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SOC323H5 (22)
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Department
Sociology
Course
SOC323H5
Professor
Nicole Myers
Semester
Summer

Description
Regulation vs. Criminalization- The Case of Drug Control Cannabis law reform in Canada: Is the „sage of promise, hesitation and retreat‟ coming to an end?  As of now, cannabis (plant used to make weed) is prohibited in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), heavily debated subject as to whether or not it should be a criminal drug or not.  There have been legitimate claims arguing that cannabis law violates constitutional rights. 1920-1960: solution without a problem  Drug prohibition started because of the Opium Act of 1908 which focuses on the criminalization of opium and its Chinese users and suppliers. Canada banned opium in order to regulate social control rather than focusing on drug use.  “solution without a problem” because there is no evidence that there are any problems with cannabis usage. Researchers till now could not give a explanation of why cannabis usage was added to the Opium and Drug Act.  The only reason was because it got so popular, government was afraid it would turn out like opium (problems with importers) so they created a new act, Marijuana Tax Act, making marijuana federally prohibited across the US.  Then articles were written explaining how after taking cannabis, people turned mental and have side effects. Known as “reefer madness”  Cannabis use was still largely neglected in Canada, only focused in the US 1960-1980: Controversy, “promise, hesitation and retreat”  Cannabis use was added in the Narcotic Control Act in 1961, 7 years of prison for simple possession and life sentence for having a supply of them. That‟s when conflict started to happen. People didn‟t care, the continued to consume it visibly. Courts took on repressive and punitive approach  “addiction science” was a new wave experiments done to explore the harms of cannabis and how it will produce personality, mental harm and lead to crimes and other drug use. This fuelled a renewed “reefer madness” which depended on science. Focused in Canada  More people were arrested for cannabis offences. Most users were white, well educated and came from wealthy backgrounds, usually under 25 years old  Most people appealed their convictions but the sanctions only got worse. “intended to demand jail terms for first offenders”  This new act created social and political tensions for government The Le Dain Commission  Le Dain Commission is a study of different aspects of drug use, treatment and control in order to make recommendations regarding policy reform. It concluded that the prohibition was too excessive, ineffective and costly.  The government promised to reform the act but it never came into action. The closest Canada got to decriminalizing cannabis was through Bill S-19 which proposed to limit penalties to a fine of $100 (no imprisonment) and eliminate criminal records. It was approved by the senate but didn‟t go through the House of Commons  The mass of “cannabis criminals” still continued to exist, Le Dain Commission was not too effective. However, sentencing patterns were a bit more lenient as well as when police lay charges. 1980-1990: reinforcing the status quo of criminalization  Rising of neo-conservatism, made prospects of cannabis decriminalization in Canada vanish for good. But people did not stop using it, still a lot of arrests for possession  Then Narcotic Control Act was revised. First draft stated that max penalties for first offence of simple possession was $2,000 or 12 months in prison. Again, it was argued that it is too punitive. Then it was lowered to $1,000 or 6 months and offenders are not subjected to fingerprinting. This was viewed as a “revised and more current understanding of how Canadians want to deal with cannabis”  Still a lot of people arrested for possession of cannabis 21 century: old suggestions but new forces for reform  Focused on economics costs, diseases and mortality of injection drug use. Debate of cannabis use faded but use of it increased for medical purposes.  700,000 Canadians charged with cannabis possession Pressure from the courts  Pressures for cannabis law reform upraised when no precedents existed. High profile cases like R v. Parker used cannabis for illness, they claimed violation of their rights to life, liberty and security, s.7.  Other young men who use it for recreation argued that it violated their right to privacy and freedom of choice. Public opinion  Public is also supportive with the cannabis reform. Strong number of Canadians oppose use of jail sentence for cannabis use and favour limited fine Recent federal inquiries on drug policy  Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drug as created in 2001 and argued that cannabis itself present little danger to users and society, instead the costly criminalization leads to harmful conseque
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