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Pot Reform Belongs In Parliament

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We've made no secret of our support for federal legislation decriminalizing
possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. In fact, we'd
like to see the government go a step further by legalizing the substance
altogether. But that doesn't mean we oppose yesterday's Supreme Court
ruling that imposing criminal penalties for marijuana possession is
consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Saddling Canadians with criminal records -- not to mention sending some to
jail -- for possessing tiny amounts of pot makes little sense. But there is
nothing about it that is unconstitutional. As federal lawyers argued in
prosecuting three possession cases that found their way to the Supreme
Court, our elected government must be free, within reason, to criminalize
behaviour it deems to be dangerous. When the activity in question is one
considered illegal by almost every other jurisdiction, and has proven
health risks, it is not unreasonable for Ottawa to make it illegal.

Given the mounting judicial activism of recent years, it is refreshing to
see that our top court has avoided overstepping its bounds. Unlike on
same-sex marriage, where the government has been able to outsource its
legislative role to unelected judges, marijuana laws will now be left in
the hands of legislators -- precisely where our most contentious and
controversial public policy issues belong.

Paul Martin, the new Prime Minister, must not use yesterday's ruling as a
pretext for inaction on this file. In no way did the Supreme Court make the
case that the standing law is good public policy; it merely affirmed that
it is within Parliament's jurisdiction rather than its own. While Mr.
Martin is clearly uncomfortable with Jean Chretien's decriminalization
legislation, it would be disingenuous for him to claim he's scrapping or
modifying it at the court's behest.

If Mr. Martin believes he can make a cogent case for killing the pot-reform
proposal left to him by his predecessor, we'd like to hear it. But we hope
instead to see him turn it into law.

Pubdate: Wed, 24 Dec 2003
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2003 Southam Inc.
Contact: letters@nationalpost.com
Website: National Post