Our Marijuana Policy is a Joke

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Apr 13, 2001.

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

    Great news for all you baby-boomers who are hitting your 50s and getting a bit achy in the, err, joints: tie-dye an old T-shirt, dig out your Joan Baez LPs, dust off the bong, and we'll have a teach-in against arthritis! Somebody bring a case of Oreos.
    Ottawa announced this week that victims of severe arthritis, along with people with certain life-threatening ailments, will be free to smoke up, legally, if other medications don't provide suitable relief of pain or nausea.

    Of course, there'll be rigorous safeguards: would-be users will need to get a couple of medical professionals to sign a piece of paper. There's a forbidding requirement. There's something all too Canadian about this: it's OK to get stoned, as long as you're not doing it to have fun.

    Well, nobody should object to pain relief for the dying. But this new system does seem open to easy and widespread abuse. And even if it were enforced perfectly, it's yet another asymmetrical right: what's illegal for one person to do to himself in the privacy of his own home will be state-sanctioned in the privacy of the home next door.

    This absurdity was required because of an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling last summer: Canadians have the constitutional right to smoke marijuana, it seems, if it provides relief of symptoms of certain ailments. Ottawa had to get these new regulations into force, or the court would have struck down the whole law against grass.

    And after all, nobody would want to live in a country where you can find marijuana in any school yard, where violent criminal gangs bring the stuff in wholesale, where you can smell it at any rock concert, where sometimes even mothers allegedly. ...

    You get the point. Our current marijuana law and policy are just a joke.

    The obvious comparison is with prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. in the 1920s; what people said then was that laws which can't be enforced tend to bring all law into disrepute.

    In 1973, when Pierre Trudeau's Le Dain Royal Commission called for "de-criminalization" of simple possession, the uproar was enormous; society wasn't ready. But by November of 1997, 51 per cent of respondents told Angus Reid pollsters that simple use should not be a crime. That was up from 39 per cent in 1987. And 83 per cent thought medical use should be legal.

    Full legalization of simple possession would solve some problems, but create others. Why allow one more substance that makes people stupid? Isn't alcohol bad enough?

    But, in fact, marijuana is today almost as well established in Canadian society as booze or cigarettes. Nobody proposes banning those, though either may well be more damaging than marijuana, to both health and our social fabric.

    Governments love liquor and smokes, actually, because there's so much revenue in them.

    Nor is it crystal clear that "sin taxes" reduce usage; they may actually reduce consumption of fruit and vegetables and milk, as users make bad choices about how to spend available cash.

    In an ideal society, these products would all be legal and sin taxes - all taxes, in fact - would be much lower. People would be free to "sin" their own "sins" and would pay the consequences - smokers would have to pay for their own lung surgery.

    The society we have isn't like that. And even if it were, there would remain the problem of young users. Almost certainly high prices and legal controls on access do limit, at least a little, the use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana by young people. And Ottawa has taken a good step in making sure that more sin-tax revenue goes to enforcing existing laws - many depanneurs will sell cigarettes to a child of 8, marijuana can be almost as easy to get, and teenagers don't seem to have any trouble getting a drink.

    The current half-hearted enforcement of controls on all these substances neatly reflects the divisions in society, between the stop-the-rot mindset and the libertarian view.

    If legalization of marijuana is going to come in Canada, as eventually it will, look for it to come through the courts, not through Parliament. (Gerald Le Dain, after all, was a judge.) As with abortion, there are some items just too hot for legislators to handle.

    Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
    Author: Brian Kappler, The Gazette
    Published: Thursday, April 12, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.
    Contact: letters@thegazette.southam.ca
    Website: http://www.montrealgazette.com/
     

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