Two men arrested Friday at Saint John's Cannabis Cafe and charged with
simple possession of marijuana were released to appear in court on June 25
to enter pleas.

A proposed change to Canada's drug laws, expected to be introduced in
Parliament later this week, may stop similar charges in the future but it is
not a step in the right direction, said Lynn Wood, who owns the cafe with
her husband Jim.

"It will give the police more power to go after growers and dealers," she
said Monday.

Last week three newspapers in Ontario quoted unnamed sources in Ottawa as
saying that a revision of the Criminal Code laws on marijuana would be
introduced in Parliament by the end of this week.

The proposed law would fine those found with less than 15 grams under the
federal Contraventions Act, meaning there would be no criminal record.

Currently anyone found with 30 grams or less can be charged with simple
possession of the drug, while anyone with more can be prosecuted for
possession with intent to sell.

It is believed officials decided on a 15-gram limit because the drug has
become stronger in recent years.

=46ifteen grams of cannabis is equivalent to about 20 cigarettes, depending
upon how they are rolled.

Young people who go to a dealer to buy drugs are being exposed to more
serious drugs, which Ms. Wood believes are harmful.

"We don't want anyone doing hard drugs, but marijuana is a safe choice," she
said.

"It is a lifestyle choice and sometimes a health choice."

She and others are fighting for complete decriminalization of marijuana so
that its sale could be regulated like alcohol and tobacco.

The Saint John cafe allows anyone who buys a beverage to sit in one of two
rooms and smoke any marijuana they bring with them.

Signs on the wall say "absolutely no dealing or trafficking."

One of the men charged on Friday uses the drug medicinally, Ms. Wood said.

Before he started using he had been told by a doctor that he would never
walk again.

He doesn't have a medical exemption from the federal government because he
believes it invades his privacy too much.

"With the medical exemption you are basically giving up your right to
privacy because police are allowed to come in and inspect your home for
marijuana," said Ms. Wood.

She admits that smoking anything could be harmful to the lungs but said
there are many scientific studies that show some health benefits for
marijuana.

Last week the Supreme Court of Canada began hearing a three-part challenge
to the constitutionality of Canada's marijuana laws.

Ms. Wood believes the Liberals are introducing a new drug law because they
expect the court to find that the existing laws on possession, cultivation
and trafficking violate the Charter of Rights.

The legal debate centres around the concept of harm and the discrepancy
between the minimal harm caused by the sale and use of marijuana compared to
the severe penalties contained in the Criminal Code.


Pubdate: Tue, 13 May 2003
Source: Saint John Telegraph-Journal (CN NK)
Copyright: 2003 Brunswick News Inc.
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