Green Party high on recent court ruling

Green Party candidates in Scarborough say they welcome a recent court ruling decriminalizing marijuana.

Canada’s federal medical marijuana program is “unconstitutional” because it didn’t legally allow access to medicinal marijuana, an Ontario court ruled April 13.

“It should never have been criminalized in the first place,” said George Singh, Green Party candidate for Scarborough-Rouge River. “Things like cigarettes and alcohol cause a huge damage to society, and if we’re looking at harmful effects of substances, those should be criminalized.”

Liberal candidate for Scarborough-Agincourt Jim Karygiannis didn’t comment on the ruling, but did say the Liberals favour laws that crack down on large producers and sellers of marijuana.

In addition to legalizing and taxing marijuana, the Green Party’s platform states it would spend $43 million a year to discourage marijuana abuse.

“Our platform budget would earn $1 billion in tax revenue from the regulated proceeds and sale of marijuana in a controlled fashion, like cigarettes are today,” said Kevin Smith, Green candidate for Pickering-Scarborough East.

However, the party wants to confine production to small independent growers.

“Opening it up to large multinational corporations like large tobacco producers would be a disaster,” Smith said.

Smith and Singh said legalizing marijuana would lessen the strain on the judicial system.

“To legalize it will take so many people out of the criminal system,” Singh said. “They have to resort to illegal activities in order to obtain it or grow it themselves.

“The judge just saved the people who actually require this from becoming criminals under the law.”

However, Karygiannis said serious penalties for marijuana growers and traffickers must be maintained.

“I proposed in the House of Commons: … more than three plants, the punishment would be two years in jail; 21-50 plants, five years in jail; 50-100 plants, seven years in jail; … over 100 plants, the minimum penalty would be 14 years in jail,” he said.

Smith said he had a grow-op right next door to him in Pickering and it brought a criminal element into his neighbourhood.

Karygiannis added marijuana growers and traffickers are often closely linked to organized crime.

Singh said he hopes medical professionals will accept the ruling.

“We don’t know if it’s directed from pharmaceutical companies and we don’t know if it’s ignorance on behalf of the doctors,” he said. “The Green Party isn’t advocating the use of marijuana. It’s just recognizing it shouldn’t be an illegal substance.”