Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jul 2015
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2015 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Sean O'Malley
Note: Sean O'Malley is a volunteer for the NORML Canada Election Project.
Page: A11


By any measure, prohibition has been one of the greatest social 
policy failures in Canadian history

It's been 92 years since marijuana was made illegal, so why don't we 
say we gave prohibition a fair shot and try something else? This 
October, marijuana prohibition will be a federal election issue for 
the first time since 1923, when the substance was first outlawed. The 
onus is on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make the case for 
extending prohibition into year 93 and beyond.

A clear majority of Canadians want this experiment in social 
engineering to come to an end. As with any policy that defies the 
will of the people, the government of the day has a moral obligation 
to explain why it refuses to bend to the wishes of its citizens.

For those who are soft supporters of legalization but think it's a 
relatively trivial issue in the scheme of things - think again. 
Prohibition has enormous social costs and is also prohibitively 
expensive to administer. Whatever your views on marijuana, 
prohibition is unsustainable in the year 2015.

These are some of the facts on the ground the prime minister has to answer for:

- - it hasn't worked for 92 years, including the last 10 on Harper's watch;

- - prohibition puts billions of dollars in the hands of criminal 
syndicates and terrorists and takes it out of the hands of 
hard-working Canadians;

- - prohibition deprives all levels of government of hundreds of 
millions of dollars in taxes and thousands of jobs;

- - prohibition costs millions in police, court and prison costs;

- - prohibition turns 15 million otherwise law-abiding citizens into 
criminals; and

- - prohibition permanently shatters the employment prospects of 50,000 
Canadians arrested for marijuana possession each year.

The case for prohibition begins and ends with preventing people from 
using pot. But the rate of marijuana use in Canada is at historic 
highs. Indeed, more young people smoke pot here, under Harper's 
famously prohibitionist government, than just about anywhere else on 
Earth. By any measure, prohibition has been one of the greatest 
social policy failures in Canadian history.

A prime minister should know the people he governs, and Canadians 
like to smoke pot. It's as Canadian as double-doubles, maple syrup 
and pond hockey. Fifteen million of us know that pot isn't what 
Harper says it is. We know he's lying. We are a law-abiding people, 
but 15 million of us have so little respect for this particular law 
that we are collectively engaging in the largest continuous act of 
civil disobedience our country has ever seen. Even the police are giving up.

That's because every argument in favour of prohibition is based on 
the absurd premise that we can somehow tweak this broken system, in 
order to make it work. But when the law is so out-of-step with the 
people, they will simply ignore it - and they have. Many of us don't 
share Harper's outrage. We don't believe him. We're calling him out 
on prohibition by the way we go about our daily lives.

As for the way forward, kudos to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for 
having the courage to admit that he is (or was) one of the 15 million 
who have smoked marijuana. While he was not the first national leader 
to commit to ending prohibition (the NDP supported it for years 
before Tom Mulcair came along and the Greens still do), Trudeau is 
the only supporter of legalization who has a chance to become the 
next prime minister. That is why my friends at the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have set aside their 40 
years of non-partisanship to endorse the Liberals in this year's 
federal election.

But the grassroots is becoming increasingly uneasy with Trudeau's 
silence regarding what legalization would look like under a Liberal 
government. He is in danger of missing a golden opportunity to unite 
the left and get out the vote on Oct. 19. We are ready to go to the 
barricades for him, but he has to give us something to go on, in 
order to justify our support.Marijuana legalization supporters are 
not going to give him a blank cheque.

The end of prohibition is inevitable, so now is the time to roll up 
our sleeves and double down on common sense. Make this the Summer of 
the Joint. Trudeau needs to finish the job his father started. He 
believed the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation; 
surely it has no business in the grow-ops of the nation either.

Whatever anyone thinks of the 15 million Canadians who smoke 
marijuana, you have to admit, we have the courage of our convictions. 
We've been outlaws for 92 years and counting.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom