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Nelson Education > School > Business Studies > All About Law > Student Centre > E-Activies > Chapter 6

Unit 2: Criminal Law



Activity: Debate the Decriminalization of Marijuana

Canadians have not achieved a clear consensus on the use of marijuana (also known as cannabis). In 2002, a Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs released a discussion paper on this substance, along with a report, which should be tabled as of August 2002. The purpose of these documents is to foster dialogue on the topic of cannabis and its place in Canadian society.

Currently, marijuana is illegal except for certain cases of medical use. Yet possibly hundreds of thousands of Canadians use marijuana for recreational purposes. Tens of thousands are arrested and charged every year for simple possession. Should Canada's anti-drug legislation and policies on marijuana be changed?

In this activity, you will participate in a class debate about whether or not Canada should decriminalize marijuana. Specifically, you will argue for or against the following resolution:

Be it resolved that marijuana be decriminalized in Canada.

The catch is that while you conduct your research, you will not know which side of the debate you will be arguing. You will have to find arguments to support both sides of the issue.

  1. Visit the Parliamentary Web site for the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs. Click on "Activity Update" and then download the file called "Discussion Paper." This paper shows the committee's preliminary findings.

    The committee believes the following questions must be considered when discussing decriminalizing marijuana.

    • Is cannabis a gateway drug?
    • Does cannabis cause dependency?
    • What are the negative effects of cannabis on physical or psychological health?
    • Is cannabis use related to criminality?
    • Does cannabis impair driving capabilities?
    • Are young people victims of cannabis?
    • What conclusions emerge from science?
    • What are the main public policy options?

    Read the "Discussion Paper" to find answers to these questions. The answers will help you with the upcoming debate.

  2. Build on the information you have found by clicking on "Press Releases or "Related Links" to find other sources of information. Additional information may also be found at the following Web sites:
    - Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, which has links to articles on cannabis
    - Health Canada Web site, which has information on access to medical marijuana.

  3. Copy the following argument sheet into your notebook, and use it to list the arguments you identified in Questions 1-2 both for and against the statement, "Be it resolved that marijuana be decriminalized in Canada."
Be it resolved that marijuana be decriminalized in Canada










  1. Your teacher will assign which side of the debate you will argue. The side you will argue may not be one with which you personally agree. In that case, you must set aside your personal convictions for the duration of the exercise. After receiving your assignment, plan your strategy and prepare for the debate. Your debate should include the following:

    • a formal introduction
    • facts and arguments that support your assigned view
    • anticipation of the points against your view
    • counterarguments to defend your viewpoint
    • a statement that summarizes your position