An Incisive Report on the Status of Cannabis Sativa L in Canada
by Peter John Curran
Past President and Policy Chairman of the
Liberal Constituency Association.
Provincial Liberal Candidate for the
Constituency of Atlin (B.C.)
1975 Provincial Election in British Columbia.
Notes on the original document
Notes on this HTML version
I would like to discuss with the Honourable Members of both The Senate and the Government a situation that has become immediate and real to people across Canada today and increasingly so for the past few years. What I would like to talk about is Marijuana. The same marijuana that Dr. J.R. Reynolds, Queen Victoria's personal physician, used to prescribe for menstrual cramps back in the 1800's . The same Cannabis Sativa that George Washington grew on May 12-13th in the year 1765 and harvested on August 7th in that same year . The entries from George Washington's Diary show that he personally planted and harvested hemp. As it is known that the potency of the female plant decreases after they have been fertilized by the males, the fact that he regrets having separated the males from the females too late (after fertilization) clearly indicates that he was cultivating the plant for medicinal purposes as well as for its fibre. The same Cannabis Sativa that Robert Randall is smoking daily by virtue of United States Government court ordered prescription to keep him from going blind . The same "Weed Of Woe" that a certain Member of our Government would have us believe will send hundreds of thousands of young, healthy, happy Canadians down some dark and dreary path to insanity, ill health and crime . Yes, Honourable Members, I want to talk about the marijuana that proved itself to be an effective antiemetic for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy . The same substance that has shown promise in the therapeutic bronchodilation of asthmatic sufferers . And, believe it or not, the same Cannabis that researchers Harris, Munson, and Carchman found could effectively retard the growth of two kinds of cancer cells in mice . The same marijuana that has an ancient history of medicinal use which has persisted in the folk medicine of countries throughout the world .
My "expertise" on the subject matter of marijuana is brought about, in part by the fact that I have been smoking and enjoying the effects of marijuana for some three years now. I began this social practice in Hyder, Alaska just a couple of miles from my home in Stewart, B.C. where the private possession and use of marijuana was totally decriminalized by a decision of the Alaska Supreme Court in 1975 .
If the question were only whether people who want to smoke marijuana should be permitted to indulge their desires, I would not have researched and prepared this document to argue the case on their behalf and mine. I would merely have continued to ignore the consequences of smoking marijuana with my friends and associates from all social levels. Yes, even elected and non-elected members of Governments from Municipal to Federal levels encompassing all political parties. However, the matter cuts far deeper than that, for the laws as they presently relate to marijuana have played an important role in creating the crises of confidence in our legal institutions which confront us today. It is this aspect of the marijuana laws that should be of special concern to Mr. Basford, quite removed from any debate about the medical or moral justification of the laws. Also, the laws in Canada as they relate to marijuana have clearly been the loser not to mention the taxpayer who has doled out hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to enforce a law that simply does not warrant that kind of expense and attention.
Most politicians rely quite heavily on the criminal law and like to invoke criminal sanctions in connection with most social problems, if only to indicate their own moral fervor and political virtue. They take very little interest in the consequences of the invocation. All too often we forget that the criminal law is a crude tool for dealing with social problems. The criminal law and the use of the same to achieve ends for which it is not appropriate is--to borrow a phrase from H. G. Wells, "...like a magnificent but painful hippopotamus. resolved at any cost upon picking up a pea that is hidden somewhere in the jungle. The hippopotamus may conceivably succeed in its quest; more likely, it will fail. What is certain is that in the attempt it will knock down many innocent victims and will give up much of its dignity."
Proposals now being planned for the reform of marijuana laws in Canada must be presenting an especially acute dilemma for the Legislator. It has been shown that a large segment of the Canadian population and elected officials still cling to beliefs about marijuana that have been discredited with virtual unanimity by responsible studies. In order to retain his or her seat in Government, the Legislator will experience a strong pressure to cast his vote in accordance with those erroneous beliefs. If he is to do otherwise he must be convinced-and he must convince his constituents-that the issue is not simply whether marijuana is good or bad but rather what happens when our Canadian Government attempts to enforce a ban on its use and distribution.
When a problem starts to place a strain on our society, the Government "typically" responds by appointing a commission to study the matter. So it was with Marijuana and the Canadian Government appointed a prestigious group to head what was to be called Cannabis--A Report Of The Commission of Inquiry Into The Non-Medical Use Of Drugs . This exhaustive study made many positive contributions to the national debate on Marijuana and sent politicians scrambling off in search of a suitable hole in which to place their heads and where they seem to have remained ever since. Yet the Report, now a number of years old, continues to gather dust while the marijuana issue has reached a national disaster level. I would even go so far as to question the number of Senators and Government Members who have actually read the Report in its entirety. In any event, I would like to point out that I did read the Le Dain Study prior to my smoking marijuana and came to question the logic and reasoning behind the illegality of marijuana in Canada. Today, it appears that logic and reason have had limited influence in the matter.
On page 230 of the Report, I read about a Mrs. Emily Murphy and how it was considered that her articles, published around 1920-1922, first formed the basis of misconceptions of the reality of cannabis use to a then naive Canada and an equally naive and easily taken in Government in Ottawa.
Delving further into this hitherto unknown bit of information regarding Mrs. Murphy, I came across the following biographical sketch of Mrs. Murphy by Mssrs. Brian Anthony and Robert Soloman, LL.B. LL.M. , University of Western Ontario, who had been researchers for the Le Dain Inquiry.
... Emily Ferguson was born in 1868 near Cookstown, Ontario, to a politically prominent Orange Irish family of comfortable means. Following her graduation from Bishop Strachan School, she married Arthur Murphy, a minister, and later bore three daughters. Among her forebears were two members of Parliament, A Senator, Two Supreme Court Judges, and the founder of the Orange Order in Canada. Three of her brothers became lawyers, and one was eventually appointed to the bench. An aggressive and strong-willed person, she was able to overcome the social strictures applied to women of her time, and pursued an outstanding public career.
"She began her public life as a writer, and under the pseudonym 'Janey Canuck,' authored several widely read books and many newspaper and magazine articles. She also became deeply involved in a wide variety of women's groups ranging from church-affiliated organizations to the suffragist movement. A champion and spokeswoman for these social causes she emerged a nationally prominent figure. As such her support was sought to obtain equal access for women to public trials. Emily Murphy subsequently led the fight for the creation of a court in which women could be tried by a woman judge in the presence of other women. Surprisingly, her suggestion was accepted and in 1916 she was appointed a Police Magistrate for Edmonton and thus became the first woman judge in the British Empire.
"Unlike other judges she became deeply involved with those who appeared before her, and she travelled to jails and asylums to maintain contact with them. Judge Murphy offered them real assistance, often through the women's organizations to which she still devoted much effort. However, she felt that her efforts with drug users were to no avail and privately undertook a comprehensive study of the drug phenomenon. She interviewed drug users, wrote over 2,000 questionnaires to police officials in North America, conducted extensive literature searches, and established a good working relationship with Canadian narcotic enforcement officials.
"In response to proposed legislative changes, Maclean's Magazine decided to publish a series on the illicit drug trade in Canada: they could not have chosen a more prestigious or well-read author than Emily Murphy. However, her research was irrevocably tainted by her strict personal morality and was specifically written in a biased, sensationalist fashion to arouse an apathetic Canadian populace. The five monthly articles, which form Part One of The Black Candle were published at a critical point in legislative history of Canada's drug laws.
"Non-medical opiate use was first introduced to Canada by the Chinese laborers who were brought to the west coast to work on the railroads in the last quarter of the 19th century. Until 1908, there were no legal restrictions placed on opium, except import duty. Public concern over opium smoking was minimal until a labour surplus on the west coast caused job competition between Chinese and whites. The previously friendly attitude to the Chinese changed to hostility and great pressure was applied to the federal government to prohibit future Chinese immigration.
"Hostility increased culminating in anti-Asiatic rioting in Vancouver in 1907. The federal government appointed Mackenzie King, then Deputy Minister of Labour, to investigate and settle the property losses suffered by the Chinese. Upon discovering the substantial claims of two Chinese opium merchants, King undertook a private study of the opium trade and in his capacity as a private citizen, submitted his findings to the federal government. His report entitled, The Need for the Suppression of the Opium Trade in Canada, was largely based on newspapers stories depicting the ruin of the white women and girls, and other moral calamities "caused" by opium use.
