Tag Archives: weed

Common sense up in smoke?

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Those who argue that marijuana should be legalized, though tightly regulated, because the prohibitions against its use don’t work are only half-right. It all depends on one’s definition of the word, “work”.

If we acknowledge that the law contorts the evidence that cannabis is safer than either tobacco or alcohol, that it succeeds in making criminals out of otherwise peaceable citizens, that it reinforces crusty stereotypes about shiftless stoners, and that it costs Canada’s judicial system millions of dollars a year that could be spent in more productive ways, then we must also acknowledge that the law works marvelously well to utterly ill effect.

Just ask any cop.

This week, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) passed a resolution that would give officers the discretion to levy fines for simple holding (pending, of course, federal approval).

The text of the ruling reads, in part, “The CACP believes it is necessary to expand the range of enforcement options available to law enforcement personnel in order to more effectively and efficiently address the unlawful possession of cannabis. The current process of sending all possession of cannabis cases pursuant to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to criminal court is placing a significant burden on the entire Justice System from an economic and resource utilization perspective.”

According to CACP President Chief Constable Jim Chu in the accompanying news release, “It must be recognized. . .that under the current legislation the only enforcement option for police, when confronted with possession of cannabis, is either to turn a blind eye or lay charges. The latter ensues a lengthy and difficult process which, if proven guilty, results in a criminal conviction and criminal record.”

The Association stops short of calling for decriminalization. (In fact, it goes out of its way to support the legal status quo). Nevertheless, its declaration reflects what is increasingly becoming mainstream opinion about the drug in law enforcement, medical and even political arenas.

“As four former attorneys-general of British Columbia, we were the province’s chief prosecutors and held responsibility for overseeing the criminal justice system,” Ujjal Dosanjh, Colin Gabelmann, Graeme Bowbrick and Geoff Plant wrote in a commentary for The Globe and Mail earlier this year. “We know the burden imposed on B.C.’s policing and justice system by the enforcement of marijuana prohibition and the role that prohibition itself plays in driving organized crime.”

Indeed, they added, “Under marijuana prohibition, violent criminals are provided a protected market that enables them to target our youth and grow rich while vast resources are directed to ineffective law enforcement tactics. Meanwhile, Canada’s criminal justice system is overextended and in desperate need of repair.”

The solution, they insisted, is to regulate the “cannabis market”, which could, they claim, “provide government with billions of dollars in tax and licensing revenues over the next five years. These dollars are in addition to the enormous cost savings that could accrue from ending the futile cat and mouse game between marijuana users and the police.”

None of which would matter one iota if marijuana were the resident force of social evil that conservative ideologues claim. But the preponderance of evidence is, at best, inconclusive. Several recent studies have suggested correlations between mental illness in young people and cannabis use. Others conclude that the more likely causes of psychological disease are genetic and socio-economic, and that it is virtually impossible to select these factors out of the equation.

As long as the law prohibits marijuana use, we, as responsible citizens, are obliged to obey. Certainly, legal channels should never, under any circumstances, facilitate the drug’s availability to minors.

But in a responsive democracy, laws that confound common sense and good governance must be questioned. Especially when they work exceedingly well to achieve everything except that for which they are intended.

It’s not for nothing, perhaps, that health authorities in both Canada and the United States – where weed is also broadly illegal – report that pot smoking is up by several orders of magnitude since the turn of the decade.

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Justin Trudeau’s pot smoke and mirrors

If mystery still shrouds federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s reason to suddenly and forthrightly support legalizing marijuana, one need only check out the CBC story posted to the Corp’s website last week for elucidation.

Scroll down through the statements and declarations, past the partisan reactions and mealy-mouthed disclaimers, and you arrive at the heart of the matter right below the counter that indicates this relatively short item generated a whopping 3,499 comments in less than 48 hours. The temper of many of the remarks tells you all you need to know about Mr. Trudeau’s political acuity.

“I have to give it to Justin Trudeau on this one since he has the guts to stand up and say what people want to hear even if they disagree,” writes STIL SMOKING. “The cons walk that fine line of poll results and reaction then change what they said and say they didn’t say what was printed.”

Adds toothpainpick, “I look forward to legalized marijuana. Legalization of marijuana will open up recruitment into our police forces across the country and allow current members to consume it, should they wish. This should reduce the alcohol driven militarized mentality of our present forces and perhaps lead to a more thoughtful intelligence in the administration of law upon our streets.”

Meanwhile, HS1979 wastes no time getting to the point: “I will be voting Liberal. Well done, Justin Trudeau!”

Well done, indeed. But not for the reason most advocates of legal pot might assume. Until, quite literally just the other day, Mr. Trudeau evinced almost no interest (at least, publicly) in sanctioning soft drugs – certainly not as a plank of Liberal party policy. In fact, his pronouncements tended to fall well within the mainstream of political thinking, which remains far less enlightened than public opinion on the subject of  cannabis use.

As recently as last year, Mr. Trudeau say weed is “not great for your health” as it “disconnects you a little bit from the world.” Three years ago, he told a magazine interviewer “It’s not your mother’s pot.” It’s stronger and, he said, “We need all our brain cells to deal with our problems.”

Well, maybe not all our brain cells, after all.

Last week, while in British Columbia (otherwise known as spliff central), Mr. Trudeau declared to assembled members of the media, “Decriminalization is a great first step (but) I’m in favour of legalization as well, because we control it, tax and regulate it, we allow for development of a medical marijuana industry,” before adding carefully, “I certainly wouldn’t want to encourage people to use it. . .but in terms of respecting Canadians and their choices. . .and following where the science leads us is a responsible way of government.”

It’s a line of reasoning from which we may infer that any other position, from any other political party, is disrespectful of “Canadians and their choices”, anti-scientific and an irresponsible “way of government”. Or, as Mr. Trudeau, himself, observed, “The Conservatives base their approach on ideology and fear. I prefer to base my approach on evidence and best practices and I think that is what Canadians will respond to.”

If recent polls are any indication, he’s right. His fellow citizens generally support legalizing marijuana just as they generally disapprove of the hard-line elements in Conservative Party’s social agenda.

Observers on the right of the political spectrum think Mr. Trudeau has given Prime Minister Harper a cudgel with which to beat him. They’re also right. But, in this case, it won’t matter.

By aligning himself with the majority opinion, Mr. Trudeau forces his political enemies to defend the minority position. The more they fall for the bait, the more ridiculous they appear in the eyes of the voting public.

Here’s Justice Minister Peter MacKay sounding like a bewigged, 19th Century barrister, full of bluff and bluster, as he told the CBC last week: “Our government has no intention of legalization. I would think Mr. Trudeau should look at other areas in which we can end violence and drug use and end this societal ill. . . I find it quite strange frankly that Mr. Trudeau would be talking about legalization as a priority at this time.”

Strange? Perhaps. Crazy? You bet – like a fox.

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