Canada: Leading Liberal MP has introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession

Canada: The Conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has introduced a crime and drugs package it had hoped to quickly push through Parliament, but with opposition, the Liberals stalling and the New Democratic Party (NDP) opposing, passage is starting to look much less certain. Meanwhile, a leading Liberal MP has introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession. 

Canada: Leading Liberal MP has introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession.

The pair of government bills, C-14 and C-15, would impose mandatory minimum sentences on some violent and gang crimes and on some drug crimes, respectively. The latter would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of one year for someone possessing as little as one marijuana plant, if that plant were to be determined to be destined for distribution. Last Friday, NDP Vancouver East MP Libby Davies lambasted C-15 during a lengthy parliamentary speech, and on Wednesday, Liberal Health Promotion critic Dr. Keith Martin, MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, BC, announced he would introduce a bill for the decriminalization of marijuana this week. 

"The 'war on drugs' approach, characterized by zero tolerance, has been a complete failure," said Martin. "It has not reduced the rate of violent crime or drug use, nor has it saved money or lives. To realize meaningful change on our city streets, we must decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot. This will cause drug abuse to be addressed in the public health system, rather than through the courts. It will sever the connection between organized crime and drug users. This bill is bad news for criminal gangs because it would collapse the demand for drug product," Martin argued. The mandatory minimum bills are now before the House of Commons Justice and Human Rights Committee. No hearings or vote have yet been scheduled.

Canada: Vancouver takes on Prince of Pot. 

A legal battle with city hall could see B.C.'s 'Prince of Pot' getting smoked out of his Downtown Vancouver headquarters. Marc Emery faces drug charges in the U.S.  that could land him behind bars.  But it's a simple dispute over a city business licence that threatens to hit the outspoken marijuana advocate where it hurts - in his pocketbook.

Emery says the city has refused to issue him a licence for the businesses he runs on the 300-block of West Hastings Street.  Emery claims the city won't issue him a business licence because of his 2004 arrest and conviction in Saskatchewan for trafficking - he says a witness saw him passing a joint at a rally. "It's interesting they're being such tight-asses about that one conviction.  We've been here since 2001.  

We've never required a business licence up until now," said Emery, who suspects the apparent newfound interest in his vocation can be traced to next year's 2010 Games. "It's just harassment," Emery said.  "They just don't want me around for the Olympics." At a business licence hearing next week, Emery plans to argue he has done everything demanded of him to get a licence, including thousands of dollars in renovations. The city's chief licence inspector, Barb Windsor, told 24 hours she couldn't comment on the issue since the matter is now before council.

USA/Medical Marijuana: Minnesota Bill Wins Committee Vote, Heads for Senate Floor. 

The Minnesota medical marijuana bill, SF 97, cleared its fourth and final Senate committee hurdle Thursday, winning approval of the Senate Finance Committee on a 9-3 vote. It is now headed for a Senate floor vote. "I am delighted that this compassionate, sensible bill is now on its way to the Senate floor," said bill sponsor Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing). 

"With Michigan's medical marijuana law taking full effect this weekend, I am increasingly optimistic that Minnesota will soon become the 14th state to get politics out of the doctor-patient relationship and protect medical marijuana patients from arrest."

USA/Medical Marijuana: Connecticut Decriminalization Bill Wins Committee Vote.

A bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession in Connecticut leapt its first hurdle Tuesday night, passing 24-14 in the legislature's Joint Judiciary Committee after a hearing last week. The bill, SB 349, passed after being amended to not apply to minors and by reducing the amount of pot in question. 

Gov. Rell showed great cruelty to patients with her veto of Connecticut's medical marijuana bill, so it's not surprising she wants to continue persecuting non-medical users too. As originally filed, the bill would have made possession of less than an ounce an infraction punishable only with a fine, while possession of between an ounce and a quarter pound would be a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and one year in jail. But in debate Tuesday, sponsors accepted both the amendment regarding minors and one reducing the decrim amount to one half ounce. 

The Connecticut committee vote comes just months after neighboring Massachusetts became the latest state to decriminalize. The effort is being pursued vigorously by some Democratic legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven), who is one of the bill's sponsors. Looney and others argued that the state could save $11 million a year in policing, judicial, and probation costs by issuing tickets for offenders instead of requiring arrests and court hearings. 

The bill must still win floor votes in both houses of the General Assembly, and even then, it faces the likelihood of a veto by Gov. Jodi Rell (R), who has never met a marijuana reform bill she liked. Two years ago, she vetoed medical marijuana legislation that had passed both houses. Tuesday night, one of her spokesmen suggested strongly she would veto this one if it made it to her desk. "Whether it's little or a lot, it is an illegal substance, and the governor does not support the bill,'' said Christopher Cooper, said after the vote.

USA/Medical Marijuana: Oakland Cannabis Community Offers City Help on Taxes. 

Three Oakland city council members want to raise taxes on medical marijuana revenues, and, as is rarely the case, the objects of that potential tax are fine with that. The proposed business tax rate on medical marijuana sales would double, from $12 to $24 per each $1,000 in gross revenues, according to a report from 

The move is being championed by council members Rebecca Kaplan, Nancy Nadel, and Jean Quan. The trio reported in an agenda report dated for next week that the tax increase could bring in somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000 a year in additional revenues for the city. That suggests medical marijuana sales in the city are running somewhere between $16 million and $32 million a year. Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University, owner of the Bulldog Cafe and SR-71 dispensary, and primary champion of Oaksterdam, the notion of revitalizing a hunk of downtown Oakland through the marijuana industry, said he had been working with council members on the proposal and that the industry was behind it. 

"We believe we should be paying more taxes, and we want to help the city more in its economic crisis," Lee said. Lee also suggested that taxes should not be borne solely by dispensaries, but also by suppliers and nurseries. That would help further legitimate the industry, he said.

Science: Marijuana Therapy May Shrink Tumours.

The active ingredient in marijuana appears to reduce tumour  growth, according to a Spanish study published on Wednesday. The researchers showed giving THC to mice with cancer decreased 
tumour growth and killed cells off in a process called autophagy. 

"Our findings support that safe, therapeutically efficacious doses of  THC may be reached in cancer patients," Complutense University in  Madrid reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The Greenish Warbler

April 6th 2009

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