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  1. Alfa
    MARTIN VOWS TO MAKE POT LEGAL
    Source: Daily News, The (CN NS)

    OTTAWA -- The federal government is committed to marijuana
    decriminalization and will reintroduce legislation to make it happen,
    Prime Minister Paul Martin said in his first statement on the issue
    since winning re-election.

    The Liberal government will bring back a bill that died with the
    election call and re-table it after Parliament resumes sitting in
    October, he said yesterday following a meeting of his new cabinet.

    "The legislation on marijuana -- the decriminalization of minor
    quantities of marijuana -- that legislation will be
    introduced."

    According to the original bill, anyone caught with 15 grams of pot or
    less would receive a ticket instead of criminal charges. But those
    caught trafficking more than 15 grams would receive harsher penalties.

    Critics say the bill could lead to more cases of intoxicated driving
    and cause traffic snarls at the Canada-U.S. border while American
    customs agents intensify their search for drugs.

    They also bemoan the 15-gram ceiling for non-criminal use, calculating
    that it would become legal for someone to carry more than 30 joints at
    a time.

    Detractors have already successfully lobbied the government to drive
    down the initial maximum amount from 30 grams. Some felt the original
    limit was so high that it practically made drug-dealing legal.

    Yesterday's announcement came on the same day as a study that
    concluded that the number of Canadians who have used marijuana or
    hashish nearly doubled in 13 years.

    In 2002, an estimated 12.2 per cent of Canadians admitted to smoking
    marijuana -- up from 6.5 per cent in 1989, Statistics Canada reported
    yesterday.

    But Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, sworn into cabinet just one day
    earlier, dismissed the suggestion that decriminalization would lead to
    greater use.

    "I'm not so sure whether that argument has any validity. I don't know
    what the correlation is," he said after attending his first federal
    cabinet meeting.

    "My view is that, if you make something illegal, some people are more
    attracted to it =85 If you allow people to possess it in small
    quantities for personal use, the allure kind of disappears for some
    people."

    Martin had also said while campaigning for the June 28 election that
    he planned to reintroduce the marijuana bill.

    YOUR VOICE

    Will the Americans will be happy with our looser drug laws? Call us at
    444-4444, Ext. 5646, or e-mail sbornais@hfxnews.ca. Be brief. Results
    will be in Sunday's paper.

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