Pubdate: Fri, 06 Sep 2002
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002 The Lethbridge Herald
Bookmarks: (Cannabis - Canada) (Opinions)


If the marijuana debate in this country ever needed a kick start, it
got one this week when a Senate committee unanimously recommended the
federal government legalize the drug.

The committee reasoned there is no evidence pot is any more harmful to
its users than alcohol. Therefore, rather than continue to pour
hundreds of millions of dollars each year into fighting pot use and
those who grow or import and distribute it, it suggested legalizing it
and selling it from government-controlled stores, much the way
alcoholic beverages are today.

On the surface, there would seem to be some advantages: a
government-run growing and distribution system would take marijuana
out of the hands of criminals. It certainly could raise revenues,
giving Ottawa yet another sin to tax. It would provide a whole new
cash crop for farmers. Think of the jobs, either public or private
sector, the distribution network would create. And it is sure to draw
a whole new class of "tourists" to our country.

The committee attempts to answer critics by also recommending stricter
laws on impaired driving, either under the influence of drugs or
alcohol, and funnelling a portion of pot revenues to finance drug
abuse treatment and research.

The key question the committee doesn't answer, however, is do Canada
and Canadians really need another legal recreational drug and the
problems that would inevitably accompany it?

Alcohol and tobacco, the current legal recreational drugs, carry
mind-boggling costs to society with them. Death and destruction caused
by impaired drivers on our highways, family violence and premature
illness and death are just a few of the problems related to alcohol
and tobacco use.

There are moves afoot in Ottawa to decriminalize marijuana possession
- - there is all-party support for such a move and various cabinet
ministers have indicated their willingness to consider that change,
especially in the wake of the court-ordered growing and supply of
marijuana for medical use.

But decriminalization - replacing a criminal conviction with a fine
akin to a Highway Traffic or Liquor Act violation - is a long way
from legalization. And decriminalization certainly doesn't give
marijuana use the cachet of approval that a government-run growing and
distribution network does.

Decriminalization perhaps but Canada is certainly not ready and
probably not able, let alone willing, to handle the fallout of
legalizing pot. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake