Pubdate: Fri, 23 Nov 2012
Source: Journal, The (CN ON Edu)
Copyright: 2012 The Queen's Journal
Authors: Colton Carrick,


Our panelists examine the possible choices Canada faces after Colorado
and Washington states legalized recreational marijuana earlier this

Continue Status Quo

Colton Carrick, ArtSci '16

With the recent legalization of marijuana in the US, many Canadians
were left in awe at the decision made by our traditionally more
conservative neighbour. For decades we Canadians have considered
ourselves substantially more progressive on issues such as gay
marriage, abortion, healthcare and until now - drug use. However with
America's decision, we are now looking to our own drug laws and
questioning their relevance and effectiveness in our modern age. Is
the legalization of marijuana the right move for the Canadian
government? Absolutely not.

According to many groups the legalization of marijuana isn't just a
proper course of action, but inevitable. Many reference the vast
extent of marijuana use in Canada as justification for its

According to the United Nations, in 2007 Canada led the industrialized
world in its proportion of the population that used marijuana. As the
debate over marijuana gains notoriety, pleas for legislation are
becoming more and more common. The Liberal Party of Canada has
recently become an official advocate for its legalization and
advocates are now looking to the government for legislation.

However, the obligation of any respectable government is to improve
and maintain a civil and just society. The greatest tool a government
has to fulfill this obligation is the ability to make positive change
within society through legislation. Essentially, the purpose of
legislation is to improve society, not indulge it. To legalize
marijuana is to pervert the constructive and beneficial purpose of

People don't want to legalize marijuana because they see it as an
integral component of a human life lived with dignity or a necessity
in the maintenance of the delicate fabric of society.

People want to legalize marijuana because they want to get high.
Marijuana use isn't a fundamental freedom of the individual; it's a
means by which the individual can obtain physical pleasure.

If the Government of Canada legalizes marijuana a dangerous precedent
will be set. The day principle bows down to passion is the day
democracy fails.

Now I'm sure that those who advocate for recreational marijuana use
will at some point mention freedom. They will either mention the
oppressive laws that currently exist with regard to marijuana use or
touch on their right to put into their bodies whatever substance they
please. Though I admire their passion for freedom it seems that they
often forget freedom's inseparable companion: responsibility. The
civil rights activist Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Freedom makes a
huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes
responsibility." Freedom isn't meant to allow the citizen to do what
they want, it's meant to allow the citizen to do what they ought.

The use of marijuana impedes a citizen's ability to fulfill his or her
full potential as a citizen. The acute symptoms of marijuana use
include impaired coordination, balance, attention, judgment and
short-term memory. Persistent symptoms include sleep, memory and
learning impairment; and long-term use can lead to addiction, anxiety,
depression and amotivational syndrome

I am not naive to the realities of marijuana use. I myself know that
many people frequently use the drug and experience little or no
negative side effects. Though this may be the reality for the majority
of marijuana users, the fact of the matter is that it can have
devastating effects on a small group of individuals - a small group of
individuals can impact society in a major way.

One need only look at the millions of dollars spent on alcohol
rehabilitation, the countless lives lost because of drunk driving, the
hundreds of families torn apart because of alcoholism, and thousands
of other alcohol related deaths to see that a mild recreational drugs
can have lasting and horrible effects on a community.

The difference between alcohol and marijuana is that marijuana has yet
to become a part of mainstream culture. It isn't too late to stop
marijuana in its tracks. Government isn't about giving you what you
want. It's about giving you what you need.

- - Colton Carrick is a member of the Queen's University Conservative

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Legalize only marijuana

Michelle Gordon, ArtSci '13

On Nov. 6, the same day that voters in the American states of
Washington and Colorado approved the recreational use of marijuana,
the Harper government's Safe Streets and Communities Act came into
force, establishing mandatory minimum penalties for the possession and
production of pot.

The government has said that pot must remain illegal because of its
harmful effects on users and on society, especially young people. As
for the effect on users, pot is generally no more harmful, if consumed
in moderation, than those legal but controlled substances, alcohol and
tobacco. As for harmful societal effects, the current federal policy
is itself causing negative consequences.

Millions of Canadians already consume pot, yet Canada is losing an
estimated $1 billion in annual tax revenue that legalized sales of pot
would generate. We are, meanwhile, spending an estimated $400 million
trying to enforce a failed drug strategy. We are occupying the police
and the courts with a victimless crime when their time could be
devoted to more serious crimes. And, in the process, we are giving
young people criminal records.

The Liberal Party of Canada favours a more sensible approach. At the
party's biennial convention last January, delegates approved a
resolution calling for the legalization of pot. This is a policy based
on evidence and realism rather than ideology and wishful thinking.
Much of the negative impact which the current criminalization of
marijuana has on society would be eliminated if Ottawa were to remove
cannabis from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The regulation,
sale and taxation of cannabis would then be mostly under the
provinces' jurisdiction, just as tobacco and alcohol are. The Liberal
policy would give amnesty to all Canadians who have been convicted of
simple and minimal marijuana possession, and would expunge their
criminal records.

This isn't a radical new policy. The Liberal Party isn't trying to win
votes away from the Canadian Marijuana Party whose sole reason for
existence is to legalize Marijuana. It reflects the thrust of two
landmark Canadian studies. The Le Dain Commission in 1972 urged repeal
of the prohibition against the simple possession of cannabis and
cultivation for personal use. The Canadian Senate Special Committee on
Illegal Drugs in 2002 proposed that cannabis possession be legal for
anyone over 16 years of age.

The Harper Government insists that marijuana must not be legalized
because of the incentive this would provide for gang activity and
violent crime. However, it's the status quo - the criminal prohibition
of marijuana - that endangers Canadians by promoting gang-related
crime and weapons smuggling. A Liberal government, while legalizing
marijuana, would ensure the regulation and taxation of its production,
distribution and use. A Liberal government would also maintain strict
penalties for illicit trafficking and illegal importation and export
of pot.

Last October, a B.C. organization called Stop the Violence, which
includes former judges, police chiefs and health experts, launched a
high-profile campaign to "end the cannabis cash cow of organized crime."

The B.C. coalition reported that marijuana prohibition fuels gang
warfare and that school children now have easier access to pot than to
alcohol or cigarettes, due to the reach of organized crime. Thus, a
misguided policy ostensibly to protect young people from pot, turns
them into the clients of drug dealers and often gives them criminal

The B.C. coalition, like the Liberal Party, advocates the regulated
sale of marijuana similar to that of cigarettes, so that it can be
controlled and taxed and its use eventually reduced.

Of course, legalization of marijuana wouldn't mean legalization of
other narcotics such as heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. Those drugs are
far more addictive and dangerous. But even for marijuana, a Liberal
government would underwrite education programs to raise awareness of
its health risks. Just as the lawful sale of tobacco hasn't thwarted
the success of public health efforts to lessen its use, neither would
the legalization of marijuana be at odds with efforts to curb its
excessive consumption.

- - Michelle Gordon is vice-present provincial with the Queen's
University Liberal Association.

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Legalize all drugs

Jesse Waslowski, ArtSci '13

Illegal drugs and controlled substances may be bad for you, but they
should be legal to use, sell or produce. Why does any single entity
have the right to control how an individual does harm to themselves?

A practical discussion is useful to show the effects of drug
legalization. It's interesting to note that people haven't stopped
doing drugs because they are illegal. In 2010-11 for example, Canada
admitted over 225,000 people to sentenced custody, remand and other
temporary detention. Six per cent of those admitted to sentenced
custody were admitted on drug offences.

Compare this with Portugal. Portugal has decriminalized all drugs
since 2001, and "illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and
rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles
dropped," according to the think-tank CATO. This is the kind of good
that can occur when drug users aren't treated as criminals.

This really begs the question, why is the government wasting money
throwing users in jail for victimless crimes? In 2010, CATO estimated
in the US, "that legalizing drugs would reduce government expenditures
by $41.3 billion annually." Normally, the government doesn't arrest an
alcoholic unless they're doing something else illegal. If alcoholics
are harming themselves or their social group, they're allowed to seek
or be offered help. This includes medical help or communal help, with
groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

When drugs are illegal, the spontaneous growth of community aid is
stunted. If alcohol were illegal, what alcoholic would risk getting
caught by police so that they could go to an AA meeting? Few if any
would take that risk, and the same is true for the user of any drug.

A proponent of decriminalization but not legalization might agree that
drug users or addicts shouldn't be thrown in jail, but this ignores
the problem of illegal provision. The provision and production of
drugs should also be legalized so that peaceful businesses can
outcompete the violent gangs which currently sell and smuggle drugs.
The world doesn't need another Mexico-like "military-led offensive"
against drug cartels, under President Felipe Calderon's terms where
42,000 people have died between 2006 and 2011.

Just as the prohibition on alcohol once led to the creation of violent
gangs, the prohibition on marijuana and other controlled substances is
doing the same thing today.

Currently, illegal organizations find it profitable to buy guns and
use these guns to protect their goods (drugs) from police and rival

The purchase of violent weaponry would become unnecessary and
therefore unprofitable, if drugs were legalized, because the legal
property (drugs) would be subject to the same protection by police as
all other legal property. Therefore, the legalization of drug
production and provision would reduce violent crime. I prefer price
wars in the market over drug wars in the street.

Finally, those that are the most vulnerable economically have the most
reason to risk joining a gang or selling illegal substances, since
this risk is compensated monetarily. These people, because of their
illegal activities, are at greater risk for not advancing economically
if they receive a criminal record.

Prohibition on drugs therefore perpetuates poverty and aggravates
systems of discrimination that interact with poverty.

Controlled substances should be legalized because there is no right to
stop someone from doing to themselves what they choose. Legalization
improves the health of users and reduces violence, whereas prohibition
perpetuates poverty and discrimination.

- - Jesse Waslowski is a member of Queen's Students for Liberty.
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