Pubdate: Wed, 16 Jul 2003
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2003, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Jeremy Loome, Edmonton Sun


When Tommy Banks was a new senator a few years ago, someone asked him 
whether marijuana should be more available in Canada and he didn't like the 

What a difference two years and 600-plus pages of research can make. Banks, 
who sat on a Senate committee that investigated the pot question, thinks 
the government move to supply pot to those with medical exemptions is a 
step in the right direction.

A "baby step," mind you. The senator, who once suggested liberal pot laws 
would lead to interminable border problems with the U.S., is quite clear 
why research changed his mind and why he believes people should either be 
allowed to grow their own or buy it from a licensed distributor.

"There has never, in history, been a good reason presented for marijuana 
being illegal," said Banks. "It's fundamentally important for people to 
understand that it's never been based on the facts. It's non-toxic, it's 
not addictive and has no provable, long-term irreversible effects.

"Sure, if you smoke it all the time you've got the risk of cancer, but who 
sits around and smokes a whole pack of joints?"

Banks said opponents of the Senate report - which called for 
decriminalization and government control, similar to liquor and tobacco - 
still can't poke holes in it, more than a year after it came out.

"Let's face it, it's an emotional issue, first and foremost," said Banks. 
"When you have an emotional issue, whether it's abortion, capital 
punishment or pot, you get an emotionally based argument. "At that point, 
facts go out the window."

Banks said Canada is heading in the right direction but that most federal 
politicians think backing the Senate position may be politically harmful. 
Polls are fairly evenly split over whether pot should be fully decriminalized.

"If there are 44% still opposed, that's too much. No politician is going to 
take a chance that they might upset half of their electorate."
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