the proposed 15 grams.

"Any doctor will tell you it's far from the best thing for you," Martin told

Marijuana advocate Marc Emery said the decriminalization plan is
hypocritical. Emery, whose charges for smoking pot in front of Edmonton
police headquarters were stayed earlier this week, said pot growers face 14
years in jail under the proposed legislation.

"It's equivalent to second-degree murder," Emery said from Vancouver. "It
would double the population of Canadian prisons within two years."

The Supreme Court of Canada is set to rule next week on whether the current
marijuana law violates the Charter of Rights by mandating criminal
penalties, including potential jail time, for simple possession. Martin said
making possession of small amounts of marijuana against the law achieves
nothing. He said the decriminalization bill, which was brought in under
Chretien and died on the order paper last month, will be reintroduced when
MPs return to work in the new year. Still, Martin suggested fine-tuning.

"I think that you have to look at the quantities, and I think there has to
be a larger effort against the grow-ops and against those who distribute,"
said Martin.

Emery said charges against him were stayed, along with charges against
thousands of other people who were caught between the end of July 2001 and
Oct. 7, 2003. That marks the time between an Ontario court striking down the
current possession laws and an appeal court then reinstating them.

"Marijuana was, in fact, legal in that period," said Emery.

Edmonton police Det. Darren Derko, who works with the RCMP to catch drug
dealers and growers, said he's pleased the decriminalization bill is being
revived because it toughens penalties for dealers. But he said it's
difficult to see Emery get away with taunting police.

"Of course it's frustrating," Derko said.

Pubdate: Friday, December 19, 2003
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Contact: letters@edm.sunpub.com
Website: Under Construction fyiedmonton.com
Author: Rob Drinkwater