"In response to King's report, Parliament passed the Opium Act of 1908, which prohibited the import, manufacture and sale of opiates for non-medical purposes. Difficulties in enforcing the act and the development of illicit smuggling networks prompted the establishment of a royal commission on Chinese opium smuggling. Based on the commission's study, Parliament enacted the Opium and Drug Act of 1911. The new act required legal drug distributors to keep records of their transactions, made opium smoking and possession of prohibited drugs an offence, expanded the list of prohibited drugs and broadened the police powers of search. However, the defeat of the Liberal Party and Mackenzie King in the 1911 federal election, World War 1, and the lack of a federal police force limited the impact of the new act.
"Although there was little internal impetus for change between 1911 and 1920, significant international developments occurred which partially shaped Canada's drug laws in the 1920's. The 1912 Hague International Opium Convention called for stricter regulation of the opium trade, including the establishment of an international import-export licensing system. In 1914 the American government enacted a comprehensive federal drug law, which served as a model for sections of subsequent Canadian acts. Four years later, the United States filed a complaint that opium legally imported into Canada was illegally diverted to the American black market. Early in 1920 Parliament announced its intention to amend the Opium and Drug Act.
"At about the same time, Maclean's Magazine published the first of Mrs. Murphy's articles on the illicit drug traffic in Canada. The stated purpose of the series was to arouse public opinion and pressure the government for stricter drug laws. Mrs. Murphy's ability to blend statistics, anecdotes, popular racial bias, fables and sensationalism gave her writings wide public appeal. The public's profound ignorance of drug use and the lack of objective information enhanced her apparent expertise. Newspapers across Canada seized on the drug issue and publicized her views.
"Her writings were extremely influential in shaping Canadian drug laws which underwent significant changes throughout the 1920's. Her recommendations for closer supervision of pharmaceutical companies, doctors and druggists, and for increased law enforcement were put into effect. The creation of special search warrants, the writs of assistance, may be partially attributable to her persistent call for stricter search and seizure provisions. Seven years after she first warned the Canadian public about "Marijuana" it was added to the list of prohibited drugs. Perhaps the greatest legislative impact of her work was on the penalty provisions of the law. She advocated the convicted offender be subject to longer prison sentences, whipping at the judge's discretion, and deportation if he was an alien. However, her recommendations to establish treatment facilities for drug offenders were ignored. Most of her other suggestions were incorporated in the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act of 1929, which remained largely unchanged until 1961. Despite recent revisions, many of Mrs. Murphy's original proposals are still reflected in our present narcotics legislation.
"Of equal importance was Mrs. Murphy's impact of the public's perception of drug use and users. She created a series of women-seducing villains, primarily non-white and non-Christian, who threatened the Anglo-Saxon way of life. Driven to insanity and crime by hopeless addiction, these cunning 'dregs of humanity' more than deserved the harshest penalties. All prohibited drugs were addictive poisons which destroyed the body and the inhibitions of a good Christian upbringing. Although her more outrageous claims have been dismissed, many of her erroneous assumptions are still accepted by segments of the Canadian public."
To this, I might add, there are a number of Honourable Members that due to imagined political expediency, or ignorance, still espouse this same type of false, misleading and dangerous propaganda.
I would not want to subject the Honourable Members to the entire length of The Black Candle, but here is a portion of Chapter XXIII, entitled, "Marijuana--A New Menace." Mrs. Murphy is quoting Charles A. Jones, the Chief of Police for the City of Los Angeles, "Persons using this narcotic (marijuana), smoke the dried leaves of the plant, which has the effect of driving them completely insane. The addict loses all sense of moral responsibility. Addicts to this drug, while under its influence, are immune to pain, and could be severely injured without having any realization of their condition. While in this condition they become raving maniacs and are liable to kill or indulge in any form of violence to other persons, using the most savage methods of cruelty without, as said before, any sense of moral responsibility.
"When coming from under the influence of this narcotic, these victims present the most horrible condition imaginable. They are dis-possessed of their natural and normal will power, and their mentality is that of idiots. If this drug is indulged in to any great extent, it ends in the untimely death of its addict."
Mrs. Murphy continues her vitriolic attack by quoting other inveracities to titillate and terrify her Canadian readers: From "The Journal of Mental Sciences", January, 1903," she quotes a Dr. Warnok as saying that acute mania from hasheesh varies from a "mild attack of excitement to a prolonged attack of furious mania, ending in exhaustion or even death."
One must assume that Mrs. Murphy, being a fine, upstanding, honourable and conscientious member of the judiciary, must have been terribly misguided by the information she had received from the, "over 2,000 questionnaires to police officials in North America," that was mentioned earlier. Certainly she had been misled by the drug users she had interviewed, for in retrospect we are aware of many cases in which the accused would try to establish that another substance was at work on his normally law-abiding mind as he committed some dastardly deed .
However, it becomes increasingly more difficult to exculpate those persons of prominence that perpetuate the myths and fallacies that have served to define the realities of marijuana use to a naive legislative body. I refer primarily to those who continue to try to give respectability to and substantiate the old "stepping-stone to heroin" theory, and the "irreversible brain damage" story, and most irritating are those who insist on spreading the lies about the "great dangers of moral degradation," those using scare words and phrases, such as "out to destroy yourself," "nation of zombies" and "crippling effects," when describing marijuana use and users.
I digress. Please, Honourable Members, permit me to take you on a search for enlightenment in The House of Commons, Debates, 1923, according to Hansard. Surely, here we will find those astute gentlemen of yesteryear questioning all sorts of testimony and briefs before they dare to change the nation's laws. Here, we should surely get to the logic behind the inclusion of Cannabis Sativa L., or Cannabis Indica, as they called it then. Yes, here it is, on page 1136, 14th of March, 1923, under the title, "Narcotic Drugs Act Amendment Bill:"
"Hon. H.S. Beland (Minister of Health) moved for leave to introduce Bill No. 72 to amend the Narcotic Drugs Act. He said, "The purpose of this bill is principally to consolidate previous legislation for the suppression of the traffic in narcotic drugs. Legislation was first enacted in 1908, and subsequent legislation was enacted in 1911, 1919, 1920, 1921 and 1922. At present the legislation is somewhat confusing, and the purpose of this legislation is to make the interpretation of these different statutes clearer and easier for those charged with the administration of this law. There are a few minor changes. One change relates to the right of appeal which in some cases is limited to a point of law. There is another minor change, as I take it, providing for the identification by the fingerprints of criminals convicted under the act."
"Motion agreed to and bill read the first time..."
That's odd!!!, The Honourable Minister didn't even mention the "new" drug listed in the Schedule, right there in the very last sentence of the Act. Oh well, that's only the first reading, keep the faith!
The House Of Commons, Debates, 1923, (p. 2114)
"Narcotic Drugs Act Amendment Bill. Hon. H.S. Beland (Minister of Health) moved the second reading of Bill 72, to amend the Narcotic Drugs Act.
Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, and the House went into committee thereon, Mr. Gordon in the Chair."
The Chair starts; "On section 2--Definitions, "drug," "opium," "prepared opium," "imports" or "imported":
Then, Honourable Members, Sir Henry Drayton raises the question; "Sir Henry Drayton: Before we go into the sections of the bill, I think it would assist us if the minister told us what is being done by this bill, whether it is a modification of the existing law, or an enlargement, and what the aim of the bill is."
What kind of response did that pointed request receive? Here it is: "Mr. Beland: When I introduced the bill I attempted to explain in a few words that this was only a consolidation of the different acts passed by this Parliament on four different occasions, I believe. I also mentioned that there would be a slight addition, to which we will come as we proceed with the examination of the bill. The new features are in connection with an appeal in certain cases, and with the identification of those detained after a charge has been brought against them, or after they have been convicted. This is provided for at the end of the bill. The other provisions of the bill are mainly a consolidation of the different acts, in an endeavor to make some sections clearer for the interpretation of the courts."
Once again, the Honourable Minister did not even mention the name, Cannabis, even when requested to explain the bill. For the next ten pages, there's some pretty heavy stuff, the Honourable Members spoke words worthy of reproduction in every history book across the land. There were noble words about "...the good old British dictum of a man being considered innocent until proven guilty" and there were some words that gave the stigma of racism to the narcotic laws, those words that sought assurance that the new amendment would provide positively that all convicted aliens would suffer deportation as an addition to the regular criminal punishment. But there were no words about marijuana at all! In the Schedule of the new Act, on the last lines are listed:
"Cannabis Indica (Indian Hemp) or Hasheesh, or its preparations or compounds or derivatives, or their preparations and compounds."
The House is merely told that the inclusion had been made. The House was not, however, informed as to why the inclusion had been made. From House of Commons, Debates, 1923, p. 2124:
House of Commons, Debates 1923, P. 2124;
From the chair: "On the schedule."
"Mr. Beland: There is a new drug in the Schedule.
"Bill Reported, read the third time and passed."
There is no evidence to be found in Hansard that the Honourable Members occupying The House of Parliament in 1923 knew what Cannabis Indica or Hasheesh was, for there was no discussion recorded. Reading of the Senate Debates, 1923 offers no further clues as to why cannabis was included, for it is not discussed at all. Cannabis Indica is not mentioned in the R.C.M.P. Commissioner's Report to The Governor General for the years 1922 or 1923, as recorded in the Sessional Papers. The only evidence that remains today that might inform us of why they chose to include cannabis as an illegal substance, or how they arrived at their definition of reality regarding marijuana use, appears to flow, via Mrs. Murphy, from "...over 2,000 questionnaires to police officials in North America." To quote our own report of The Commission of Inquiry Into The Non-Medical Use of Drugs;
"It is thought that Mrs. Murphy's writings were probably responsible for the inclusion of marijuana in the Schedule to The Opium and Narcotic Drug Act in 1923. There was only passing reference to the subject in the debate and no discussion of the reasons for its inclusion. In any event, a decision was made in 1923, without any apparent scientific basis nor even any real sense of social urgency, to place Cannabis on the same basis in the legislation as the opiate narcotics, such as heroin, and that is the way it has remained on the statute books ever since ."
Had there been an awareness of the reality of the situation, the legislation would not have passed without some reference to the report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1893-94, an exhaustive study of the effects of hemp drugs in India. The commission studied cannabis use among the native population and received evidence from 1,193 witnesses, including 335 doctors, studied the relevant drug-related judicial proceedings and the intake records of every mental hospital in British India. The conclusions submitted in the seven volume, 500 page report stated:
In regard to the moral effects of the drugs, the Commission are of the opinion that their moderate use produces no moral injury whatever. There is no adequate ground for believing that it injuriously affects the character of the consumer. Excessive consumption, on the other hand, both indicates and intensifies moral weakness or depravity. Manifest excess leads directly to loss of self-respect, and thus to moral degradation. In respect to his relations with society, however, even the excessive consumer of hemp drugs is ordinarily inoffensive. His excesses may indeed bring him to degraded poverty which may lead him to dishonest practices; and occasionally, but apparently very rarely indeed, excessive indulgence in hemp drugs may lead to violent crime. But for all practical purposes it may be laid down that there is little or no connection between the use of hemp drugs and crime ."
There is no way of knowing why this information was not made available for discussion, or that any interest in the subject even existed. To describe the actions of the legislators on this matter, I feet it would be fair to say that it was a paradigm of legislative carelessness.
In a private conversation with the Honourable Mr. Leon Ladner (one of the surviving members of the 1923 legislature), held on May 14, 1977, Mr. Ladner, now 94 years old, but exceptionally alert and competent, said he could not recall ever hearing the words "marijuana," "Indian Hemp," "cannabis Indica," or "Hasheesh" mentioned in The House of Commons. Mr. Ladner said he was not aware that he was one of the legislators that originally incorporated marijuana into the Canadian narcotics laws .
When research turns the glaring arc-light of truth on the issues and figures of the dimly remembered past, we are sometimes shocked into disbelief at the nature of things which we had previously accepted as gospel truth or solid fact.
Evidence that nine years later, our legislators were still ignorant of the facts regarding marijuana may be found by reading House of Commons, Debates 1932, on April 7, 1932. the Honourable Murray MacLaren was then Minister of Pensions and National Health, and as such he introduced Bill No. 26, to once again amend the Opium and Narcotic Drugs Act, the ninth time since its inception. This time it was an admitted knee jerk reaction to conform with international narcotics policy, and to allow manufacturers of certain medical preparations to use the drug cannabis sativa . The Honourable Mr. Lapointe asks, "What is cannabis sativa?" (he evidently pronounces sativa as sat-iv-uh). Then comes the unheeded, but perhaps truest statement ever made in the House of Commons regarding marijuana; "Mr. Cotnam: I THINK IT MUST BE ULTRA VIRES." Apparently ignoring Mr. Cotnam's thoughts, The Honourable Minister of Pensions and National Health then instructed Mr. Lapointe, and the House;
"Mr. MacLaren: I think in Quebec the term is cannabis sativa, the vowel "i" in the word sativa having the sound of the vowel "e." Hitherto this was a drug which was not included on the list which might be used. It is one form of the drug used in India which, I believe, goes under the popular name of hashish. Probably hon. members have read about it. There is no objection to the use of it, and therefore permission will be granted for its use ."
Just where the honourable members might have read of it, is not specified in Hansard, but a search through the published literature for the decade revealed a considerable amount of mention of the Geneva Conference of 1925 , where an Egyptian delegate presented a paper on the effects and use of hashish in Egypt. Mr. El Guindy's study is so typical of the so-called scientific or empirical evidence that has been presented to justify the drug's prohibition that the following excerpt must be included. In stating that the real danger of hashish is that it will produce insanity, the Egyptian delegate presented the following:
"The illicit use of hashish is the principle cause of most of the cases of insanity occuring in Egypt. In support of this contention, it may be observed that there are three times as many cases of mental alienation among men as among women, and it is an established fact that men are much more addicted to hashish than women."
Other places where the honourable members might have read of cannabis sativa, had they been so inclined, were to be found in several newspapers in the United States , where by 1931, 22 states had passed legislation prohibiting the use of Marijuana . Investigation into the reasoning for invoking the criminal sanction to prohibit the use of marijuana in these states, turned up several articles purporting that the use of marijuana was criminogenic . It is noted that these articles were authored by law enforcement or prosecutorial personnel, who had a vested interested in maintaining such a misconception. In order to fully understand this phenomenon, study was directed to The Virginia Law Review, Vol. 56, No. 6, October, 1970 , in an article that I would recommend for all legislators who would like a thorough history of marijuana legislation in North America. It was from this prestigious journal that I offer the following quotes; p. 981: "for our purposes, the major feature of temperance history is the responsiveness of the political process to public opinion. Whether or not a majority of Americans ever favoured prohibition and whether or not the thrust of public opinion was ever accurately assessed, the public opinion process was attuned to the question for half a century; the alleged evils of alcohol abuse were matters of public knowledge; the proper government response was a subject of endless public debate; enactment and repeal of prohibition were attended by widespread public participation.
"In contrast, the early narcotics legislation was promulgated largely in a vacuum. Public and even professional ignorance of the effects of narcotic drugs contributed both to the dimensions of the problem and the nature of the legislated cure. The initial legislation was attended by no operation of the public opinion process, and instead generated a new public image of narcotic use. Only after this creation of a public preception occured did the legislative approach comport with what we shall call latent public opinion. ."
From Page 988 (due to passage of the Harrison Act): "All addicts, whether accidentally (addicted) or pleasure-seeking, were shut off from their supply and had to turn to underground to purchase the drugs. Inflated underground prices often provoked criminal activity and this activity in turn evoked in the public moral response, cementing the link between iniquity and drug addiction ."
From Page 1021: "The early laws against the cannabis drugs were passed with little public attention. Concern about marijuana was related primarily to the fear that marijuana use would spread, even among whites, as a substitute for the opiates and alcohol made more difficult to obtain by federal legislation. Especially in the western states, this concern was identifiable with the growth of the Mexican-American minority. It is clear that no state undertook any empirical or scientific study of the effects of the drug. Instead they relied on lurid and often unfounded accounts of marijuana's dangers as presented in what little newspaper coverage the drug received. It was simply assumed that cannabis was addictive and would have engendered the same ill effects as opium and cocaine. Apparently, legislators in these states found it easy and uncontroversial to prohibit use of a drug they had never seen or used and which was associated with ethnic minorities and the lower class ."
From Page 1022: "The courts, like the legislatures, relied on non-scientific materials to support the proposition that marijuana was an addictive, mind-destroying drug productive of crime and insanity. To support this conclusion the court quoted from Solis-Cohen Githens' Pharmacotherapeutics:
The first symptom is usually an exaltation of the mind ... the ideas are joyous ... Sleep follows ... When aroused from sleep ... the mind ... passes into the same somnolent condition, which lasts for several hours and is followed by a sense of weakness and extreme mental depression. In certain eastern people ... perhaps because of continued use, the somnolent action is replaced by a complete loss of judgement and restraint such as is seen more often from alcohol. An Arab leader, fighting against the crusaders, had a bodyguard who partook of hashish, and used to rush madly on their enemies, slaying everyone they met. The name of "haschischin" applied to them as survived "assassin." The habitual use of cannabis does not lead to much tolerence, nor do abstinence symptoms follow its withdrawal. It causes, however, a loss of mentality, resembling dementia, which can be recognized even in dogs.
The court also quotes Rusby, Bliss & Ballard, The Properties and Uses of Drugs:
The particular narcosis of cannabis consists in the liberation of the imagination from all restraint .. Not rarely, in (the depression) state, an irresistable impulse to the commission of criminal acts will be experienced. Occasionally an entire group of men under the influence of the drug will rush out to engage in violent or bloody deeds.
On these two sources, the entire opinion stands. The allegedly deleterious consequences--criminal activity and insanity--are supported only by the mythical etymology of the word "assassin." The marijuana user's purported propensity towards crime, based on similar and often weaker authority, was the primary rationale underlying passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. So preposterous is this assertion that even the proponents of criminalization--including the Commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics--later implicitly rejected it .
It may have been in order to conform to international trends in narcotics legislation that Parliament included cannabis in its narcotic control laws at the very outset, but searching into the genesis of those international trends allows us a more accurate focus on the subject. In 1923 the following resolution was passed by the Advisory Committee on Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs of the League of Nations:
IV. With reference to the proposal of the Government of the Union of South Africa that Indian Hemp should be treated as one of the habit-forming drugs, the Advisory Committee recommends the Council that, in the first instance, the Governments should be invited to furnish to the League information as to the production and use of, and traffic in, this substance in their territories, together with their observations on the proposal of the Government of the Union of South Africa .
And so it was that the white leaders of South Africa were among the first to suggest to the League of Nations that marijuana should be considered a habit-forming drug, and as such, a subject for international law.
In 1925, the Second Opium Conference at Geneva included Indian Hemp within the Convention against Opium and other Dangerous Drugs, after taking into consideration the information furnished by the Egyptian Delegate stating that the real danger of cannabis is that it will produce insanity . As I have mentioned earlier, several states in the U.S. acted individually to pass laws invoking the criminal sanction, ostensibly, to prevent crime caused by the use of marijuana. These laws were passed with little public debate, and were founded on misleading information furnished by police officials and lurid, false news stories. The underlying motivation, however, was, as history has proven, racist in nature  and fact . No one except Blacks, Mexicans, and a few ghetto residents had first-hand knowledge of, or had ever used marijuana when the laws were enacted . The prohibitionary marijuana laws proved to be an excellent tool to allow the constabulary to maintain maximum control over a socially heteroclite segment of society, while at the same time, setting precedents that enlarged the police powers to trespass the sanctity of the hitherto restricted domain of Civil Liberties . Unwarranted searches and seizures and other incursions too numerous to mention have been inflicted on the Human Rights of individuals throughout the American Continents under the guise of "marijuana control measures ." The multi-million dollar budgets of police agencies of several countries are being wasted in the vain attempt to deter an act of human behavior that has now become the statistical norm for a large segment of the North American population . The Canadian Annual Review , tells us that in 1923, the year that Canada first legislated against marijuana, there was, "Closer cooperation between the United States and Canada for the purpose of supressing illicit traffic in narcotic drugs across the border." At the first International Conference in Buffalo, "Colonel William J. Donovan, United States Federal Attorney, who presided at the Conference, declined to give out, in detail, what plans were adopted at the meeting, it was understood the combined narcotic forces of the two countries would take immediate steps to stamp out drug-smuggling ." From this, it is assumed that there would have been considerable pressure brought to bear on Canadian Police Officials to lobby for uniform laws to facilitate such cooperation.
History will recall that the Honourable Members of the House of Commons in 1923 carelessly enacted a law that caused a wave of human suffering that has directly affected millions of Canadians in the past decade, commencing 44 years after the act.
It is Today, however, with which we are concerned. And turning to what "experts" there may be in the field, I located an organization in Vancouver called NORML-CANADA. NORML-CANADA, is a non-profit public service organization recently formed by volunteer workers, without assistance by government grants or public funds, who have dedicated themselves, "actively to aid the Government of Canada, The House of Commons, and the Senate, by supplying information collected as a result of research to be carried on under the auspices of the organization in respect to the question of the abolishment of all criminal and civil penalties for the private possession of marijuana for personal use and other acts incidental thereto, and in respect to the alternatives in Canada and in other countries and jurisdictions ." Also, "to educate the public and the legislators of the need to reform the penalties and legal consequences presently surrounding the possession, use and sale of marijuana ."
So it was natural that I appealed to this group for information concerning the issue. It was through the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada, that I obtained access to several of the reports and publications I have quoted here.
Not the least impressive was a report issued to the Senate Committee on Legal & Constitutional Affairs (Re: Bill S-19 Cannabis Control) in 1975, by the Canadian Medical Association. In Appendix II of this brief, the Canadian Medical Association presented opinions and information to the Senate on behalf of its 26,000 physician members. Several of the statements bear serious consideration: "As we have stated on several occasions: cannabis is not a narcotic and would be more appropriately controlled under the Food and Drugs Act; the simple possession of a psychoactive drug for personal use should not be punishable by jail sentence." "The social and health problems resulting from a criminal record far outweight the crime of simple possession of cannabis for personal use. We reiterate our opinion forcefully expressed in the reports of Canada's Le Dain Commission, the U.K. Wooton Committee, and the U.S. National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse 1972--that criminalization frequently produces far more. serious, deleterious effects on the user than does the use of cannabis." In summary, the brief states, "The Association must strongly disagree with the retention of the criminalization which may result from simple possession ." *
From the NORML-CANADA office in Vancouver, I also obtained a report that was released to the press on Feb. 4, 1977 by Dr. R.L. DuPont, Director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. In this statement Dr. DuPont says, "Let me make clear why I think the case for decriminalization now is so clear. First, it is not a health issue. Instead, the relevant question is the wisdom of using the criminal sanction as a means of discouraging consumption, when considerably less costly avenues of discouragement are available. Second, decriminalization of the user is designed primarily to correct the mistakes of the past--to adjust our social policy to contemporary knowledge about the effects of the drug and to current social realities regarding its use ."
Giving testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives, Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse & Control, on March 15, 1977, Lester Grinspoon, M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Boston, Mass. and James B. Bakalar, Lecturer in Law, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Boston Massachusetts, furnished the legislators of the United States with a 42 page report. Here is a brief summary of their report:
"There is no convincing evidence that chronic use of cannabis does serious damage to the body or the mind." Even a relatively conservative group of authorities like those who participated in the symposium headed by Jared R. Tinklenberg on Marijuana and Health Hazards in 1975 had little ill to speak of it.
"The never-ending call for more research before making policy changes is wearily familiar to advocates of legalization. It can be answered in two ways. First, the chances are poor that we will find out something new and important. Usually a large-scale study is undertaken because some unexpected correlation has been noticed, for example between mothers' use of DES during pregnancy and daughters' vaginal cancer. If marijuana had some such effect, we would probably have a hint of it by now. The search for damaging effects of marijuana has been more like a fishing expedition than an attempt to validate a casual connection with an observed clinical abnormality. No one can prove that if we search long and hard enough we will not find a relationship between marijuana use and some disease or deficiency, but there are more important uses for our medical resources, including those devoted to the study of marijuana.
The second and more important answer is that although continued research will undoubtedly be of value, the cry that we don't know enough yet should no longer be used as an excuse for delay in the matter of legalization: We do know enough about the disastrous effects of present policies. If we balance the concrete, immediate and substantial harm caused by the present punitive, repressive approach to marijuana against some dubious and nebulous possible cumulative effect of legalized marijuana use, it should be obvious where the weight falls. There is a prima facie case against any such restrictions on liberty, and the case here is a particularly strong one. Let advocates of prohibition continue to try to prove that some effects of legalized marijuana would be worse than the effects of criminal penalties for its use, but let the burden of proof be on them. Possibly even this way of posing the question grants too much to the prohibitionists. Decriminalization has not caused any increase in the use of marijuana in Oregon, and it is doubtful that full legalization would make any more difference. So there may be nothing at all to balance against the disadvantages and injustices of prohibition.
Since legalization of marijuana would not do any obvious harm and possibly would not even effect the rate at which its use is increasing, there seems to be little reason for opposing it. But reason has had limited influence in this matter. Past crusades against marijuana were often the expression of displaced anxiety, projection, and cultural factors that had nothing to do with the effects of the drug itself (Grinspoon, 1971, pp. 331-343). In milder forms, these prejudices remain. For example, Dr. Robert L. DuPont, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, who now favours a civil fine for possession and continued criminal prosecution of bulk traffickers, is quoted in an interview in Science as warning that marijuana is dangerous because it represents "the leading edge of change in drug-using behavior" (March, 1976, p. 648). This is either a non sequitur stating that marijuana use should remain illegal because it is becoming more common; or a revival in modified form of the discredited stepping-stone hypothesis; or, more likely, simply an expression of the kind of vague anxiety that should not be influencing policy. There is also some feeling that legalization would be bad because it would imply official endorsement of marijuana use, as though, after all these years, potential marijuana users are likely to change their attitudes to conform to what they believe is official approval; if anything, it might make them suspicious. Besides, legality would not imply endorsement in the case of marijuana any more than it does in the case of tobacco or alcohol. Again, it is the emotional symbolism involved rather than any anticipated actual effects of legalization that gives this kind of argument what weight it has. "Rigorously impartial scientific investigation is important to counteract the prejudice and irrationality that have characterized much of the debate about marijuana, but this impartiality should not be allowed to degenerate into a false objectivity that declares it unscientific to make policy recommendations. We must take the scientific conclusions where they lead us as citizens, and stop the increasingly unjustifiable persecution of marijuana users ." **
Earlier on, I mentioned that a number of our legislators had made public statements based on misinformation, unscientific reports and assumed evil effects regarding marijuana. The most prominent of these, I believe to be, the pamphlet entitled "Weed Of Woe ," this publication was authored by Mrs. Simma Holt, Member from Vancouver-Kingsway, published in Ottawa, 1975 and mailed to her 84,000 Constituents who live in that riding of British Columbia. Those copies that didn't reach the Legislative "File 13" were probably read by many of the Members and some may have even given considerable credence to its content, for on the flyleaf Mrs. Holt expresses hope that her "information to Parliamentarians of both Houses" will effect their vote on the issue... Perhaps, this is why there has been a deplorable lack of legislative action on the subject of marijuana. The Holt publication is a collection of erroneous assumptions, contorted statements, and misleading metaphors. She clearly has become the Parliamentarian Emily Murphy of our day. Mrs. Holt's approach to the marijuana problem in Canada cannot be taken too seriously and her attitude will not assist those Parliamentarians who will soon become engaged in the difficult and frustrating task of rewriting the marijuana reform laws. In any event, I should like to correct for the record, some of the more obnoxious errors contained in Mrs. Holt's "literary brainchild."
On page 2 of her work, while defining the intent of the then proposed legislation to amend the Narcotics Control Act (Bill S-19), Mrs. Holt says, "Under the new law, the imprisonment is up to ten years. "Up to" allows the judge discretion to give no prison term--freedom to continue merchandising death ."... That the Honourable Member may have little confidence in the ability of our Honourable Judges and Magistrates to properly perform their duties is noted, but where in this great land of ours did Mrs. Holt get the idea that marijuana sellers were "Merchandising Death?" It has been noted by several scientific researchers that the most striking discovery they have found in studying cannabis is the remarkably low level of toxicity. Indeed, it is questionable that any deaths can be directly attributed to an overdose of marijuana or hashish. Similar information is reported in Le Dain  and Lester Grinspoon in his celebrated work, Marijuana Reconsidered, cites only four deaths of questionable doubt. Grinspoon's research in this regard dates back to 1898.
On page 4 of her work, Mrs. Holt informs us "There is no medical or psychiatric use known for it. Unlike other drugs, it has, in this stage of time only one purpose: to get "stoned," to become "spaced" out. Since it neither is a food, nor a drug that any doctor prescribes, there is no logical reason for transferring this from the Narcotic Control Act to The Food and Drug Act ."
For the edification of Mrs. Holt, I refer first to the Introduction portion of the LeDain Report and the reference on page 4 that the Commission developed a library of 2,600 published and unpublished papers dealing with marijuana and would further like to enlighten Mrs. Holt on the fact that there are now an estimated 6,000 pieces of documented information on the subject of marijuana. The largest majority directly deal with the medical aspects of the substance. A great deal of the information contained in these publications influenced the United States Supreme Court in their decision to legally prescribe marijuana to Robert Randall. Mrs. Holt's "mythical bill of goods" which she attempts to sell her constituents becomes totally lost and loses its validity when one returns to the testimony of Dr. Grinspoon before the House Select Committee on Narcotics, on March 15, 1977:
"Cannabis derivatives have a long medical history that has been largely forgotten over the last forty years in the West. They are important in folk medicine in the West Indies, South America, the Near East, and India and were the subject of great professional interest in Europe and the United States from 1840 to 1900. Use of cannabis declined when apparently more reliable drugs were introduced, but even in 1937 there were 28 preparations containing it in the U.S. Pharmacopecia; it was removed in 1941, after legal difficulties imposed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 made it nearly impossible to use ."
In the nineteenth century cannabis was used most often as a sedative-hypnotic and analgesic. For example, Dr. J.R. Reynolds in 1890, summarizing thirty years of experience with cannabis, recommended it especially for senile insomnia , and in 1891, Dr. J.B. Mattison preferred cannabis over morphine as a safe hypnotic. Cannabis was also used as an analgesic in childbirth, tetanus, facial neuralgia, rheumatism, and especially migraine. Mattison calls this its most important use and states that it not only relieves the pain of migraine, but prevents attacks .
A recent double-blind experiment was [has?] confirmed that smoking marijuana heightens pain tolerance ; and paraplegics in a Veteran's Administration hospital have reported some relief of phantom pain, spasticity and headache . Delta 1-tetrahydrocannabinol (one of the constituents of marijuana), has been shown to relieve the pain of cancer , by an action that seems to be distinct from its sedative euphoriant effects.
Dr. Grinspoon explains, "Hypodermically administered opiates and then synthetic analgesics like aspirin and hypnotics like barbiturates took the place of cannabis; now that the dangers and disadvantages of these drugs are clearer, and cannabis preparations of more consistent quality are available, consideration of cannabinoids as sedative-hypnotics and analgesics is a better idea than ever.
"Cannabis has been recommended for the relief of symptoms of opiate and alcohol withdrawal and as a benign alternative for alcoholics and addicts. Mattison called it the best treatment for delirium tremens and used it as a substitute for morphine in addicts (Mattison, 1891). Drs. S. Allentuck and K.M. Bowman, in a 1942 study of 49 cases, found that cannabis alleviated opiate abstinence symptoms and enabled patients to return to work soon (Allentuck and Bowman, 1942); L.J. Thompson and R.C. Proctor reported similar results in 1953 from the use of a synthetic cannabinoid in treating alcohol, barbituate and opiate withdrawal symptoms (Thompson and Proctor, 1953). More recent research also indicates that marijuana may be useful in therapy for alcoholics (Rosenberg, 1975). There may be some people who cannot avoid dependence on a drug but are liable to substitute one drug for another; in these cases a cannabis habit would unquestionably be preferable to an alcohol or opiate habit. It has in fact been suggested that ganja in Jamaica provides protection from alcoholism and its consequences (Rubin and Comitas, 1975, pp. 155-156, 163) ."
The Davis and Ramsey pilot study in 1949, examined the effect of two tetrahydrocannabinols on five epileptic hospitalized children who had been receiving the usual treatment of phenobarbital and diphenylhydantoin (Dilantin) as medication. The cannabis treatment was as effective in two; one became entirely free of seizures . A more recent clinical report describes a patient who needed marijuana as well as phenobarbital and Dilantin to control his epileptic seizures . Both delta-1-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive constituent of cannabis, raise the threshold of convulsive reaction to electric shock in mice .
It has been universally reported that cannabis stimulates appetite, so it would presumably be useful in any illness where appetite loss is a problem and especially in the symptomatic treatment of anorexia nervosa.
The subject of marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma reached the newspapers recently, when a victim of that disease petitioned for the right to smoke it after being arrested for possession . The petition was granted by the court, after it was proven he needed marijuana to prevent him from going blind. Experiments show a dose-related, clinically significant drop in intraocular pressure lasting several hours is produced by smoking marijuana by oral or intravenous delta-1-tetrahydrocannabinol in both normal subjects and those with increased ocular tension. The effect seems to be specific to THC and other cannabis constituents rather than a consequence of general euphoria and sedation; diazepam, for example, does not produce it .
Several studies have been conducted to demonstrate that smoked marijuana reversed the bronchoconstriction of asthmatic patients for hours. In these studies, researchers have found that Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol caused a prompt, complete and sustained reversal of methacholine-induced bronchospasm and correction of the associated hyperinflation in asthmatics . Aerosolized THC may be preferable to the natural form of marijuana because it would not contain the terpenes and other irritants in marijuana smoke.
Researchers have found that oral delta-1-THC, delta-6-THC and cannabinol reduced the size of lung tumors in mice from 25 to 82 per cent, depending on dose and duration of treatment, and increased survival time by one quarter to one third . Leukemia virus growth was also inhibited by delta-9-THC , leading the researchers to conclude that certain constituents of marijuana possess antineoplastic properties.
But probably the most promising use of cannabis in cancer treatment is as an antiemetic for patients undergoing chemotherapy. In a study using placebo controls, oral delta-1-THC prevented vomiting in fourteen of twenty cancer victims who were refractory to conventional antiemetics; the dose was 15 mg. every four hours . Since cannabis also reduces pain, sedates, tranquilizes, and stimulates appetite, it might be helpful in many ways to these unfortunate patients.
The conclusive opinion of Dr. Grinspoon and Mr. Bakalar was stated as follows: "The greatest advantage of cannabis as a medicine is its unusual safety for a drug with such powerful effects: no addiction, no tolerance, extraordinary high radio of lethal to effective dose, practically no disturbance of vegetative functions or organ toxicity ." ***
Reading such scientific data as I have just quoted, gives rise to the question: What motivated Mrs. Holt to make the statement: "There is no medical or psychiatric use known for it ," when referring to marijuana?? Could it have been due to ignorance, or was it because of careless and/or insufficient research?, (which seems highly unlikely, if we are to believe the biographical notes on the rear cover of Weed Of Woe, which informs us of Mrs. Holt's qualifications as an "Investigative Reporter for the Vancouver Sun," with a "30-year writing career") , or perhaps it was a classic example of what one prominent psychiatrist was referring to when he wrote; "The anxiety and irrationality produced by psychoactive drugs in some people who do not use them can be as disturbing as any effect of the drugs themselves on those who do ." This would appear to be more likely, as we examine more of the misinformation Mrs. Holt supplied to a naive constituency and "Parliamentarians of both Houses;" resorting to sensationalism, the author parallels the similarity of the fabled Hasan-Ibn-Sabbah's mythical assassins and Charles Manson's criminal cohorts . With this magical metaphor, Mrs. Holt's writing skills would lead the reader to conclude that there exists a direct relationship between the use of cannabis and violent crime. This would appear to be a difficult position to assume, however, if we compare two other statements made in Weed Of Woe; on page 2, we are informed that, "ninety-three per cent of the people in Vancouver-Kingsway who answered my questionnaire feel as I do--that the penalties should not be reduced," and the statement on the fly leaf of the pamphlet that informs us that Vancouver-Kingsway is, "one of the most crime-troubled areas in Canada."
Throughout this pamphlet, the author refers vaguely to "Scientific Research" and "Scientific Terms" as the basis for her many untrue and counterfactual assertions, however, she offers no bibliography to substantiate such outrageous and inaccurate claims as: "Irreversible brain damage," "respiratory crippling of young comparable to a two-pack-a-day smoker of ten to twenty years," "Some male users left sterile, and impotent," "disruption of normal cell functions," "diminished immunity response, the protection from disease," "personality changes," "apathetic behavior," "interference with the ability to measure time and distance," "a new threat equal to, or worse, than alcohol for drivers on the highway." In fact, Mrs. Holt treats marijuana not as a pleasant, euphoric, psychotropic herb that may be used or misused, but as an agent of evil with powers to cripple, enslave, bestialize and ultimately destroy. Witness, if you will, the following metaphors contained on page 6, wherein Mrs. Holt avers, "To compare alcohol to cannabis is similar to comparing a malignant brain tumor with cancer of the lungs. Both can be fatal, even though they may be slowed to the ultimate tragedy ." Now, really!! Mrs. Holt's approach resembles Mrs. Emily Murphy's "great educational campaign" of the '20's against the devil drug marijuana, and this pamphlet would have made Mrs. Murphy very happy ... Even high.
One of the continuing tactics of those who attempt to hold back reform of the marijuana laws is to exaggerate the potential harm to an individual's health from marijuana smoking. Time and space does not permit me to directly confront the medical claims today, but for those sincerely interested, they may read the published testimony of such eminently qualified individuals as Dr. Robert L. DuPont, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse, Dr. Peter Bourne, Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, and Dr. Lester Grinspoon. They testified, to the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control of the U.S. House of Representatives, that these wild claims were simply unsubstantiated . No one is claiming that marijuana is totally harmless, nor that use should be encouraged for people, other than in particular therapeutic situations. But such prestigious groups as The Canadian Medical Association, Consumers Union, The U.S. Drug Abuse Council, the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the federal government's own Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, have reviewed the medical claims, and have found that when used in moderation, marijuana does not appear to present any major medical problems.
It can be fairly stated that the consensus in the medical community is that any risks presented by marijuana are relatively minor.
That confirms what many Canadians have learned first-hand, that those who choose to smoke marijuana do not generally suffer any significant health repercussions. If indeed marijuana had any significant effect on the health of the user, then there would be ample evidence among the millions of daily users.
One could say with total justification that the most serious cost of marijuana laws in Canada result from the manner in which they are enforced. The term "selective enforcement" can refer to a wide spectrum of law enforcement practices, depending on who makes the selection and the basis on which it is made. In the context of marijuana laws, selective enforcement usually means something different and less admirable. Since there are far too many violators in Canada today for the police to arrest or even investigate, the law enforcement offices are forced to pick and choose among possible violators. The result is that the police arrest for marijuana violations those they feel should be dealt with for entirely different reasons. The reasons for this form of selective enforcement are usually shrouded in political or cultural antipathy and the target is the individual whose life-style, appearance and friends are "different." It is no secret that the police do not like persons with long hair especially when these same persons are known to be users of marijuana. This form of selectivity can seldom be proved, but occasionally a policeman is candid or naive enough to reveal the considerations that prompted his investigative actions. The practices I am describing are not aberrations; they are the routine practices used by the police to single out violators of the marijuana laws. I have no hesitation in suggesting that they are practices that are highly questionable. These practices inevitably intrude on the privacy and security of the innocent as well as the guilty. Any law abiding citizen with long hair or non-descript clothing may be stopped on a street or sidewalk. Any law abiding citizen who goes to a party where some guests are smoking marijuana may be arrested and searched, even though he was in another part of the house or apartment and was quite unaware of what was taking place. Similarly, any law abiding citizen whose companions or associates have been found in possession of marijuana may be searched on the theory that "birds of a feather flock together." Any citizen who chats with a person who is the object of undercover police survailance may have his movements watched as well and possibly have his telephone monitored. Consequently, intrusion upon the innocent cannot be avoided as long as the police take seriously the task of enforcing our marijuana laws.
The reason is this: marijuana is generally a private behavior and it is most often used in private. In order to locate it, the police must, more often than not, operate on the edge of constitutional limitations. Arrests without probable cause, illegal searches and "selective enforcement" occur often enough to arouse concern about the integrity of the police in Canada. Quite naturally, this method of police harassment tends to foster a disrespect for all law and the system in general. Police units such as described above will think twice before going into areas like the British Properties, Shaugnessy and Point Grey where marijuana smoking has now entered that particular social level. In any case, knowledge that the law and those who enforce it are being manipulated in this way can only breed cynicism and contempt for the entire legal system. As a result, the young occasional user of marijuana may have a great deal of trouble adjusting to the local or federal police view of him as a criminal. It is far from unreasonable to suppose that he will feel resentment toward what he feels he is now forced to view as the other side of the law. At the very least it must now be supposed that current anti-marijuana laws have a deleterious effect on the attitudes of the young toward the law and particularly on those who enforce it. To the user, like myself, laws against marijuana, like the thirteenth stroke of the clock, are not only dubious in themselves; they also cast doubt upon the soundness of the entire mechanism--in this instance, the law. It appears to me that society is prosecuting me for courting pleasure of my own chosen fashion--for seeking pleasure in a marijuana cigarette rather than in a bottle of beer. In my eyes a governmental system that labels and punishes individuals as criminals on the basis of conduct that he regards as harmless and none of the laws business is itself unworthy of trust or respect. The simple fact that a law is widely violated would not be an argument for its repeal. But when a law is widely violated by millions of individuals who believe it to be unjustified and immoral, the result is to foster skepticism about the viability of the entire legal system and thereby to weaken the bonds of shared attitudes that make it possible for society to function democratically. I am not arguing that the use of marijuana is desirable or even harmless. I am arguing that in view of what is now known about the drug and what is likely to be learned, society is injured far more seriously by law enforcement efforts aimed at stamping out marijuana use than by marijuana itself. There is no law enforcement system available today nor will there ever be that will be able to effectively prevent millions of Canadians from using marijuana. As a matter of fact I have to ask the question, why is it necessary to use police to enforce against the use of marijuana in the first place? If we are to place validity on the argument that it endangers health (an argument that has been hopefully put to rest) why then are we using the criminal process to eliminate its use? Would it not be better to employ an educational programme to discourage use and reap the benefits that we received when we undertook to educate the Canadian people on the dangers of tobacco?
