March 26, 1968 (27th Parliament, 2nd Session)


William Arnold Peters

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peters:

Mr. Chairman, this is a very interesting subject and one that has received a great deal of attention. I should like to hear the Solicitor General say that his department is not advising the imposition of the six months sentences that I hear the courts are imposing at the present time. Even the use of the word "drug" is rather a travesty of the technical term. I have read the articles which established marijuana as a drug and have discovered that there is a great deal of difficulty selling to the rest of the world the idea that marijuana should be included in the list of drugs.
It seems to me that if this kind of prison sentence is imposed we will not eliminate or cure the problem at all. I believe that the Solicitor General should be recommending that no prison sentence be imposed, under

March 26, 1968
any circumstances, on the users of marijuana. As the hon. member tor Simcoe East pointed out, the difference between a user and a pusher is where the difficulty has arisen. The use of marijuana now takes place not only in our universities and colleges but has become a very serious problem in that its use has extended into our high schools, and indeed down to the public school level and involves children of the age of 10 or 12. It is a very cheap product. It is very easily obtained. It seems to me that if we are to put in jail all those people who are experimenting with marijuana, it will really be a travesty of justice.
I can see no point at all in giving a person a prison sentence for using marijuana if it is not detrimental to his health or to society in general. The police have been awfully stupid in some areas in regard to this problem. A great effort should be made, as the hon. member for Simcoe East said, to study the problem and find out why and how marijuana is being pushed.
I believe we have made very serious mistakes in the past in regard to drugs and the manner in which they are dealt with under our law. Surely we are not going to take marijuana and put it in the category of whisky during prohibition. The situation we now face in respect of drugs is parallel to that which existed at the time of prohibition. Many people then drank whisky only because it was hard to get, and its sale was illegal. We now find kids saying to each other: I tried marijuana; I'll bet you are scared to try it. This is almost the same situation that everybody faced when smoking his first cigarette. To make the use of marijuana a criminal offence is not, I think, receiving from the Department of Justice the consideration that the problem warrants. I certainly feel that the community is not being helped by putting a 15 or 16 year old in jail for having used marijuana when everyone knows that marijuana has been available to almost everyone in the school.
[DOT] (9:10 p.m.)
I understand there is a more serious problem about which the police should start worrying, and that is the extent to which heroin is being added to marijuana and circulated in the schools. It is going through the mails from Toronto and Montreal to be distributed in various areas. This is the sort of thing about which the police should be worried. The criminal part of the operation, as the hon.

member for Simcoe East mentioned, is the pushing of marijuana. Why is it being pushed, and what money is involved? I think the Department of Justice should be interested in ascertaining how marijuana is available in such large quantities and at such low prices. How is it being distributed in such a formidable way in high schools and colleges without the police being able to make a haul of this marijuana?
I can remember one occasion, Mr. Chairman, when the R.C.M.P. went into an Indian reserve and cut 20 tons of marijuana. I do not know how many cigarettes 20 tons would make, but that would be like cutting 20 tons of hay. The amount of marijuana being circulated is in the tons, not pounds. If the police are going to do anything, let them concentrate on that end of the problem. This country is not going to solve a social problem by putting teenagers in jail because they have experimented with marijuana. They are not committed or continual users of hashish. This is a problem the police have not tackled. I believe the minister should be interested in how this stuff can be transported around the country without any indication of its importation. If we do not import it from other countries, then we must grow it. The material still has to be transported in very large trucks because it is a weed that has to be handled in a manner similar to the handling of sweet hay. I suggest that some consideration should be given as to how this circulation takes place. We should not send young offenders to jail just to satisfy the do-gooders.
Let me suggest to the minister that he is going to have to act on this problem very quickly. If he does not, then no one is going to give a dam about the law. They will not care what happens to L.S.D. because there is nobody who has really considered this matter who believes that marijuana is in the same category as other drugs. The reason the covenant was signed with marijuana in it is that after a great deal of study it was believed this problem had got out of hand, not in a narcotic sense but in an international trade sense. We have not faced this problem in the 40 years since that time. I think it is time we looked at it, or we will not be able to solve the more serious problem of L.S.D. If the younger people are convinced that the law is an ass in this case, and they are the citizens who are going to be making the laws tomorrow, then you are going to find that their respect for the law will be nil. I believe the minister is sufficiently aware of the social
March 26, 1968 COMMONS
changes that may take place to realize that something should be done very quickly or there will be a whole generation of children growing up who have no use for the law because it does not appear to be reasonable or fair.

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