Cannabis Should be Legalized, Says Groundbreaking New Report Released Today by Canadian Senate Special Committee

Press Release September 3, 2002
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 or Josie Wulsin at 212-548-0383

OTTAWA, September 4, 2002 — Canada’s Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs today released its final report on cannabis. According to a press release by the Committee, the exhaustive and comprehensive two-year study of public policy related to marijuana found that the drug should be legalized. The 600 plus page Senate report is a result of rigorous research, analysis and extensive public hearings in Ottawa and communities throughout Canada with experts and citizens.

“Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol, and should be treated not as a criminal issue, but as a social and public health issue,” said Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Chair of the Special Committee, in a news conference today in Ottawa. “Indeed, domestic and international experts and Canadians from every walk of life told us loud and clear that we should not be imposing criminal records on users or unduly prohibiting personal use of cannabis. At the same time, make no mistake, we are not endorsing cannabis use for recreational consumption. Whether or not an individual uses marijuana should be a personal choice that is not subject to criminal penalties. But we have come to the conclusion that, as a drug, it should be regulated by the State much as we do for wine and beer, hence our preference for legalization over decriminalization.”

Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance, the leading organization promoting alternatives to the war on drugs in the United States, applauded the report. “Marijuana prohibition now makes no more sense than alcohol Prohibition did 75 years ago,” said Nadelmann. “Canada’s joining a growing number of other nations that are turning their backs on the U.S.’s costly and counterproductive marijuana policy.”

According to the press release, the Senate Report concludes that:

In its extensive report, the Special Committee suggests a number of specific initiatives for implementing its recommendations such as:

The Committee also examined the international obligations and repercussions of Canada’s cannabis policies as well as approaches taken by other countries. It studied the impact of more liberal policy approaches to cannabis in countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain along with more restrictive policies such as Sweden, France or the United States. There is a clear international trend to reassessing domestic drug policy such as recent initiatives toward decriminalization in the United Kingdom. Deputy Chair Senator Colin Kenny points out that “though what we are recommending for our country has an impact on our friends and neighbours, Canada must make its own decisions in the best interests of its citizens.”

“This should be a wake up call to the United States,” said Nadelmann. “Our northern neighbors are recommending public health before politics. They recognize that cigarettes and alcohol are more dangerous than marijuana. It’s time to put an end to the hypocrisy in America.”

The Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs is chaired by Senator Pierre Claude Nolin with Senator Colin Kenny as deputy-chair. Also serving on the Committee are Senators Tommy Banks, Shirley Maheu and Eileen Rossiter. The Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs maintains an Internet web site at where proceedings, testimony, research, general information and its report can be found. The complete report can be found at

For further information:

David Newman
Phone: (613) 836-6039
Mobile: (613) 795-1739
E-mail: [email protected]

Jean-Guy Desgagn

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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