Pubdate: Wed, 13 Mar 2002
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2002 Southam Inc.
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


The Canadian Medical Association is to be commended for making the 
case for marijuana decriminalization (Canadian Doctors Want Marijuana 
Decriminalized, March 12).

There is no evidence that zero tolerance actually decreases use. 
Based on findings that criminal records do more harm than marijuana, 
a majority of European Union countries have decriminalized soft drugs 
such as marijuana. Despite harsh penalties and perhaps because of 
forbidden fruit appeal, lifetime use of marijuana is higher in the 
United States than in any European country.

While Canada increasingly favours sensible public health approaches 
to drugs, the culture wars are heating up in the United States. 
President Bush is now pushing "compassionate coercion" for users of 
non-traditional drugs, with millions of cannabis smokers the likely 
target of his "compassion." Like any drug, marijuana can be harmful 
if abused, but arrests and forced treatment are hardly appropriate 
health interventions.

Diet is the number one determinant of health outcomes. Do we really 
want the government monitoring everything that goes into our bodies? 
And if it is the proper role of government to punish citizens for 
unhealthy choices, why target marijuana? Unlike alcohol, marijuana 
has never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it share 
the addictive properties of nicotine.

Unfortunately, cannabis represents the counterculture to misguided 
reactionaries intent on forcibly imposing their version of morality. 
The United States now has the highest incarceration rate in the 
world, in large part due to the intergenerational culture war 
otherwise known as the war on some drugs. Canada should Just Say No 
to the American Inquisition.

Robert Sharpe, program officer, Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, D.C.
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