Beyond Prohibition: Legal Cannabis in Canada

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On May 8, 2004, representatives of three levels of government (municipal, provincial and federal) will speak in favor of legalization of cannabis. Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell, Dr. Brian Emerson a consultant with BC’s Ministry of Health and Senator Pierre Claude Nolin are all appearing at a conference organized by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association titled “Beyond Prohibition: Legal Cannabis in Canada.” All three favour repealing the criminal prohibition against cannabis.

This event, unique in Canadian history, brings together speakers from around the world to discuss the ramifications of legalization. After Mayor Campbell kicks off the proceedings, three panels will approach the issues from the perspectives of resources, health and regulation.

Phillipe Lucas of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society will discuss current and planned research. Professor Jeffrey Miron of Boston University will speak to post-prohibition economics and Walter McKay, a former member of the VPD drug squad and a current member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, will discuss the re-allocation of police resources.

The health panel features Dr. Emerson, who will advocate a public health approach to drug policy. Steph Sherer, of the group Americans for Safe Access, will explain the medical access models used in California and discuss recent court victories in the US. Finally, Hilary Black and Reille Capler of the BC Compassion Club Society will draw a roadmap to compassion – advocating for more open access to medical cannabis for patients.

The regulatory panel opens with Professor Peter Cohen, of the Centre for Drug Policy at the University of Amsterdam. Professor Cohen will discuss the irrelevance of public policy to the issue of drug use, and will explain the regulatory system in place in the Netherlands. Next, Eric Nash and Wendy Little of Island Harvest Certified Organic Cannabis will speak to the legal cultivation of high-quality organic cannabis in a safe environment. Keith Stroup, the Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a Washington DC based lobbying organization, will speak to the various international treaty obligations involved in legalizing cannabis. Finally, Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy will explain various regulatory options.

Capping a great day of dialogue, with multiple built-in question and answer sessions, Senator Nolin will explain the findings of the eighteen month exhaustive study recently concluded by the Senate of Canada, and will argue that legalization of cannabis is the most rational approach to this important social policy