Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jun 2003
Source: Whistler Question (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003, Whistler Printing & Publishing Ltd.
Author: Matthew M. Elrod
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Dear Editor,

At first blush, it may appear that setting the fines for possessing cannabis
lower for young people than adults "sends the wrong message."

("Why the double standard?", May 30), however, calculated as a proportion of
their average disposable income, teens will be hit harder than adults.

South Australia introduced an "expiation" regime in 1987, under which those
caught in possession of small amounts are ticketed and fined. The new law
was, as you suggested, "vigorously" enforced. Over the next six years
tickets almost tripled, from 6,000 to 17,000 per year.

However, half the tickets went unpaid, so more users were criminalized after
decriminalization than before. Further, Australians discovered that the
police are more apt to ticket the young, the homeless and visible
minorities, magnifying existing geographical, racial- and class-based
enforcement disparities.

Double standards? Obesity causes more preventable deaths than all illicit
drugs combined. Why have we not established "diet courts" for coercing
non-violent dietary offenders into weight-loss programs?

Granted, junk food prohibition would be constitutionally questionable.

It would clog our justice system, corrupt police, trample civil rights and
finance organized crime through power-diverting basement "bake- ops" in our
communities. Yes, snack-food traffickers would develop more potent and
easily concealed confections of questionable toxicity and purity. Young
hoodlums with bleak job prospects would push candy in our high schools on
commission, along with their usual black market cocaine, heroin and
methamphetamines. There would be no labeling nor quality control, and with
zero tolerance, no way to teach consumers how to snack responsibly - or even
acknowledge that such a thing is possible.

However, I submit that our failure to prohibit junk food, or at least ticket
and fine all junk food consumers, young and old, fit or fat, sends the
"wrong message to kids" that it is okay to be obese. As a parent of three
children, I would appreciate it if taxpayers ponied up 400 million dollars
annually to enforce junk food laws and so help me teach my children to eat
their vegetables. I am confident organized crime, police unions and prison
guards would also be much obliged.

Matthew M. Elrod

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