Pubdate: Thu, 19 Apr 2012
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2012 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Jodie Emery
Note: Jodie Emery is a public speaker, business owner political 
activist and the wife of Marc Emery. She is also the director of 
Cannabis Culture Headquarters, Cannabis Culture Magazine and Pot TV.


What is the true cost of marijuana prohibition? After four decades of 
the war on drugs, none of its stated goals have been achieved. Gangs 
are richer, more powerful, increasingly violent and the availability 
and use of marijuana has only gone up.

Legal drugs, like alcohol and tobacco, do not finance organized 
crime. Instead, gangsters make billions from the illegal drug trade, 
while taxpayers lose a fortune in law enforcement, court and prison costs.

The Conservative government steadfastly promises to continue wasting 
more money and damaging more lives by expanding the same failed 
policy. Meanwhile, many high-profile Canadian professionals and 
experts have recently condemned cannabis prohibition and called for 
legalization, including provincial chief health officers, former 
mayors and attorneys-general.

These respected individuals are not campaigning for more drug use or 
endorsing organized crime. They know that prohibition has only 
empowered criminal organizations and made Canadians less safe, while 
tax dollars are endlessly spent with no positive results whatsoever.

But beyond the economic cost of keeping marijuana illegal, there is a 
human cost, as well.

A devastating civil rights crisis has been going on since U.S. 
president Richard Nixon famously declared that marijuana was "enemy 
number one" in the war on drugs. Police and prison budgets 
skyrocketed, resulting in millions of American citizens being sent to 
jail for harmless marijuana offences. Now the same policies are being 
implemented here in Canada.

Peaceful, non-violent citizens are at risk of being locked up, away 
from their families and friends, losing their jobs and homes, while 
being saddled with criminal records. People who have never hurt 
anyone else find themselves jailed for years, even decades, for 
cannabis crimes, with a hugely negative impact on families and communities.

When those people are imprisoned, they often leave behind children, 
siblings, parents and friends who suffer in their absence. While that 
person is in jail - costing taxpayers over $100,000 per year - their 
family members have to deal with the financial cost of hiring 
lawyers, going to court and losing a breadwinner. Their children lose 
the full parental guidance and support needed for a proper 
upbringing. Parents have to worry for the safety of their imprisoned 
children and deal with the stigma of having a family member in jail.

I know this cost in human suffering very well. My husband, Marc 
Emery, is in a medium-security U.S. federal prison, serving a 
five-year sentence for selling marijuana seeds through the mail. He 
used revenue from the seed sales to fund peaceful anti-prohibition 
campaigns and political activism from 1994 to 2005, advocating for 
legalization to end the violence and criminal control of the industry.

The Drug Enforcement Administration even boasted in a press release 
that his arrest was a "significant blow ... to the marijuana 
legalization movement" and that "legalization lobbyists now have one 
less pot of money to rely on."

My husband never hurt anyone, yet the government has caused harm to 
him, to me and to everyone who cares for him. The same thing happens 
every single day to each person arrested and imprisoned on marijuana 
charges. It costs a fortune to put them behind bars, but it also 
greatly diminishes any opportunities to contribute to society by 
working a normal job and paying taxes.

Even worse, most children of prisoners are likely to end up in prison 
themselves. It's a destructive cycle of suffering and loss. 
Prohibition manufactures crime where none would otherwise exist.

It is morally unjust to make harmless people suffer, yet the 
government's continued prohibition of cannabis has led to families 
being torn apart and peaceful people being warehoused with violent 
criminals. And still, marijuana continues to grow, the demand and 
supply never decreases and the illegal market keeps funding organized crime.

Advocates of legalization know that marijuana prohibition has failed. 
Politicians, police and anyone else who supports prohibition are 
supporting organized crime and the continued devastation of innocent 
lives and the communities they live in - at a price we simply cannot afford.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom