MPs start debate on pot decriminalization
source: website
posted Wed Nov 7, 2001

OTTAWA-- Members of Parliament Wednesday began debating the merits of a bill that proposes to decriminalize marijuana. The bill calls for fines instead of criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Canadian Alliance MP Keith Martin says he expects support for his private members bill from most federal MPs.

The federal government said in October that it will allow an open vote on the matter, but such a vote is not expected for some time.

Martin said some two-thirds of of MPs have indicated support for the bill, called Bill C-344. Much of this support has come after Ottawa approved the use of medical marijuana earlier this year.

Martin has argued that decriminalizing marijuana possession would free up police resources to fight other crimes, a move he says could save about $150 million in court costs.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal has asked that Ottawa decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The RCMP and Canada's police chiefs have also come out in favour of decriminalization.

"It's not a new idea in Canada," Martin said. "A federal commission first recommended decriminalization almost 30 years ago."

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