Pubdate: Tue, 04 Jan 2005
Source: Ladysmith-Chemanius Chronicle (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 BC Newspaper Group & New Media
Author: Edward Hill


In the few weeks before Christmas, Ladysmith Mounties busted a couple of 
local marijuana grow-ops. One of the houses was a repeat offender, and the 
other was discovered because some other drug dealer was trying to rub out 
the competition.

All in all, the police hauled a few hundred plants off the street, after 
the time-consuming process of surveillance, getting warrants, cataloguing 
the grow gear and getting all the paperwork ready for the Crown prosecutor. 
But in the end, after hundreds of hours of work, nothing much was gained in 
Canada's half-baked war on the weed.

A reader of this newspaper argued in a letter that using police resources 
against grow-ops is a waste of taxpayer money, and basically pot shouldn't 
be illegal in the first place. To a point, I agree with this position.

Most people realize marijuana would be a fat cash cow for the government if 
it were legal, and mercilessly taxed like tobacco or alcohol. Legalizing 
something that is smoked and likely harmful to the lungs is a sticky 
question, but even Health Canada has recognized its wide ranging medicinal 
benefits. More than 60 per cent of Canadians support the idea that the 
government control cultivation and distribution, according to a November 
SES Canada Research poll, and this is solid across the demographic board. 
Only retirees and Conservative Party members aren't crazy about legalization.

There are questions about what prolonged pot smoking will do to the mind 
and body. I've known guys who have smoked daily for decades, and frankly, 
they aren't about to do a lot of tricky long-division in their heads. But 
it's safe to say pot hasn't been pegged to the smorgasbord of cancers 
available from cigarettes, or the kind of social disasters linked to 
alcohol abuse.

Even the stuffy, old Canadian Senate got into the game a few years back, 
issuing a report denying pot as a "gateway drug" to heroin or cocaine. It 
went as far to say all the time, money and efforts by law enforcement 
seemed to make little difference. That's $500 million per year of little 
difference, according to the auditor general.

But why the big fuss in the first place? The answer is nobody really knows. 
In 1923, marijuana was added to a parliamentary bill amending the Opium and 
Narcotic Drug Act. Persons unknown, for reasons unknown, added it at the 
last minute. They may have been stoned. Parliament didn't debate the issue, 
and in fact many MPs and the Canadian Medical Association didn't know 
marijuana was illegal for almost a decade.

Attempting to reform what may have been a typo, present-day 
parliamentarians are tackling pot laws with half measures, otherwise known 
as Bill C-17. It calls for small amounts of personal stash to be 
"decriminalized" and tougher trafficking penalties. This is designed to 
appease many people - police, users, the American government - but will end 
up pleasing none.

Until the politicians can find a spine and make drug laws sensible, pot 
will be a commodity, benefitting mainly the criminal elements. Everybody 
knows this. Grow-ops and their association with organized crime, not to 
mention being a fire hazard, will continue to endanger neighbourhoods.

I support local police busting grows when necessary, but they shouldn't 
have to bear the brunt of an entirely preventable 80-year political fiasco.
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