Pubdate: Fri, 05 Sep 2008
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Dave Mabell
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Legalizing The Use Of Marijuana Will Be An Election Issue If 
Proponents Across Canada Listen To Neil Magnuson.

In Lethbridge as part of the "2008 Freedom Tour" on Thursday, the 
long-time activist said three of the four national parties have 
spoken out in favour of decriminalizing the recreational drug.

For the Green Party, he said, it's one of the key issues.

"If Elizabeth May is allowed to take part in the debate, she'll talk about it."

May, the party's leader, is battling the reigning Conservatives' 
efforts to keep her out of the televised debates. Magnuson, in 
Alberta as part of the movement's annual trek to the House of Commons 
in Ottawa, said he'll be urging legalization advocates to take full 
part in the upcoming election.

Pro-pot websites, Facebook and other vehicles will be used to urge 
advocates to speak up during the campaign and then vote for 
candidates who support their cause.

Many Liberal and New Democratic Party candidates are also expected to 
back legalization, he pointed out, though it may not be a platform 
plank as it is for the nation's Greens. Not many Conservatives are in 
favour, he conceded.

"They're in the pockets of the United States," a nation where 
marijuana use is heavily proscribed.

But in Canada today, Magnuson said most adults see the prohibition on 
marijuana as no more effective as the nation's generations-ago ban on alcohol.

"I think people across Canada are fairly aware of this issue," he 
said. "But they feel helpless about changing the law," especially 
when a Tory government is promoting longer jail terms for people 
caught selling pot.

"Very few Canadians think we should use criminal law against it."

By refusing to regulate and tax the product - just as provinces do 
with alcohol - he said the federal government is putting that revenue 
in the hands of organized crime, just as in Al Capone's era. So 
criminal gangs recruit young people to sell their product and run the 
risk of arrest.

"For youth who are living in poverty, they can't resist the lure of 
easy money."

Magnuson said a Canadian Senate report pegged the costs of policing, 
prosecuting and jailing those young people at $1 billion or more 
every year. Because marijuana is so widely grown and used, he added, 
about 1.5 million Canadians have a drug-related conviction on their 
court record.

A 25-year activist in metro Vancouver, Magnuson said experience there 
refutes opponents' suggestions that using pot becomes a "gateway" to 
using dangerous "hard drugs." What researchers there have found, he 
said, is marijuana's role in helping addicts quit those narcotics and 
get on with their lives.

"So it's not a gateway, it's an 'exit' drug."
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