Pubdate: Sat, 10 Sep 2005
Source: St. Albert Gazette (CN AB)
Copyright: 2005 St. Albert Gazette
Author: Dave Burkhart


I would like to respond to Dr. Alan Murdock's commentary in the Aug.
27 Gazette.

A critical point Murdock failed to address in his commentary on the
decriminalization of marijuana was the issue of harm reduction. It's a
common failing among proponents of continued prohibition, possibly
because harm reduction has been used very effectively in the past to
the overall benefit of society and is the most logical way to address
the issue of marijuana and thus the most difficult to argue against.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we have been down the
prohibition road before, some 80 years ago, with the most common drug
currently in use by society-- alcohol. We learned long ago that
prohibition does not work, that no amount of force will prevent people
from exercising their right to use a drug (and alcohol is most
assuredly a drug) they enjoy. Prohibition in the 1920s fed organized
crime, it made criminals out of otherwise respectable citizens, it was
a gross infringement upon the individual's right of freedom of choice.
Marijuana prohibition today is a mirror image of the 1920s experience.

Organized crime is reaping huge profit from the commonplace and
increasing use of marijuana. Gangs are becoming increasingly more
violent as they protect their turf. Scarce police resources are being
directed away from dealing with society's truly harmful drugs, like
crystal meth, to bust pot smokers and those who have the temerity to
grow a few perfectly natural plants in the sanctity of their home.
Even given the worst case potential for harm to society, marijuana
interdiction is a ridiculously ineffective use of our police and courts.

The bottom line? Marijuana is much less harmful to people, old or
young, than alcohol. Were it legalized and regulated, marijuana would
do far less harm to society than it does currently as a prohibited
substance. Marijuana is, after all, just a simple plant, one that
extensively benefited humanity for centuries until its recent
unwarranted ban under laws that were based on bigotry, fear and

Despite the headline on his commentary, Murdock should realize that
politicians, for the most part, have in fact taken a stand on pot. A
few years ago, a Senate committee, stacked with a majority of
Conservative senators, studied the problem of marijuana extensively
over a lengthy period of time and recommended to Parliament that it be
legalized. St. Albert's current Conservative MP John Williams has
spoken out against liberalizing the laws prohibiting marijuana. A
parliamentary committee, convened shortly after the Senate committee,
studied the issue of marijuana, albeit much less extensively than the
Senate committee, and recommended the middle ground of
decriminalization. Most federal politicians and all federal political
parties have stated positions on marijuana. Each has taken a stand on

What we need now is not more political posturing. What we need is a
reasoned debate by an informed citizenry armed with the truth followed
by concrete action on the part of our elected representatives to carry
out the will of the majority. Given accurate, truthful facts about the
effects of marijuana on the individual and upon society, no reasonable
person could fail to opt for full legalization and regulation.

It's about time we looked this spectre in the eye and did what is
necessary to ensure the individual rights of all citizens to freedom
of choice are guaranteed and our police and legal resources are
expended in the most efficient manner possible to better address the
real and serious issues facing society. Marijuana legalization is a no
brainer. We must simply do it and go on. And the sooner the better.

Dave Burkhart

St. Albert
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