Pubdate: Thu, 08 Aug 2013
Source: Pique Newsmagazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2013 Pique Publishing Inc.
Author: Andrew Mitchell


Some matters reach a tipping point where the outcome is inevitable, 
although a few stick-in-the-muds usually succeed in making those 
things drag on forever. Human social evolution is a slow process.

For example, take the issue of same-sex marriage: a 1999 Supreme 
Court ruling found that same sex couples were entitled to the same 
financial and legal benefits associated with marriage, but it took 
another six years, court challenges in every province, another trip 
to the supreme court and finally an act of Parliament to make it the 
law of the land.

Imagine all the resources that could have been saved, and all the 
fabulous weddings that could have been held, if we had only embraced 
it a little earlier?

The legalization of marijuana is also an inevitable outcome in this 
country, followed by the careful and methodical legalization of other 
drugs. With jurisdictions in the U.S. already taking that first step, 
Washington and Colorado among them, the most significant roadblock to 
legalization in Canada - threats of retribution from the U.S. 
government - is no longer much of an issue.

It's time to run up the white flags. The war on drugs has failed 
miserably, carving a path of destruction more tragic than many actual 
wars: tens of thousands dead and wounded, a trillion dollars wasted, 
countries destabilized or turned into battle grounds, governments 
overthrown, families broken apart by mandatory jail sentences, 
countless lives ruined by criminal records and the negative social stigma.

And for what? Drugs have never been cheaper or more plentiful, or so 
mainstream. We've spent billions of dollars in this country to 
achieve a miniscule reduction in usage numbers among young people, 
which is probably offset by the increase in legalized drug abuse.

Criminalization has also created a dangerous class of organized 
criminals that make us all a little less safe. Who wouldn't want to 
put the Red Scorpions, UN Gang, Hells Angels and others out of 
business - especially if there is an opportunity to make an $18 
billion industry legitimate in the process and tax it like everything else?

Of all the positions to have on drugs given the failure of 
prohibition, the ones put forward by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau 
recently seem to be the most sensible. His position is that by 
legalizing marijuana and selling it like other over-the-counter 
monkeys - alcohol, tobacco, children's cough syrup, etc. - government 
will make it harder for kids to buy it. Given the decline in per 
capita smoking rates, 45 per cent in 1980 to less than 20 per cent 
today, regulation and public education campaigns do actually work.

Yet somehow the Harper Government heard the words, "I'm in favour of 
legalizing it... it's one of the only ways to keep it out of the 
hands of our kids because the current war on drugs, the current 
model, isn't working" and decided it was an awesome wedge issue to 
use to drum up donations to "stand up against Justin Trudeau's plan 
to bring more illegal drugs into our communities."

Is this really what our political discourse has become? Or can we 
finally have a grown-up, intelligent conversation on drugs that's 
backed by evidence and science? Saying marijuana should be legalized 
so it can be controlled is a lot different than saying "drugs are 
great and all kids should do them."

While there will be a lot of issues on the table in the next 
election, drug policy will most definitely be one of them. I really 
hope the parties disagree more on how to legalize marijuana rather 
than whether it's the right thing to do.

To put off the inevitable at this point is to spit in the face of 
reason, to disregard statistics and studies, to ignore public 
sentiment, to empower organized crime and feed our deadly gang wars, 
to rob public coffers of tax revenues, to complicate the medical 
marijuana issue, and to perpetuate false drug myths and the idea that 
all drugs are equally bad, losing all credibility in the process.

The goal going forward should be to reduce harm, treat addiction as a 
medical issue and gradually reduce usage. I expect government to 
treat marijuana the same way they treat other legal drugs, with all 
the horrific posters and gory, heavy-handed public service 
announcements we've come to expect.

I've heard the arguments against legalization, including the argument 
that criminals will continue to sell drugs to kids who can't purchase 
them legally. And while there's some truth to that, the fact is that 
dealers are already doing that, but by taking away their adult 
customers, however, I doubt many of these guys would have enough 
teenage customers - jobs being scarce for young people these days - 
to keep them in business.

And how many adults who occasionally partake do you know would 
actually prefer to buy drugs in back alleys, versus purchasing their 
monkey legally from whatever pet-shop scheme works best?

Justin Trudeau still has a lot to prove in this horserace, but common 
sense in the face of failed conservative drug policy isn't one of them.

Can a person become addicted to telling other people what's right and 
how to live their lives? Because it feels like we've all had that 
monkey on our backs for far too long.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom