October 17, 1968 (28th Parliament, 1st Session)


Frank Howard

New Democratic Party

Mr. Frank Howard (Skeena):

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly try my best to comply with your standards. I listened with a great deal of interest to the statement of the minister and to the comments of the hon. member for Simcoe East, because this is an extremely important subject confronting not only people in the younger generation but society in its entirety. When we look at the fact that from January 1, 1967 to October 31, 1967, the number of arrests for possession of marijuana was in the neighbourhood of 1,300, up 300 per cent over the year before, we can realize the enormity of the problem.
[DOT] (2:50 p.m.)
This statement relates only to the so-called hallucinogenic substances, but I think there is a parallel here in terms of the attitude we have adopted to the hard line narcotic drugs
Control of Increased Narcotics Traffic which are dealt with under the Narcotics Control Act. The experience not only in Canada but in the United States with regard to narcotics may be a guide as to what our attitude should be in relation to the so-called hallucinogenic substances.
The procedure we have followed in dealing with narcotics control in Canada does not carry with it any real proof that this procedure has been effective in either controlling the trafficking in narcotics or in reducing the number of narcotics addicts. Our approach has been a sustained hard line approach involving harsher and harsher sentences and even the use of the habitual criminal section. However, the use of the habitual criminal section of the code has not had the effect it was hoped it would have.
Even the limited recognition we give medical attention in the field of narcotic drugs must follow the arrest, conviction and penalty process. It comes as an aftermath of the more severe and harsher penalty. Probably there will always be those in our society who will look for this false paradise, who will use marijuana, amphetamines, lysergic acid, dried banana peels, nutmeg and so on. The list is interminable. In fact some people are now inhaling poisonous insecticides like Raid which people use to kill off mosquitoes. They fill a room with this spray and then inhale it. There is probably no limit to the substances people will use. In attempting to deal with the use of such substances by going to stiffer and stiffer enforcement with harsher penalties, more illegalities, more restrictions, we will find we have adopted a futile course.
As past experience has shown, such a course could be ludicrous in its application. We need only look at the types of substances the minister listed in the answer he gave yesterday when he referred to nail polish, gasoline and such substances, to realize the number of substances with which we are dealing.
I do not believe, however, we can abandon that control system. I think it is necessary. In addition, however, we have to embark on a program of research and public education. The minister's statement was much too narrow, because he said the form of education must be through the schools to our younger people. In my opinion this question of education is a much broader one. We must separate myth from fact. In so far, as marijuana is concerned there is a great deal of myth about it. We have to get to the stage some day of looking at marijuana as probably one of those
[Mr. Howard (Skeena).l
DEBATES October 17, 1968
substances which are less harmful than alcohol in so far as its deleterious effect upon the individual and upon society is concerned.
There is probably no single answer to this problem, Mr. Speaker, because we are dealing with individuals, and I feel we are dealing with individuals who have an illness. I believe the great increase in the use of hal-lucinogenics should point out to us that the illness is not confined to the individual but is an illness of society and will have to be coped with in that way. In that context the minister's statement was barren. There was no realization of the fact that it is a social illness with which we are dealing. His statement was barren of any reference to the necessity of freeing the medical profession, for the sake of argument, from any impingement upon the so-called doctor-patient relationship, upon which the profession looks with some delight. We should free ourselves from this relationship and permit the medical profession to search for treatments and for opportunities which will in turn provide answers and cures.
We have also, Mr. Speaker, to embark upon the total research and education fields. I submit that in our so-called "live it up" society where everything is done to suit the pleasures of the individual, something that seems paramount today, a few pamphlets and films referred to by the minister will not provide what is required.

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