Pubdate: Fri, 11 Feb 2011
Source: Courier-Islander (CN BC)
Copyright: 2011 Courier-Islander (Campbell River)
Author: Arthur Black
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


I love the concept of the tipping point - the idea that there can be 
a single moment in time when one last critical molecule of resistance 
crumbles and the whole damn mountainside comes down. Egypt recently 
found its political tipping point. Rosa Parks was a tipping point for 
racial discrimination in America. That first third-period Russian 
goal against our Canadian Juniors (cruising, at the time, to an easy, 
predicted 3-0 victory) was a sports tipping point. The Russians 
poured in four more unanswered goals to trounce the Canucks and take the title.

I believe another tipping point was reached last month in Missoula 
County, Montana.

A kid by the name of Touray Cornell faced a felony charge: possession 
of an illegal substance punishable by serious prison time. The 
substance: marijuana, found by a police raid on his home. The amount: 
1/16th of an ounce.

One-sixteenth of an ounce equals less than two grams. Too little to 
roll in a cigarette paper. You could be carrying 1/16th of an ounce 
of pot around in your pant cuff right now and not even know it. But 
Touray Cornell was charged and he was going down, just as soon as 
Dusty Deschamps, District Judge for Missoula County could select a jury.

Er...small problem. When each prospective juror learned what the case 
was about and how much 'drug' was involved, they refused to serve. 
Juror after juror told the judge they would refuse to convict anyone 
over such a miniscule amount of pot. Twenty-seven prospective jurors 
were polled; 22 of them said that not only would they not convict, 
but the whole farce was "a waste of taxpayer money." "It's a mutiny," 
wailed the District Attorney.

High time too. The war on marijuana has been going on for 100 years, 
give or take. It is impossible to calculate the Himalayas of money, 
man hours and human grief it's cost, but the price tag is surely in 
the hundreds of billions of dollars; the lives blighted too numerous 
to comprehend.

And the result? When I was a youth you pretty much had to be on a 
first-name basis with a jazz musician if you wanted to score some 
pot. Nowadays? Just hang out around any schoolyard or shopping mall 
and look interested. The Grade 8 connection will find you.

Historians in the future will shake their heads to learn there was a 
time when people could spend years behind bars for possession of a 
barnyard weed. Get caught with a baggie in your backpack in 
jurisdictions like Texas and life as you know it is over, but even in 
BC Bud-happy Canada you pay a heavy price. There are three people in 
my life who have criminal records and hence cannot cross the 
U.S./Canada border. Ever. Their offence? They were caught - three or 
four decades ago - with a joint in their pocket or a couple of 
roaches in the car ashtray.

Well, they could get across if they were willing to pay a $5,000 
bribe to the U.S. government to look the other way, but that's 
another shakedown story.

Most of the blame for Canadian hysteria over marijuana can be laid at 
the feet of a single Albertan, Ms. Emily F. Murphy of Edmonton. Ms. 
Murphy, a juvenile court judge back in the 1920s wrote under the pen 
name "Janey Canuck" for Maclean's Magazine.

And she spewed some truly astounding crap. She wrote - and Maclean's 
published - that all marijuana users were "non-white and 
non-Christian, wanting only to seduce white women."

"Behind these dregs of humanity," she wrote, "is an international 
conspiracy of yellow and black drug pushers whose ultimate goal is 
the domination of the bright-browed races of the world."

One 'fix' of the demon weed, Ms. Murphy assured her readers, "has the 
effect of driving (smokers) completely insane.

The addicts lose all sense of moral responsibility and are immune to 
pain...become raving maniacs, liable to kill or indulge in any form 
of violence using the most savage cruelty."

Murphy's Palinesque ravings turned into a best-selling book and - 
incredibly - influenced Canadian law. Marijuana was declared illegal; 
its possession punishable by jail time.

"A decision was made without any scientific basis, nor even any real 
sense of urgency, placing cannabis on the same basis as the opiate 
narcotics, and it has remained so to this day." So said Justice 
Gerald LeDain in his Royal Commission of 1972.

That's nearly 40 years ago. Canadians can still get a record for pot 

I wonder if we'll ever become as brave as those jurors in Missoula County.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom