Pubdate: Sat, 31 Oct 2015
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Times Colonist
Page: A10


Almost 15 per cent of tobacco products used in B.C. are contraband,
costing the provincial treasury an estimated $100 million a year in
lost tax revenue. It's a glimpse of what awaits governments in a
legalized-marijuana world. Legalized - or at least decriminalized -
marijuana is inevitable. Its widespread use demands that governments
regulate, tax and monitor the use of the drug, just as they do tobacco
and alcohol. To do otherwise makes no sense.

The war on marijuana is a failure. It comes with high costs and
collateral damage, and has done nothing to curb the use. Yes,
criminality and violence are associated with marijuana, but those
aspects arise from the drug's illegality, not its effects on the human
body. You do not have to endorse the use of marijuana - and we do not
- - to see sound reasons for changing the law.

Some worry the decriminalization will be seen as a stamp of approval,
encouraging young people to take up marijuana use. Yet a 2002 Senate
report concludes: "We have not legalized cannabis and we have one of
the highest rates [of use] in the world. Countries adopting a more
liberal policy have, for the most part, rates of usage lower than
ours, which stabilized after a short period of growth."

The high level of marijuana use by younger Canadians is just one
unintended consequence of current drug laws, says the Canadian Drug
Policy Coalition in a report called Getting to Tomorrow.

"Prohibition abdicated responsibility for regulating drug markets to
organized crime, and abandons public health measures like age
restrictions and dosing controls," says the report.

Marijuana was not made illegal for scientific reasons. Says the 2002
Senate committee report: "Early drug legislation was largely based on
a moral panic, racist sentiment and a notorious absence of debate."

With the Liberals forming a majority government, it appears certain
Canada is headed toward legalization of marijuana. It's time to have
that rational, science-based debate and strip the issue of its

One of the arguments for legalization is that it will bring in
revenues for governments. There's already a well-established, complex,
illegal system of producing and distributing pot, run by people
well-versed in circumventing the law. They won't suddenly vanish, and
they will not willingly give up control.

Governments will be required to ensure quality, consistency and
dosages, as well as levying substantial taxes on the product, as they
do with alcohol and tobacco. Those factors will be added to the price
of the product. That will give an advantage to pot bootleggers, just
as high taxes on tobacco have created opportunities for the gangs that
deal in contraband cigarettes.

Regulations will be needed to keep marijuana out of the easy reach of
minors, and to deal with edible products that contain marijuana or its
derivatives. Scientific research is needed on marijuana to get solid
facts on the harms and benefits of its use.

The road to legalization won't be smooth, and it shouldn't be
travelled hastily.

"It's going to be a lot harder to implement than you think," says
Lewis Koski, director of the Marijuana Enforcement Division in
Colorado, where recreational pot has been legal since 2012. "It's
going to take a lot longer to do it. And it's going to cost more than
you think."

The Liberals have pledged to "legalize, regulate and restrict access
to marijuana." Now they need to tell us how they are going to do it.
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MAP posted-by: Matt