It's Time Feds Woke Up and Inhaled The Aroma

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Aug 7, 2001.

  1. By Brian Kappler, The Gazette
    Source: Montreal Gazette

    Allan Rock went down a mine shaft the other day, and there the federal health minister met an idea whose time has come. It's becoming increasingly clear this summer that the dam has burst: official legal toleration of marijuana is now inevitable in Canada. It's not if, any more, but merely when.
    And so it's time to ask how? Will our leaders start now to figure out how to do this right? Sometimes things are going on in society that slip below the politicians' radar screen. Quietly but relentlessly, like a fire in a coal seam, an attitude spreads and politicians must scramble to catch up. The slower-witted ones may bail against the tide for a while, but eventually they give up.

    So it was with divorce. Until 1968, each divorce in Quebec and Newfoundland required a separate act of Parliament. In other provinces there were limited grounds for divorce; generally the husband would have to confess to adultery, whatever the actual reason for the split, because such a charade was the only way to qualify for divorce.

    Public Often Ahead of Politicians

    Finally the government caught up; since 1985 we've have "no-fault" divorce, which is reasonably efficient.

    Perhaps too efficient: some jurisdictions, including Quebec, are starting to require pre-split counseling.

    Something similar happened with abortion, and again with homosexual relationships. In each case, politicians and the courts have scurried to make law and administrative practice conform to what the majority of Canadians have indicated, by one means or another, they no longer oppose.

    Few Canadians, if any, actually like abortion, and nobody plans to end up divorced. But we're not making collective moral judgments about our neighbours as much as we used to; individuals are increasingly free to decide things for themselves. Now, if only they'd make the right choices ...

    These social attitude changes are rarely automatic: crusaders may start as lonely voices, pioneers need to work tirelessly. And fierce debate may lead to extremism on one side or both.

    And not every crusader on every issue is the future incarnate - many of them prove to be mere cranks.

    But when enough people are ready for a certain change in what's generally accepted and what isn't, they just go ahead and start accepting it, and the law be damned. Later the politicians stop fearing "public opinion" - the dwindling voice of the status quo ante.

    That's what is happening now with marijuana. The top brass of the medical associations are trying to hold the line, but who can doubt that lots and lots of prescriptions will be written, soon, for marijuana? There will be forged prescriptions. Prescription-holders will share with friends. There will be court challenges to the confusing new limits on medical dope.

    Through it all, police will lose the last bit of incentive to enforce existing laws - would you want to arrest someone who may pull out both a prescription and a pitiful tale of illness?

    When the minister of health acknowledges with a wink and a grin that as a younger man he tried the stuff; when public figures routinely duck questions about their drug habits; when any farm may have a pot patch in the back 40; when increasing majorities tell pollsters they favour medical legalization, and "de-criminalization" over-all - then it's time to accept the inevitable: marijuana, like booze and tobacco, is here to stay.

    Expert commissions in many countries have found the stuff neither addictive nor dangerous to health. Marijuana figures in half of Canadian drug arrests; if it were legal, police could concentrate on truly dangerous drugs.

    Pitfalls Abound

    There are all kinds of problems with relaxing the law: use would become more widespread, especially if prices fell, which they likely would despite the inevitable taxes. Governments have learned from tobacco and alcohol how to optimize tax revenue just below the bootlegging level. The Americans would be unhappy with us. And there would be pressure for the same treatment for other, more dangerous drugs.

    The Dutch model is one possibility: possession, use and sale of small amounts are tolerated under carefully controlled conditions.

    There are all kinds of options. It's time to start looking at them seriously, because that photo of Allan Rock in the pot mine symbolizes the fundamental turning point we have reached: it's time for Canadians to stop pretending, as a society, that we never inhale.

    Thursday: Should we legalize it? Or merely decriminalize it?

    Brian Kappler's E-mail address is:

    Complete Title: Marijuana: It's Time Feds Woke Up and Inhaled The Aroma

    Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
    Author: Brian Kappler, The Gazette
    Published: Tuesday, August 7. 2001
    Copyright: 2001 The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.

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