Pubdate: Thu, 18 Jul 2013
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2013 Winnipeg Free Press
Note: Other Opinion - The Prince George Citizen


Decriminalizing marijuana is the equivalent of opening the barn door 
wider after the horses all ran away to let out the last horse that 
decided to stay behind.

As anyone in law enforcement will admit when they're out of uniform, 
the Canadian public made its decision about marijuana use decades ago 
and the law hasn't caught up yet. Many adults simply ignore the law 
and indulge in a puff or two at their personal discretion. More 
importantly, these adults and even the ones who don't smoke up from 
time to time don't see this activity as breaking the law.

When a law has become that irrelevant to the lives of most of the 
adult population and when it's disregarded with open disdain, it's 
time to revisit the law.

Residents will have 90 days to support or ignore an Elections B.C. 
petition starting on Sept. 9 that, if it gets signatures from 10 per 
cent of the registered voters in each electoral district, would ask 
the provincial government to consider passing the "sensible policing 
act." The suggested law would instruct police forces to stop 
enforcing the current laws regarding the simple possession of pot and 
to make the rules the same as for alcohol -- it can't be consumed 
while driving, being stoned behind the wheel could cost you your 
licence, and it can't be used by minors or sold to them.

If the petition passes the 10 per cent threshold, the provincial 
government would also be asked for the federal marijuana law to be 
repealed or for B.C. to get an exemption, which would then allow the 
province to tax and regulate its sale, just like it does for booze 
and regular smokes.

If the petition fails, however, it won't be because people don't want 
pot decriminalized, it will be because most people already think the 
law is ludicrous and ignore it. In other words, what's the point of 
decriminalizing behaviour the majority of Canadian adults already 
finds acceptable?

This also makes the findings of a new study linking pot use to 
increased cancer rates interesting but somewhat irrelevant. The study 
by Dr. Russ Callaghan and two Swedish researchers only looked at 
heavy marijuana use in adolescence and young adult males and how 
frequently cancer manifested itself over 40 years. Callaghan is the 
first to admit tobacco and alcohol demonstrably cause much greater 
physical harm. Furthermore, it would be difficult if not impossible 
to find a test population that only smoked pot and didn't also use 
some or a lot of tobacco and alcohol in the past or at present. Some 
of the variables could be factored into the results but they could be 
significant enough to skew the results.

Every Canadian adult knows smoking and even being around tobacco 
smoke is hazardous to health and costs the economy billions in lost 
productivity and all taxpayers through health-care spending. Alcohol 
consumption is more socially acceptable than smoking now but alcohol 
also comes with health ramifications, particularly from heavy use 
over an extended period of time, as well as the obvious risk drunk 
drivers pose to public safety.

Despite billions of reasons per year to outlaw smoking and alcohol 
use, the government does not because it would lose a major source of 
tax revenue and nobody would follow the law anyway.

Canadian adults have already worked through this logic but the 
federal and provincial government still have not. At least 
decriminalization of marijuana possession and use would allow more 
direct government control over its sale and consumption, not to 
mention the tax income. The current system simply makes lawbreakers 
out of a significant portion of the adult population and gives 
organized crime most of the business proceeds.

The horses are out of the barn and they're not going back in but 
maybe they can still be found in the field and saddled up.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom