Pubdate: Tue, 01 Dec 2015
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network
Author: Rob Breakenridge
Page: B4


Prohibition Has Not Served Us Well, Let's Hope Trudeau Follows Through

After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent climb down on his 
refugee commitment, it might be fair to wonder how many other of his 
election promises might be compromised.

For example, is it a certainty that marijuana will be legalized? It 
was one of Trudeau's first promises as Liberal leader, and his 
mandate letters to the relevant ministers spell out the need to 
create a federal-provincial process "that will lead to the 
legalization and regulation of marijuana."

Mind you, "creating a process" makes it sound like the government is 
less than 100 per cent committed. If there's any kind of significant 
pushback on this issue, will they get cold feet?

The public, at least, seems to be onside with the concept. A recent 
Forum research poll found 59 per cent support nationally for 
Trudeau's legalization plan - 60 per cent support here in Alberta. 
Hopefully, that's enough to keep the government on track.

There's still the question of law enforcement. Police chiefs and the 
police associations have long been opposed to legalization. And on 
other issues, those voices have carried a lot of weight. Will they 
use that influence to derail marijuana legalization?

Shortly after October's federal election, the president of the 
Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police gave a rather diplomatic 
response: "Our fundamental role ... is to enforce laws and prevent 
crime, not to support or disapprove of legislation."

And that's exactly as it should be. Former Calgary police chief Rick 
Hanson, however, took a much different view on such matters, and was 
never shy about expressing his opinion on what laws we needed or did not need.

So where does our current chief stand? Back in October, newly minted 
police Chief Roger Chaffin seemed to take a hands-off approach. He 
expressed his hope that law enforcement would at least be consulted, 
and said in the meantime, they would "continue our education, 
enforcement and public outreach activities in regards to marijuana 
and other illicit drugs."

But less than a month later, Chaffin seemed to take a more explicitly 
anti-legalization stance. He told Postmedia News he didn't think 
"society needs another drug," and that it wasn't in the "community's 
best interest to introduce another challenge for what it's like to grow up."

How, though, are we "introducing" marijuana? That would imply that 
prohibition has kept it off Canadian streets, when in fact one of the 
main arguments against prohibition is how much it has utterly failed to do so.

We already have millions of Canadians who use or have used pot. The 
issue isn't the introduction of a "new" drug, but rather, a more 
sensible approach to regulating an existing one.

And marijuana already is a "challenge" for those growing up. If 
anything prohibition has likely exacerbated the problem.

Does it help to have criminal elements as the prime retailers of 
marijuana? Does it help to saddle young people with criminal records? 
Does it help when young people see the irrationality of prohibition 
and lose respect for the law?

Interestingly, Calgary is on the low end of cities, on a per-capita 
basis, when it comes to the actual laying of possession charges. So 
if it's not a priority for the Calgary Police Service to begin with, 
why all the angst?

There is certainly a role for police to play in shaping how best to 
keep drug-impaired drivers off the road, but that's a conversation 
that needn't wait for legalization to kick in. It would be 
dangerously naive to pretend marijuana prohibition is keeping stoned 
drivers from getting behind the wheel.

Still, compared to the stridently prohibitionist rhetoric of his 
predecessor, Chaffin's remarks seem relatively restrained. But yet, 
there's a hint he might pose an obstacle to finally reforming our 
laws. Let's hope not. We've not been well-served by marijuana 
prohibition, and we shouldn't want the law enforcers dictating to the 
elected law makers.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom