Pubdate: Sat, 15 Aug 2015
Source: Tribune, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015, Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Grant LaFleche
Page: 3


The warnings came regularly. On the mornings of the first Monday of 
the month to be exact, issued through the crackling wall mounted 
speakers of my high school's laughably terrible intercom system.

That was the day the school's chaplain - a tiny, quiet man who spent 
as much time helping an actual leper colony in the Philippines as he 
did working with students - would read his sermon. And as often as 
not, Father Vincent Lu would warn us of the danger of addictive gateways.

"You go to a party and your friend says ' Have a beer'," Father Lu 
would say. "So you have a beer. Soon you are addicted."

One beer opens one to a legion of dangers - illicit drug use, 
violence and sex. So we had best stay away!

I didn't buy into Catholic theology, but I always respected the 
padre, particularly his work with the poor and forgotten. But his 
idea that exposure to one potentially addictive substance would 
trigger a lifetime of suffering was laughable even then.

One beer, one cigarette or even one joint does not automatically 
spell doom for a person or society.

And yet, when asked this week about decriminalizing marijuana, some 
local federal candidates sounded an awful lot like Father Lu.

St. Catharines Tory incumbent Rick Dykstra says marijuana is a 
dangerous and addictive drug. So it should remain illegal. The 
Conservative narrative around pot centres upon the notion of its 
extreme danger, as though it exists on the same level as heroin or cocaine.

( It doesn't.) It must remain illegal to prevent chaos.

Niagara's NDP incumbent, Malcolm Allen, while less alarmist about it 
than Dykstra, also thinks legalization is going to an extreme.

Both think a new enforcement scheme to reduce penalties to spare the 
costs on our courts is a possibility. But legalization? Have you lost 
your mind? Think about the children!

Ironically, I doubt any of these candidates would speak the same away 
of two drugs that marijuana is rather akin to - cigarettes and 
alcohol. Instead of treating pot the same as cigarettes and alcohol - 
regulating and taxing it and thereby cutting criminals off from 
revenue - we do this silly dance where it is legal-ish for medical 
use, but not for anyone else.

Although technically illicit, pot's use is nearly akin to legal drugs 
of recreation and the country.

I haven't been impressed, on the whole, with the Liberal campaign 
thus far but at least St. Catharines candidate Chris Bittle is on the 
side of common sense on this issue, advocating legalization and regulation.

Certainly, the fate of these candidates will not turn upon their view 
of marijuana.

It's just one of those issues that show how far our politics is 
divorced from common sense. And it does make me wonder if our would- 
be leaders cannot come to grips with something this simple, how well 
will they fair with issues of real importance and complexity?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom