VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Senate has approved the federal marijuana legalization legislation in a historic vote.
Pot advocate Jodie Emery says the vote may be historic, but for lawyers, civil liberties advocates, and herself, the passing of the Cannabis Act brings a number of concerns to the forefront.
“[The Act] introduces many more criminal laws with relation to cannabis and it doesn’t look at amnesty or pardons for all of the victims of prohibition in the past.”
She says legalization should accomplish three goals: stopping the criminalization of people who use pot, stopping criminalization of the industry, and stopping the waste of law enforcement and tax dollars spent going after people for pot.
“None of those goals are being accomplished. Legalization decriminalizes a small amount of cannabis but it continues to be criminalize the existing industry–thousand of Canadians who just want to be legal. So for me, and many lawyers, we’re looking at the details and saying from federal to provincial to municipal legislation and regulation, there are many more ways to get in trouble for cannabis now than there was before.”
Emery says activists still have their work cut out for them when it comes to fixing what she calls disproportionate and racially biased laws.
“In some cases, penalties that would get you seven years maximum under the former law will now get you 14 years maximum. That equates it to child pornography, terrorism, and assaulting a police officer. That’s not ending criminalization of cannabis,” she says.
“Right now there are many mothers, doctors, and scientists looking at cannabis for children to improve their health and save their lives in many cases. These new laws under C-45 will criminalize providing cannabis to minors if that person has not been able to get medical authorization.”
She uses another example of a group of teenagers passing a joint around. “If someone who’s 19 passes to someone who’s 17, they can face serious consequences.”
Emery calls the new bill punishment under a new name.
“When we look at the historical application of cannabis laws, we know that it’s disproportionately targeting marginalized people, people of colour, Aboriginal youth, the poor.”
She says ideally, legalization would see pot removed from the controlled drugs and substances act, rather than adding on dozens of more infractions listed under the drug act.
Emery also wonders why money is being funneled into new marijuana law enforcement programs when marijuana will no longer be illegal.