Up with Mari Jane
Justin Trudeau has now gone from being in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana, to ‘going all in’ on the issue; advocating for full legalization. The only step higher in the progression would be for him to suggest making it mandatory, or perhaps force people to take a toke at gunpoint. (Liberals do tend to over-govern.)
His stated approach would include government distribution and taxation of the popular plant, ostensibly along the same lines as alcohol distribution models currently in use. Hopefully, it would go hand in hand with an automatic pardon for anyone with a simple pot possession record, too. After all, it would hardly seem fair for someone to be saddled with a criminal record for something no longer illegal. Who knows, maybe there might even be a class-action suit against the government to make them refund all the fines levied for the offense over the years.
It does seem odd that the government can legislate against certain activities such as alcohol and drug use, as well as gambling and prostitution in some jurisdictions, because these behaviors are so dangerous, only to get involved in these activities as a service provider when there are tax dollars to be made. Apparently, given the rampant marijuana use in the nation, awareness campaigns highlighting the perils of pot, work even less well than the “Economic Action Plan” saturation bombing campaign, if that’s even possible. It is obvious pot prohibition has worked about as well as alcohol prohibition did in the U.S. in the 1900’s or tea and coffee prohibitions in Europe in the much more distant past. All those prohibitions ever achieved were to drive the activity underground and create powerful criminal organizations to exploit whatever is being prohibited.
This is, of course, an exciting announcement for the pro-pot lobby. Surprisingly, however, even recreational marijuana users are not universally in favor of full legalization. Some users fear government involvement would mean a less potent product being available, although the feds should realize if they try and sell bad weed, the black market will still thrive.
Also somewhat surprising is the number of people who do not partake of the herb but still favor either legalization or just decriminalization. The view that the “War on Drugs” has been a futile, expensive, counter-productive effort is definitely the majority view in Canada. Even Prime Minister Harper alluded to that fact while in South America at an international summit meeting last year. Curiously, his response is to continue the same failed policies; including stiffening penalties for those caught growing as few as six plants. Admitting a strategy isn’t working, but then bolstering the law to pursue the same flawed policy, appears stupid, frankly. It was Albert Einstein that made the point that doing the same thing over and over in vain, hoping to eventually get a different outcome, is a sign of insanity.
Trudeau’s principle argument in support of legalization is that having government-run distribution systems would help to keep marijuana out of the hands of young people who, experts claim, are at the most risk for brain damage from the drug. Many wags have pointed out that having the government control liquor has not been particularly effective against keeping booze away from minors. It must have some effect, however, as it is common knowledge in most high schools that it is far easier to get drugs than alcohol, due to the difference in retailing models.
Those in favor of marijuana use often claim many medicinal effects from the plant, from pain relief to reduction in epileptic seizures. The problem is that since the drug has never been seriously studied by the major drug companies, we cannot know whether the weed has curative properties or not. Big Pharma, however, has little to gain from studying a drug that is already widely available and easily produced by the end user. Thus marijuana and all its potential risks and benefits are still not clearly understood. This makes it difficult for doctors to be comfortable proscribing marijuana, no matter how abundant the anecdotal evidence is.
Given this reality, many might suggest that the Harper strategy of prohibition is the correct course until everything is known about the plant and informed decisions can be made. This is not very convincing argument for others, however, since pot has been in use in North American culture for almost a century and there are some things we can discern from that history. For example, when was the last time you saw a headline that stated “Man Dies From Marijuana Overdose”? Likely never. That possibility is only slightly more remote than violence breaking out at a pot party. Everyone knows boozers are far more likely to engage in fisticuffs than their altitude-altered brethren.
Despite the positives in Trudeau’s position; decreased police work, reduced court time, and a possible tax windfall, it is still a fairly brave strategy for the Liberal leader to embrace. Though pot fanciers might outnumber those who see all drugs as inherently evil and dangerous, it is the latter, rather than the former who vote.
In contrast to Trudeau, the NDP position is somewhat muddled but the party has signaled strongly pot use shouldn’t be a jail offense. While favoring decriminalization, Mulcair has called for a royal commission into the matter, apparently failing to realize we’ve been there, done that with the Le Dain Commission in the early ‘70’s. Decriminalization is a far more politically palatable approach, perhaps and Trudeau should be lauded for at least providing another alternative to either the NDP or CPC positions.
As Trudeau pushes his party on marijuana management, it will be interesting to see if he will actually follow through given the chance. Paul Martin promised to decriminalize it and ultimately abandoned the project. Will Justin head down the same road?
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