OTTAWA -- The Liberal government, brushing aside objections by some of its
own backbenchers, is moving to speed passage of controversial legislation to
decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. House leader Don Boudria
served notice yesterday he intends to refer the bill for early committee
study, after just three hours of debate in the full Commons.

The official referral will come today. It will put the bill in the hands of
an all-party special committee that is already on record -- in a report
delivered last year -- as favouring decriminalization in principle.

"To refer it back to that committee, to me, is just normal," said Justice
Minister Martin Cauchon. "Because they have the expertise, they're going to
be able to deal with it in the fastest way."

Derek Lee, a Toronto-area MP and key member of the committee, noted it heard
extensive evidence last year before bringing in a report that urged the
government to eliminate jail time for possession of small amounts of pot.

Lee suggested the second round of hearings, on the detailed provisions of
the bill, will be short and sweet.

"We'd want to hear from law enforcement people, there might be a couple of
(other) envelopes where we'd like to hear something. But generally I think
we've heard most of what we want to hear already."

Fellow Liberal Dan McTeague was outraged, calling the government's move to
speed up the legislative process "reckless and irresponsible."

Pubdate: Thu, 09 Oct 2003
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.