There is, however, a real relationship between crime and marijuana in Canada: the criminogenic character of the present laws against the possession, sale and giving away of marijuana; and this constitutes a great irony. The unique nature of this criminogenic effect in Canada is that anti-marijuana laws have intensified and to some extent created the basic but complex sociological and legal problems they were ostensibly designed to avoid or eliminate. It is also no secret that the morale within the once proud Royal Canadian Mounted Police is at an all time low. Think of the young dedicated member of the force who must now be called, quite often to his face, "Pig," the universal name for a police officer in the western english speaking world. I have no hesitation in directly placing the blame for this lack of respect on the doorsteps of the Legislators who make the laws and then turn them loose on members of the force to enforce. And how are they enforced?
I would ask you to consider for a moment the experience of someone who is arrested, taken to the station, finger-printed, booked, and in all other manners treated like a criminal on a marijuana charge. It makes a mockery of our criminal justice system and our concepts of privacy and freedom of choice. Meanwhile the result to the offender is to brand him a criminal, unsuitable for higher levels of education, training, or employment opportunities and travel abroad. These "criminals" are not just labeled as users of marijuana; it is accepted practice for law enforcement agencies to report such offenses to prospective employers, licensing agencies, and other authorities as "narcotic drug arrests," with no distinction whatsoever between a dangerous addictive drug and a virtually harmless smoke.
It becomes increasingly clear that the laws prohibiting use or possession and use of marijuana are not viable statutes; they are not and cannot be enforced. They stand as a symbol of harassment for the few--mostly young, mostly poor, and disproportionately from minority groups--who experience the personal tragedy of being branded a criminal and living with its consequences.
One need not be an economist to see that the cost of marijuana investigation, prosecution, incarceration or probation is substantial. Law enforcement officers, crown attorneys, judges, bailiffs, sheriffs, clerks, probation and parole officers and correction officers devote an enormous amount of time and effort to implementing the laws. In our communities where personal threat to safety, white collar crime, and violence are endemic one must ask: Are our limited law enforcement resources being devoted to problems of the highest priorities, and could the money spent on enforcement of marijuana laws be more productively spent for the public interest?
The law enforcement officers frequently engage in demeaning and insidious activities which, under the narrow interpretations of entrapment may not be illegal, but which certainly are offensive to our traditional sense of justice. I personally find this one of the most serious and harmful consequences of criminal laws relating to marijuana. I know of several instances in which enforcement not only destroyed personal, family and peer relationships, but was also in itself criminogenic. dent is charged We have heard of many stories that present the following situation: A student is charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana. Being young, inexperienced with the law he or she is vulnerable to threats of long term incarceration on one hand, and suggestions of leniency in exchange for cooperation on the other hand. Cooperation means not only identifying friends and fellow students who may be in possession of marijuana, but to set-up a sale for the purpose of aiding law enforcement officers in an arrest. Frequently, the student then asks her or his friends and fellow students whether they have any pot available, and the criminal transaction is arranged. There is now another victim who is even more vulnerable than the first, who is again alternately subjected to threats and promises and who, facing serious indictable charges for sale, sets up further transactions (that may or may not have been made except for official encouragement and the self interest involved). The money, the contraband, and the plan are often provided by the law enforcement officers; officers who are dedicated to serve and protect the community.
I cannot blame the law enforcement officers who are charged with enforcing the law by any legal means; I can, however, expect those who have the present ability to do something about past abuses, who are in a position to ameliorate past injustices, and who have the compassion, sensitivity and interest to protect us from future abuse, to take some immediate and positive action towards these commendable ends.
It is now almost universally recognized that laws relating to the use or possession of marijuana are sumptuary laws not based upon public safety, but rather upon an effort of one segment of the community to impose its moral and personal values upon another. No law that provides criminal sanctions serves the public interest when only a small fraction of the violators are called to answer for their illegal conduct. No one would argue that you should not have a law against armed robbery because all armed robbers are not captured and convicted, but when millions of Canadians are in technical violation of criminal statutes, and only a minute percentage will ever be called to task for such violation, you have laws incapable of enforcement. This demeans the law and our institution of justice. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about the "possibility of the law" and he commented that only laws that could be uniformly, rationally, and humanly enforced should be enacted. When a law is incapable of enforcement, when if enforced it would change the nature of our institutions of justice, and when it is fortuitously applied only to those unlucky enough to be caught within its grasp, it is far, far better that there be no such law at all. Such a law violates our instincts of fairness and equality.
In the meantime, the Government can no longer remain insensitive to the changes without incurring damage to itself in one form or another. We must consider the harm both present and long range being inflicted upon our young people who constitute or will soon constitute the formative and critical members of our society by the present punitive, repressive approach to the use of marijuana. We must also consider the damage inflicted on legal and other institutions when young people react to what they see as a confirmation of their view that those institutions are hypocritical and inequitable.
Viewed against the background of the profound changes of recent years in the fields of economics, politics, religion, family life, civil rights, employment and recreation, the use ot marijuana must be seen as a relatively minor change in social patterns of conduct, and as more of the consequences of, rather than a contributor to, these major changes.
When the issue of marijuana use and possession is placed in this context of society's larger concerns, marijuana does not emerge as a major issue or threat to the social order. Rather, it is more appropriately viewed as part of the whole of society's concerns about the growth and development of its young people. In view of the magnitude and nature of change which our society has experienced during the past 25 years, the thoughtful observer is not likely to attribute any of the major social problems resulting from this change to marijuana use. Similarly, it is unlikely that marijuana will affect the future strength or vitality of our social and political institutions. The fundamental principles and values upon which young people are building their future today are far too enduring, far too meaningful to go up in the smoke of a marijuana cigarette.
The models for reform are at hand. The way to control marijuana is not through unenforceable prohibitions, but through a system of licensing as recommended by Marie-Andree Bertrand in the Commission of Inquiry Into The Non-Medical Use Of Drugs. Any other course of action will further debase the quality of justice and law enforcement and alienate from society many of our most valuable constituents.
Unquestionably, it is unhealthy for a society to turn a large percentage of its population, especially its young, into criminals, or even define them as such. Indeed, the greatest potential for social harm lies in the scarring of so many young people and the reactive, institutional damages that are direct products of present marijuana laws and the questionable police method of enforcement. If we are to avoid having this harm reach the proportions of a real national disaster within the next decade, we must move quickly to make the social use of marijuana a legal matter in Canada.
Peter John Curran
1. Reynolds, J.R., Therapeutic Uses and Toxic Effects of Cannabis Indica, Lancet II, pp. 637-638 (1890). See also N.Y. Times Magazine, 12/13/1970. ^
2. G. Washington, "Diary Notes" in The Book Of Grass: An Anthology of Indian Hemp, ed. G. Andrews and S. Vinkenoog (New York, 1967, Page 34). ^
3. Sup. Court of D.C. United States vs. Randall, 11 /24/1976, Ct. D.C. Criminal #65923-75. ^
4. Holt, Simma., Weed Of Woe, Ottawa, March, 1975. ^
5. Sallan, S.E., Zinberg, N.E. and Frei, D.: Antiemetic Effect of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in Patients Receiving Chemotherapy. New England Journal of Medicine, 293(16): 795-797 (1975). ^
6. Tashkin, D.P., Shapiro, B.J. and Frank, I.M., Acute Pulmonary Physiological Effects Of Smoked Marijuana and Oral Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol. ^
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Tashkin, D.P. Shapiro, B.J., Lee, Y.E., and Harper, C.E. Effects of Smoked Marijuana in Experimentally Induced Asthma, American Review Of Respiratory Disease, 112: 377-386 (1975).
