OTTAWA PROMISING NEW POT LAWS
The federal government is poised to reintroduce controversial legislation to
decriminalize marijuana and will accompany it with a bill giving police the
power to force drivers to take a test, when warranted, to prove whether they
are driving while stoned.
Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said he plans to introduce both pieces of
legislation in the next month.
Nor does Cotler have any plans to change the legislation decriminalizing
marijuana first introduced by his predecessor, Martin Cauchon. "It might get
changed in committee but we are basically reintroducing that legislation."
Legislation to decriminalize marijuana is among several changes Cotler says
he plans to make in a bid to overhaul Canada's criminal justice system.
While many of Cotler's initiatives were not spelled out in last week's
throne speech, he said his plans are reflected in the principles outlined in
the speech such as a commitment to human rights and defending the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms.
Cotler took a first step last week, introducing a bill to protect vulnerable
persons from things such as child pornography and a second bill concerning
those with mental disorders. However, that's just the start of what he plans
"If I were to look at our legislative and parliamentary agenda, I think we
probably, proportionately, have as many if not more bills from our
department and that relate to criminal justice than anywhere else in the
While Cotler plans to lessen the penalty for those caught with small amounts
of marijuana, he will also give police more powers to stop and test, when
warranted, those who smoke pot and then drive.
Currently, the law obliges drivers to submit to a breathalyzer test if
police suspect they have been driving under the influence of alcohol, but
there has been no legal obligation for anyone to submit to a test to
determine whether they are under the influence of marijuana, he said.
"Now a technology has been developed which allows for a parallel process
with regard to drug-impaired driving to be investigated and enforced as we
have for alcohol-impaired driving."
Cotler also plans to give police more tools by reintroducing legislation to
expand the existing DNA databank.
The plight of sex-trade workers is also one of Cotlers concerns. "We want to
look at how sex-trade workers can be protected and what legislative
initiatives need to take place in that regard."