A court decision in Windsor last week has potheads dreaming they can light up a fatty on the street hassle-free. Think again. The smoke signals coming out of Ottawa suggest the weed won't be freed any time soon. And if Paul Martin becomes PM, maybe never.
High hopes A provincial court judge in Windsor recently ruled that Canada's pot possession laws are invalid.
Why we shouldn't inhale yet The decision was based on a narrow point of law that will almost certainly be overturned on appeal. Back to square one.
What Justice Minister Martin Cauchon says publicly He wants to move quickly on decriminalization.
What's really happening Government lawyers are appealing pro-pot decisions with a Reefer Madness vengeance.
Secret stash Former health minister Allan Rock heads the social union subcommittee of cabinet that will make final recommendations.
Substantial cash from U.S.-based philanthropic organizations to lawyers is helping to fund appeals in court.
Bringing us down, man Health Minister Anne McClellan, for all her government's talk about decriminalization, has blocked access to medical marijuana. She has the authority under Section 56 of the Controlled Substances Act to declare pot legal with a snap of her fingers, but alas, her department has shamefully slowed the granting of pot exemptions to sick people (from 477 in 2001 to 159 last year).
What potheads have going for them Momentum, public opinion, all-party consensus, reports from the Senate and Parliament endorsing decriminalization.
What potheads have working against them
John Manley, the man the War on Drugs-obsessed U.S. would most like to see replace ol' Jean.
Time -- Parliament may be dissolved and an election called before legislation can be drafted and passed.
Wild card What the Supreme Court of Canada will be smoking when it hears an appeal in the spring challenging the feds' pot regs.
Why the feds can't be trusted Two years ago a court ordered the government to change the law, but the weak-kneed caucus opted to change regulations instead so it wouldn't have to bring the issue before Parliament.
Why the Canadian Police Association says it opposes decriminalization They need to be able to bust the street-level user to catch the big fish.
Why it's a lie It's pot possession charges that have seen the biggest increase since 97 (from 14,531 in 97 to 19,991 in 2001), not trafficking (which has gone from 5,641 in 97 to 8,435 in 2001). More youths are also being charged with possession (from 3,064 in 97 to 5,407 in 2001).
Why legalization is a better solution The gun violence related to the drug trade that the cops keep squawking about would be eliminated.
The real bummer PM-in-waiting Paul Martin has remained mum on the issue except to say he's tried hash brownies and that they, um, had no effect.
what the insiders say
"So many people are fed up with the law that the feds know there is going to be a moratorium on prosecutions if they don't act quickly. All they're doing right now is buying as much time as they can. They haven't quite figured out how to placate the Americans. The justice minister mentioned (introducing legislation) last summer. Where is the fuckin' bill?"
Pro-pot lawyer Alan Young
"There are probably enough voices in the House of Commons to move a simple decriminalizing forward. But it's not as far as we should be going. We shouldn't even have to worry about cannabis when there are people dying in the streets from drug overdoses from impure heroin and getting HIV infection from injecting cocaine. It's causing carnage throughout society. And we spend all our time dithering with cannabis."
Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy founding member Eugene Oscapella
"As far as we're concerned it's a myth that police resources are being wasted busting people for pot. There's roughly one criminal charge laid per police officer for simple possession of cannabis in Canada every year (about 58,000 in all). The police are not on the street looking to lay charges against guys smoking a joint."
Canadian Police Association spokesperson Sophie Roux
"The minister has expressed his desire to do it quickly, but there is still a parliamentary process we have to respect. Really it's a question of whether the cabinet is ready to agree. Then it gets into politics. It's out of the department's hands."
Justice Ministry spokesperson Patrick Charette
"Those in power are all afraid to come to the obvious conclusion that we should just legalize. When water will kill ya, how bad can pot be? We're all just dancing around to this tune, waiting for someone in power to say, "The hell with it. We should just legalize.' What Parliament is proposing won't end the discussion. Is it going to make sense to allow people to carry 30 grams punishment-free, yet someone who sells this harmless stuff can get seven years?"
Long-time pro-pot advocate and entrepreneur Marc Emery