7. Harris, L.S., Munson, A.E., Carchman, R.A. Anti-Tumor Properties of Cannabinoids. Pharmacology of Marijuana. Edited by Bruade, M. and Szars, S. New York, Raven Press, Cited in Marijuana and Health, 5th. Annual Report to the United States Congress, 1975, from the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 1976. ^
8. Snyder, S.H., What We Have Forgotten About Pot--A Pharmacologist's History, New York Times Magazine, Dec. 13, 1970. ^
9. Supreme Court of Alaska, Ravin vs. The State, 537 p. 2d 494 (1976). ^
10. LeDain, et al, Cannabis--A Report Of The Commission of The Non-Medical Use Of Drugs, Crown, Cat. # H21-5370/4 Ottawa, (1972). ^
11. Murphy, E., The Black Candle, New Edition, Introduced by Anthony, B. and Solomon, R. Toronto, (1973). ^
12. State vs. Dias, 76 Utah 463, 290 p. 727, (1930). See Also: Bromberg, Marijuana: A Psychiatric Study, 113 J.A.M.A., 4 (1939). ^
13. Sec Footnote #10, P. 230 Par. 3. ^
14. Marijuana: Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1893-1894. (new edition), Silver Spring, Md., Thomas Jefferson Co. (1969) p. 263. ^
15. Ladner, L. and Baker, G. Telephone conversation on May 14, 1977 (Vancouver). ^
16. House Of Commons, Debates, 1932, Kings Printer, Ottawa, P. 1792. ^
17. Ibid, p. 1792. ^
18. League Of Nations, 2nd. Geneva Opium Conference, Convention, Protocol and Final Act, quoted in Willoughby, W. Opium As An International Problem, 573-70 (1925). PP. 378-379. ^
19. New York Times, March 25, 1927 4 at 6., The Montana Standard, Jan. 27, 1929, 3 at 2., Denver Post, April 17, 1929, 2 at 1, New York Times, Oct. 7th, 1928, Section 2, p 4 at 6., New York Times, Sept. 16, 1931 p. 4 at 6. ^
20. Bonnie, R.J. and Whitebread, C.H., The Marijuana Conviction, University Press., Charlottesville, (1974). p. 52. ^
21. Stanley, E., Marijuana as a Developer of Criminals, American Journal Of Police Science, Vol. II May-June #5, (1931). See Also: Anslinger, H.J. The Reason For Uniform State Narcotic Legislation, 21 Georgia Law Journal 52,53 (1932). ^
22. Bonnie, R.J. and Whitebread, C.H. The Forbidden Fruit and The Tree Of Knowledge: An Inquiry Into The Legal History Of American Marijuana Prohibition, Virginia Law Review, Vol. 56, #1., (1970). ^
23. Ibid. Page 981 at 8. ^
24. Ibid. Page 988 at 1. ^
25. Ibid. Page 1021 at 4. ^
26. Ibid. PP. 1022-1024. ^
27. Advisory Committee On Traffic in Opium & Other Dangerous Drugs, League Of Nations. Report To The Council On The Work Of The 6th. Session (1924). ^
28. Supra. P. 15. ^
29. Bonnie, R.J. and Whitebread, C.H., Virginia Law Review, 56 #1., (1970) pp. 1012-1014. ^
30. Falco, M. Marijuana: Questions & Answers, Drug Abuse Council, Washington, D.C. (1976) p. 8 at 10. ^
31. Mandel, J., Hashish, Assassins, and the Love Of God., Issues In Criminology, 2 (1966), 153. ^
32. House Of Commons, Debates, 1923, Kings Printer, Ottawa, pp. 2117-2122. ^
33. Greenstein, H.M., Dibianco, P.E., A Crime Against Humanity, 48 Notre Dame Lawyer 314 (1972). See Also Dope War Crimes In Mexico, High Times Magazine, May Issue, 1977. P. 45-48. ^
34. Gallup, G. Gallup Report, May 15, 1977, Field Enterprises, Chicago, 1977. ^
35. Canadian Review Company Ltd., Canadian Annual Review, Toronto (1924). ^
36. Ibid. pp. 484-487. ^
37. National Organization For The Reform Of Marijuana Laws In Canada, The Objects Of The Corporation, 1977. Section IV, at E. ^
38. Ibid., Section IV at J. ^
39. Canadian Medical Assoication, Report To The Senate Committee On Legal And Constitutional Affairs. Re: Bill S-19 Cannabis Control, 1975, app. II. ^
40. Dupont, R.L. Press Release, Washington, D.C. February 4, 1977. ^
41. Grinspoon, L. and Bakalar, J.B. Report To The Select Committee On Narcotics Abuse & Control. U.S. House Of Representatives., Mar. 15, 1977. ^
42. Holt, Simma., Weed Of Woe, Ottawa, (1975). See Flyleaf. ^
43. Ibid., p. 2. ^
44. Supra, See Footnote #10, p. 113 at para. 4 and p. 125 at para. 3. ^
45. Supra, See Footnote #4 p. 4 at para. 4. ^
46. Supra, See Footnote #41. ^
47. Supra, See Footnote #1. ^
48. Mattison, J.B., Cannabis Indica As An Anodyne & Hypnotic, St. Louis Med. Surg. J., 61: 265-271, (1890). ^
49. Milstein, S., Pain Tolerance and Cannabis. Reported at the Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologicum Convention, Paris, 1975. ^
50. Dunn. D. and Davis, R. The Perceived Effects of Marijuana in Spinal Cord Injuries. Paraplegia, 12: 175 (1974). ^
51. Noyes, R., Brunk, F., Baram, D.A. and Canter, A: Analgesic Effect of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol. The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 15: 139-143 (1975). ^
52. Supra, See Footnote #41. ^
53. Davis, J.P. and Ramsey, H.H.: Antiepileptic Action Of Marijuana Active Substances. Federation Proceedings, 8:284-285 (1949). ^
54. Consroe, P.F. Wood, G.P., and Buchsbaum, H.: Anticonvulsant Nature of Marijuana Smoking. J.A.M.A., 234: 306-307, (1975). ^
55. Karler, R., Cely, W., and Turkanis, S.A.: The Anticonvulsant Activity of Cannabidiol and Cannabinol. Life Sciences, 13: 1527-1S31 (1973). ^
56. Supra, See Footnote #2. ^
57. Hepler, R.S., Frank, I.M.: Marijuana Smoking and Interocular Pressure. J.A.M.A., 217:1392, (1971). and Hepler, R.S., Frank, I.M., and Petrus, R.: Ocular Effects of Marijuana Smoking. Pharmacology of Marijuana, Ed: Braude and Szara, two volumes, New York, Raven Press, (1976). ^
58. Supra, See Footnote #3. See Also: Vachon, K., FitzGerald, M.X., Solliday, H.H., Gould, I.A., and Gaensler, E.A.: Single Dose Effect of Marijuana Smoke. New England Journal Of Medicine, 230:1635 (1974). ^
59. Supra, See Footnote #7. ^
60. Ibid. ^
61. Supra, See Footnote #6. ^
62. Supra, See Footnote #41. ^
63. Supra, See Footnote #45. ^
64. Ibid, On Rear Cover. ^
65. Grinspoon, L.,: Review of "Sensual Drugs," by Jones & Jones, New York Times Book Review, March 4, 1977. ^
66. Supra, See Footnote #5, p. 17. ^
67. Ibid, p. 6. ^
68. Supra, See Footnote #41. ^
Notes on the original document: ^
The Peter Pot Paper, by Peter John
1975. No copyright listed, but it is assumed to remain with the author.
A 24 page, letter size booklet, privately published in 1975, in British Columbia, Canada, and distributed to Canadian Members of Parliament.
Notes on this HTML version: ^
HTML version produced 08/1999
Obvious spelling and usage errors have been corrected without comment. Minor spelling variations have been preserved, as has the author's enthusiasm for italic emphasis. In the original text, source references were footnoted per page. In this etext they have been consolidated as a section at the end of the document. Confusion may remain due to instances in the original text where the scope of quoted material is not clearly defined. Instances are marked with asterixes [*]
Quoted comment from the Canadian Medical Association, at the end of paragraph, ends at "" source number. A closing quote has been added.
Quoted comments from the symposium headed by Jared R. Tinklenberg on Marijuana and Health Hazards in 1975. It can be inferred that the quote runs three paragraphs, to the "" source number.
Closing quotes added.