Conservative Senator Pierre Claude Nolin is taking a stand against the Harper government by opposing Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill.
A lawyer before Brian Mulroney appointed him to the Senate in 1993, Nolin has studied drug policy for more than a decade. His criticism of C-10 stems largely from his belief that the prohibition of marijuana in this country needs to end. He has declined to give press interviews on the matter, but he has outlined his position on several occasions, most recently in a Dec 16 speech on C-10 at the bill’s second reading in the Senate. (The complete text of the speech is below.) Nolin focused on the plight of medical marijuana users, who have remained in a legal grey zone since 1997 when the Supreme Court struck down some parts of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).
“Where does Bill C-10 come in vis-à-vis the medical use of cannabis?” Nolin asked in his speech. “Those million Canadians must have access to the substance. It is illegal. Some of them are producing their own cannabis.”
Nolin referred to a Global Commission report on the war on drugs (read it below). The document was crafted by a group that includes 15 former heads of states, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, and former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour. The prohibition of cannabis, reads the report, is more harmful than the substance itself. These are findings confirmed by the Senate’s own examination of drug policy conducted a decade ago.
The Global Commission encourages governments to invest in treatment and harm-reduction efforts and to develop laws designed specifically to undermine organized crime rather than to punish users.
“The problem associated with prohibition of the substance is so big that tens of thousands of individuals are dying in Mexico, not because they are using the substance, but because they are trading the substance and are making money out of the trade of the substance,” Nolin said.
Nolin attempted to question Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on C-10 and the Global Commission report at the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee meeting on Feb 1, but both ministers were called away for a vote in the Commons before Nolin’s turn came up.