Pubdate: Tue, 23 Apr 2013
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2013 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Rob Breakenridge
Page: 11


For reasons that still seem elusive, April 20 (4/20) is an annual day
of marijuana activism. To some, it's a call to rally for legalization,
while to others, it's merely a day to enjoy a toke.

Activism and consumption were both in abundance this past weekend in
the annual 4/20 celebrations. That included a gathering of some 10,000
people on Parliament Hill, calling on the federal government to
reconsider its drug laws.

While such demands on Ottawa may be as futile now as they were 20
years ago, in many other ways, the event has taken on a much greater
significance and legitimacy. Momentum is clearly on the side of those
opposed to the status quo.

Support for legalization has never been higher. A Forum Research poll
done last November found that 65 per cent of Canadians support either
legalization or decriminalization of marijuana. Around the same time,
an Angus Reid poll found that 57 per cent of Canadians (and 54 per
cent of Americans) support legalization. Just last week, a poll found
that almost three-quarters of voters in B.C. support taking a closer
look at the regulation and taxation of marijuana.

While such polls may be - for now - merely academic in the Canadian
context, in the U.S., it has meant actual change. Ballot measures to
legalize marijuana passed in Colorado and Washington state. Voters in
other U.S. states may soon get the same opportunity. It's hard to see
how this genie will ever be rebottled.

Mind you, it's difficult to see why we'd want to maintain the status
quo. Marijuana prohibition is at its core anti-freedom and
anti-liberty. Why should we need the state to protect consenting
adults from themselves? Furthermore, our hypocrisy is highlighted
every day as consenting adults legally consume alcohol and tobacco.

Instead, we squander billions of dollars in a futile and
counterproductive war on drugs with little or nothing to show for it.
For example, a UNICEF report released earlier this month found that
Canada has the highest rate of youth marijuana use among developed
countries - 28 per cent of young people say they've used marijuana in
the past year. Interestingly, countries with a more liberal approach
to drugs - such as Portugal, where all drugs are decriminalized - have
much lower usage rates.

Conversely, teenage use of tobacco - a legal substance - is far lower.
Only four per cent of teens report smoking at least once a week. Thus,
the argument that prohibition is needed to "protect kids" is exposed
as an empty facade.

Yet still so many of our leaders cling to that facade, and not just in
Ottawa, either.

Here in Alberta, the government is engaged in "stakeholder
consultations" as part of their plan to make Alberta "grow-op free."
Not to reduce the number of marijuana grow-ops, but a pledge to
eliminate them altogether.

This sort of rhetoric is really no different than the sort of rhetoric
we've been hearing from drug-war hawks for the past 40 years - merely
another version of the "we'll-get-tough-and-make-this-problem-go-away"
approach that has failed so spectacularly.

True, there are indeed many problems associated with illegal grow ops
- - other illegal activities, health hazards and safety hazards are some
of the problems identified by Justice Minister Jonathan Denis.

But the minister fails to acknowledge that this is all a byproduct of
prohibition, and without acknowledging the source of the problem, how
can we hope to tackle it? Denis has suggested those who might notice
that connection take the matter up with the federal government, for
drug laws are, of course, federal jurisdiction.

We might recall, though, how the minister and others in the provincial
government previously spoke out against the gun registry. If a federal
law or policy is creating difficulties here in Alberta, it is
certainly incumbent on the provincial government to speak up.

There is also the fact that legal, authorized grow-ops exist in
Alberta - those facilities which are licensed to grow medicinal
marijuana. If a subset of grow-ops exist free of the very problems
we're trying to eradicate, why would we ignore that?

As more and more Canadians are coming to the conclusion that we need
smarter drug policy, our politicians are giving us anything but.

The Rob Breakenridge Show airs weeknights from 9 to 11 p.m. on
NewsTalk 770.
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