Non-medical Use of Drugs, Royal Commission on the

The LeDain Commission was appointed 29 May 1969 and published 4 reports 1970-73. Chaired by Gerald LeDain (who was subsequently made a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada), the commission investigated the role governments and courts should play in prohibiting and regulating the use and distribution of drugs (particularly opiate and marijuana, but also alcohol, barbiturates, amphetamines and others) used for nonmedical purposes.

The inquiry was commissioned when nonmedical drug use was in part symbolic of a more widespread controversy over lifestyles and political participation, and it operated in an atmosphere of controversy. It broadened its interpretation of its mandate to include a discussion of the social values promoting drug use. Hearings were held across Canada, sometimes privately with drug users, sometimes in coffee houses. The testimony of those affected by government and court actions was greatly emphasized.

The final report (1973) contained extensive scientific documentation and recommended that polices should be adopted to discourage nonmedical drug use and that sanctions should be tailored to fit the crime. Legal recommendations included a gradual withdrawal of the use of the criminal law against nonmedical users of drugs, the repeal of the offence of possession of cannabis, a general reduction of penalties for all other cannabis offences and no increase in the penalties for other drug offences, and for opiate dependants an emphasis on treatment and medical management rather than criminal sanctions.

None of these specific recommendations have yet been enacted, but in enforcing exiting legislation the courts have frequently followed the general direction advocated by the inquiry.

See also DRUG USE, NONMEDICAL.