Pubdate: Fri, 01 Jul 2016
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Page: A2
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Ian Mulgrew


Federal Liberals' legalization effort stinks of unfocused busy work

The Liberal government is making a hash of marijuana legalization by 
embarking on a needless consultation exercise led by a task force of 
well-meaning volunteers.

Four U.S. states made cannabis legal in 2012 and others are vocally 
following suit.

Canada, which has had a legal medical scheme for more than 15 years, 
has had calls for legalization for half a century.

The 1969 Le Dain Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of 
Drugs, set up by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's dad, recommended 
after three years' study that the country decriminalize cannabis.

There have been all kinds of smart people and a broad range of groups 
- - mayors, chiefs of police, former attorneys general, medical 
officers of health - who have since echoed the message.

Cannabis and a variety of other drugs have been freely available on 
North American streets for at least a generation. More consultation is needed?

The nation doesn't need more conversation; it needs new laws to 
replace the existing confusion and injustice.

It is not premature after seven months in office to expect the 
federal government led by a party that campaigned on legalization to 
present its plan.

Some task force members, Dr. Perry Kendall for instance, certainly 
sound like good advisers on this issue.

But former Toronto top cop Bill Blair, the parliamentary secretary to 
the justice minister in charge of the pot file, sounded like a 
character from Reefer Madness with his strident opposition to personal growing.

At the news conference Thursday, his eruption of concern about the 
"significant social and health harms" of marijuana and the dangers it 
poses to children was over the top.

An unreconstructed drug warrior is not needed here.

Cannabis legalization, on the contrary, is needed because 
criminalizing it helped turn school yards into black markets and gave 
society an enormous addiction monkey.

Legalization is an attempt to fix the problems a century of 
racist-inspired prohibition produced - endemic gang violence, a 
thriving criminal underclass and police budgets that are crippling 

The government estimates the illicit cannabis industry is worth $7 
billion, the cost of policing it at $2.3 billion.

Anne McLellan, the former justice minister leading this group, 
sounded as out of touch as Blair with her assurance they are 
"undertaking a discussion" to look at what Colorado and Washington are doing.

Take your time, Anne, they've been at it for nearly half a decade. 
Oh, BTW, Alaska and Oregon legalized last year, too.

This is obviously unfocused busy work.

The Liberals already should been presenting their own proposal - and, 
regardless, legalization should have been examined as a policy option 
by the federal bureaucracy when American states approved recreational 
pot for adults 21 or older in 2012.

There is a plethora of real-world data and evidence; all kinds of 
papers on taxes, driving laws and the various facets of legalizing 
cannabis. Another round of chatter is redundant; the Liberals are 
playing dodge ball.

The regulatory, taxation, jurisdictional, advertising and other 
concerns should be dealt with under a parliamentary process, not delegated.

Will pot be treated like alcohol or tobacco? Will the medical 
production, distribution and regulation of cannabis for the ill 
remain within Ottawa's bailiwick; recreational production, 
distribution and regulation within the provinces' jurisdiction?

The country was looking for leadership, not dithering.

There should have been a federal-provincial working group appointed 
after the throne speech to develop legal blueprints for how 
recreational pot could be made available in the various jurisdictions.

While Blair wrings his hands with worry, remember people can grow 
their own tobacco, make their own wine and brew their own beer.

Marijuana is not benign, but it doesn't even approach alcohol and 
tobacco in terms of associated health risks, perils to children and 
societal fallout.

Given the sea change in the U.S., it's ridiculous that Ottawa would 
announce a lot more talk and a little a less action while illegal pot 
is sold like lattes in Vancouver and police in Toronto are raiding 

This is more foot-dragging while thousands of otherwise law-abiding 
Canadians are at risk of capricious prosecution, prison and a 
life-altering record for smoking a joint or sipping a cup of herbal tea.

If this task force comes back in November saying it needs more time 
or couldn't come up with a consensus, will the promised spring 2017 
legislation be delayed?

Seems to me long-serving former prime minister Pierre Trudeau never 
followed up on the Le Dain recommendations and his promise to 
liberalize drug laws because of the pesky parliamentary agenda.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom