Pubdate: Tue, 16 Jun 2015
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: James Gordon
Page: C5


Legalizing it would cut police and court costs and generate

It's interesting, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Canada's
decision expanding the definition of medical marijuana, to take
another look at those parody-level attack ads the federal
Conservatives released last month.

You must know them by now - the goofy vignettes in which a panel of
serious managers talks about potential hires, including Liberal Leader
Justin Trudeau (we're about to "hire" a prime minister! Get it? Get
it?!?!). Conservative attack ads fascinate me, because I'm convinced
they're really bad on purpose, like the old Canadian Tire guy ones or
any Tim Hortons radio or TV spot ever. It's all part of the strategy
to get people talking about them. "Eeeuuchhh, did you see that idiot
talking about how he ate the bowl? Anyway, I kind of want some chili
in a bread bowl. You in?"

So, one member of the Tories' make-believe hiring committee, which
somehow survived a casting director's scrutiny itself, intimates that
Trudeau's only real policy proposal is legalizing marijuana. "Is that
the biggest problem we have to solve?"

"He has some growing up to do," another rueful-looking manager says
moments before someone makes fun of Trudeau's hair.

There's (kind of ) a rationale behind that strategy. After the SCC
decision, I tried to find the most recent poll on Canadians' attitudes
toward pot. It was conducted last summer, and the main take-away was
that a majority of Canadians (59 per cent) supported legalizing it,
but that most respondents said it's "more important to implement
tougher penalties against violent crime than it is to legalize pot."

That's a bit of a weird premise, isn't it? It would be like stating,
"most Canadians support legalizing marijuana but believe stopping
terrorists from beheading them is a bigger priority." The implications
being that 1) comparing the two is helpful in some nebulous way, and
that 2) governments can't do two things at once.

It does succeed in putting pro-marijuana legislation in a context that
makes it seem, if not terrible, then at least frivolous and immature.
Of course, if you were to ask those who support legalizing marijuana
whether it's more important than, say, Bill C-454, the All Buffleheads
Day act, which is before Parliament, then who knows, maybe it would
move up in the pecking order a bit (a bufflehead is a duck, by the

Here's the thing, though: It's not frivolous, nor is it immature. It's
common sense, and it would save every single taxpaying Canadian
citizen a ton of money. That could be one reason nearly 60 per cent of
Canadians support it. Meanwhile, the Conservatives continue to favour
illogical barriers for sick people and playing law-and-order
Whac-a-Mole with recreational users over a substance that is no more,
and is probably far less, harmful to society than alcohol.

When the tone was mocking, you could at least hope the Tories were
leaving enough wiggle room to eventually do the right thing (or at
least decriminalize). The SCC ruling produced a much darker reaction,

Health Minister Rona Ambrose said she was "outraged" at a ruling
"which now means that we have again this message that normalizes a
drug where there is no clear clinical evidence that it is
quote-unquote a medicine" - never mind that it's asinine to tell
people already using medicinal pot that they must consume it in its
most harmful form. Then came more aggressive anti-Trudeau attacks. In
a statement, Ambrose claimed "this expansion of a pre-existing
court-imposed program to now include cookies and candies makes
marijuana more attractive and accessible to youth and reflects Justin
Trudeau's campaign to legalize and normalize marijuana."

The Conservatives have no doubt noticed all those polls saying they've
lost the support of all but their most ardent supporters, many of whom
legitimately worry that REEFER MADNESS will overtake our elementary
schools if the devil weed isn't suppressed (better to have it safely
in the hands of organized crime syndicates and street dealers, I guess).

It's desperate and, in a lot of ways, the opposite of what you'd
expect from supposed fiscal conservatives. We may not all buy illegal
marijuana, but we sure as hell pay for it. We pay police to police it,
we pay prosecutors to prosecute those who produce and smoke it, we pay
legislators to use it as a political tool, and we pay the
$300,000-plus salaries of the Supreme Court justices who've been
forced to bring some common sense to the discussion.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, the government is reaping tens of millions of
dollars in tax revenue, most of which is earmarked for school
construction and repairs. The state hasn't, as of this writing, been
consumed by chaos and hellfire.

Canadian politicians should stop wasting our time and money already.
Just legalize the damn stuff and let's move on.

James Gordon is a member of the Citizen's editorial board.
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