Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jun 2014
Source: Now, The (Surrey, CN BC)
Copyright: 2014 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Michael Booth


A clear, bright spring day is always the kick in the butt needed to 
get people off the couch and out into the streets and parks of the 
Lower Mainland.

Suitably motivated, I found myself roaming the streets of Gastown 
recently after wandering along the seawall through Coal Harbour. As 
it happened, the cruise ships were in town, bringing with them an 
endless parade of tourists. They flocked to the T-shirt shops or 
waited expectantly by the steam clock, while others parked themselves 
in sidewalk cafes.

Now, along with the tourists, there was also another noticeable 
presence that day - the pungent, skunky aroma of British Columbia's 
most lucrative cash crop. So I should not have been surprised when, 
while waiting at a traffic light, a fellow with a thick European 
accent turned and asked me if marijuana was legal here.

Being the helpful local, I did my best to answer as truthfully as possible.

"I don't know."

"Sorry," the fellow replied. "I thought you were from here."

"I am," I said, "but I really can't tell if the stuff is legal or 
illegal anymore. It depends on who and where you are."

And as I crossed the street, I left the poor soul just as bewildered 
as I found him.

In today's Canadian society, demon weed just isn't as evil as it once 
was. Where there was once a time when the only whiff of pot smoke we 
caught was at concerts, the distinct smell is now just as likely to 
drift past our noses outside hockey rinks and baseball diamonds, in 
public parks, while walking through a neighbourhood or exploring the 
great outdoors at campgrounds.

Police insist marijuana is illegal and spend countless millions 
demolishing grow ops and arresting dealers and users alike. At the 
same time, police officers block off traffic on public streets to 
ease access for people joining in on the annual 4/20 pot smoke-ins each April.

Medical marijuana clinics are becoming increasingly common for those 
savvy enough to acquire a permit and there are now vending machines 
in approved dispensaries that offer a wide selection of pot strains.

Just minutes away across the U.S. border, Washington State is taking 
steps to implement regulations allowing the sale of marijuana to any 
adult looking to indulge in the hippie lettuce, while thousands of 
Canadians face endless hassles crossing that same border because of 
simple pot possession charges at some point in their youth.

If anything, legal access to marijuana is about to get easier.

Up until this year, Canadians could only legally gain access to the 
coveted weed if they were approved as treatment for a medical 
condition. That process was a long and tedious one through the 
federal government's Health Canada bureaucracy.

As of April 1, however, that power has been transferred to doctors, 
who can issue permission for medical marijuana use directly to their patients.

According to the Province newspaper, there are roughly 40,000 
Canadians licensed to use medicinal marijuana, but that number is 
expected to explode by a multiple of 10 in the next decade. That's 
right, almost half a million people in this country could freely 
indulge in the mystical herb without the legal consequences faced by 
the rest of the population.

And the people charged with screening who gets access to government 
pot and who takes their chances with the skuzzy dope dealer hanging 
out by the SkyTrain station? Doctors - medical professionals who, I 
suspect, have much better things to do with their time. At this 
point, the difference between a drug-addled criminal and a good 
citizen looking to relax is one has a note from his doctor.

So what is it? If marijuana is legal, treat it like other government 
controlled substances such as alcohol and tobacco: Limit access to 
adults only and tax the living bejeebers out of it.

If, however, it's illegal, then cut out the nonsense and make it 
illegal for everyone - no exceptions.

This ongoing charade is no longer amusing and the public money used 
to stage the ongoing morality play can definitely be put to better 
use by all levels of government.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom