Pubdate: Sat, 24 Oct 2015
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Robin Baranyai
Page: 5


A few weeks ago, as an exercise in civic awareness, students at a 
high school participated in a mock federal election. They predicted a 
massive Liberal sweep. I wondered if the results had more to do with 
the prevailing sentiment for change, or Justin Trudeau's campaign 
promise to legalize marijuana.

In homes with teens, dinner table conversations have no doubt entered 
new and interesting territory. "If the government makes it legal, can 
I buy it?"

The short answer is: No. Trudeau hasn't fleshed out the details of 
how legalized marijuana will be grown and distributed, but he has 
made clear one of his guiding priorities is to keep it out of the 
hands of minors. On the campaign trail, Trudeau frequently compared 
our failed enforcement-based approach with Prohibition, noting kids 
today can get their hands on marijuana more easily than alcohol.

If you don't believe him, ask any teen. In fact, Canadian youth have 
the highest rates of cannabis use in the developed world, according 
to a 2013 analysis by Unicef Canada. Yet we have one of the best 
records on tobacco use -- fewer than five per cent of teens smoke.

There's a clear lesson here. If the sale of cannabis is regulated and 
taxed, like cigarettes and alcohol, it becomes much harder for minors 
to access. It also provides a healthy revenue stream that can help 
fund addiction treatment and education programs, which are far more 
effective deterrents than criminalization.

Trudeau has invoked Colorado as a possible model for Canada. Since 
2012, it's been legal to purchase and possess small quantities of 
marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use -- but only for 
adults 21 and over. Washington has done the same, while creating a 
licensing framework for production and sale of cannabis.

Other states have opted for decriminalization. Both reforms put an 
end to the pointless and expensive practice of incarcerating 
marijuana users with little benefit to public health or community 
safety. Offenders face fines but not imprisonment. California, 
Connecticut and Massachusetts have all decriminalized possession of 
small quantities of cannabis, at any age.

In Canada, 13 years ago, a Senate special committee on illegal drugs 
recommended legalization for adults. It concluded billions spent on 
enforcement had not reduced marijuana use, which had grown, nor 
reduced supply, which had also grown, funnelling money to organized crime.

Since that time, arrests for marijuana possession have risen sharply, 
even as overall crime rates have dropped. This is a policy disaster,
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom