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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume I - General Orientation

Chapter 10 - Canadians’ Opinions and Attitudes

Attitudes and opinions shared with the committee


Hundreds of Canadians from all over the country wrote to us, and dozens appeared at our public hearings in the regions. They came to recount their personal experiences, state their opinions and voice their fears. They represented rights and freedoms advocacy groups, compassion clubs, which distribute medical marijuana, treatment and prevention organizations, and women’s groups. They were mayors, police chiefs, users of medical marijuana, parents, educators, physicians, lawyers and recreational marijuana users, young and old alike. They often spoke from the heart, and we were moved by what they said. Appendix 2 is a list of all the people the Committee heard during its public hearings. We would like to thank all those who took part in our proceedings.

It is impossible to present in this report all the contributions to our discussions and highlight their extraordinary worth. Fortunately, the transcripts of the hearings will remain on our Internet site. The following will summarize the opinions conveyed to us in reaction to our discussion paper.

We should point out first of all that the people who shared their views were for the most part very happy with the diligence of our work and, more specifically, were very appreciative of the opportunity they were given to take part in this social debate.


I have followed with great interest the proceedings of the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs and would like to thank the person who decided to publish the brief so completely and honestly. This speaks volumes of transparent government, which is a key element in resolving the debate.


I would first of like to commend the Senate for its Special Committee on Illegal Drugs and its impartial and ground-breaking work on marijuana.


Thank you for taking the time to review my submission. I would like to commend the Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs for its excellent research on the facts and criticism of the myths surrounding illegal drugs.


First of all, I would like to thank the Committee for skilfully separating the facts from the propaganda surrounding this issue. […] Thank you for taking the time to get public input on the issue. I only hope that this will not fall on deaf ears as was the case with the Le Dain Commission before you. Again, I believe the Committee is trying to do its best for the people of Canada.


I read your discussion paper on marijuana and the accompanying documentation and found the material to be most interesting. I would like to commend you for your willingness to launch a public debate in this area of policy.


Most of the people who took the time to respond to us also said they found the discussion paper to be well done, useful and balanced. Moreover, the respondents said they agreed with the research data we presented in the paper. Where there were reservations, they pertained to:

··               biased interpretation of the data: for some people, marijuana is unquestionably a gateway drug;

··               an overly cautious side: saying that marijuana is a drug and therefore should not be used was perceived as “politically correct”;

··               a lack of compassion and concern for youth and children.


Many Canadians from different walks of life shared with us their concerns about the prospect of marijuana being decriminalized and about the message that that kind of decision would send to young people.


[Translation] It doesn’t make any sense to use to legalize a drug with all the question marks and solid facts that are seen as consequences of marijuana use. If we had to do it over again, I don’t think with the information we currently have that we would want to legalize nicotine or even alcohol. Once we consider legalizing a drug, we can assume that the drug will become more readily available and that there will therefore be more use and more problems. Remember: marijuana is not harmful because it is illegal; marijuana is still illegal because it is harmful. [1][21]


Informed public debate is healthy and valuable, but it requires exposure to a full range of viewpoints. Regrettably, this is not the case in regard to the non-medical use of drugs. Rather, we have had constant and copious representation of the view that the only way to deal with the drug problem is to accept its inevitability and even its normalcy. (…)

In discussion about drug strategies, the harm of illegal drugs is usually identified , not with the drug’s intrinsic chemical effects on the human body, especially on brain function and behaviour, but rather on extrinsic consequences of the illegality of the drug. Thus, the general havoc wreaked on the lives of addicts and their families is ignored in favour of deploring the harm that a criminal record can do to self-esteem. Further, the property crime and violence carried out by drug users are attributed to the illegality of the drugs rather than to the diminished work habits and lack of earning capacity which result from drug use. [2][22]


Our concerns with the Discussion Paper released by the Committee centre primarily on cannabis policies and the resulting effects on youth and families. (…) We suggest to the Committee that rather than focusing on reforming our drug laws, efforts would be much better spent on examining strategies focused on prevention. (…) Much rhetoric exists around the supposed ‘war on drugs’: have we lost the war, what do we do now and were we really fighting a war to begin with? The challenge presented to this Committee is not an easy task: to recommend workable, feasible policies regarding cannabis use. To this end, we trust that the Committee will be prudent in its decisions, innovative in its policy recommendations and resistant to the urge to simply give sway to ‘hemp mania’. We owe it to our young people. [3][23]


Please, ladies and gentlemen, please do not just rely on research and the experts. There are many well-financed documents and experts that are paid to promote legalization. THC, the active ingredient of cannabis can be taken in pills, we do not have to promote smoking in another form. […] If I could suggest the following: 1. Provide more treatment resources and services; 2. Change our system of incarceration when it comes to drug-induces crime – mandatory treatment; and 3. Have our country adopt a zero tolerance to illegal drugs and provide the ability to our police to enforce the policy and mandate our courts to address the issue. Please do not provide another avenue for our children to escape reality. [4][24]


That said, most of the people who responded to the questionnaire also said they were in favour of decriminalization or controlled legalization of marijuana and marijuana derivatives. For that reason, we have to be very careful still regarding the meaning of the comments we received: most of those who wrote to us are probably interested, for personal reasons, in seeing the current legislation amended to introduce more tolerance. That view probably coloured their assessment of our discussion paper and the quality of our research findings.


[1][21]  Brief from A. Maillet and C. Cloutier-Vautour to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, Moncton, June 5, 2002.

[2][22]  Brief from Real Women, submitted to the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, June 6, 2002, pages 1-2.

[3][23]  Brief from Focus on the Family to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, Richmond, May 14, 2002.

[4][24]  Letter from Kathy Bedard, Prince Rupert, British Columbia, May 15, 2002.

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