Pubdate: Wed, 06 Jul 2016
Source: Record, The (CN QU)
Page: 6
Copyright: 2016 The Sherbrooke Record
Author: Mike McDevitt


Since his election on October 19 last year as Canada's 23rd Prime 
Minister, Justin Trudeau has ushered in an astounding shift in 
Canada's political atmosphere. No longer are we enjoined by an angry, 
suspicious, and hateful government to live in fear and loathing of 
those who might trigger our xenophobic tendencies because of 
different beliefs, customs, or even methods of preparing foods. We 
are no longer asked to spy on our neighbours and rat out 'suspicious 
behaviour or, God help us, have 'Barbaric Practices. Age-old habits 
of homophobia and loathing of other gender identities are no longer 
encouraged by a fundamentalist leadership and scientists are no 
longer gagged, filtered, and silenced, Natives are no longer ignored 
or despised by government and generally, the air of oppression that 
hung over the country during the Harper decade has vanished into thin air.

For many, this alone is enough to justify the trust we placed in the 
dapper, selfie-loving son of Canada's most illustrious and 
controversial leader, as he clearly, at least, represents 
forward-looking leadership, as opposed to a heartfelt longing for a 
past that never was.

Indubitably, young Trudeau has also raised Canada's profile on the 
world stage with his youth, compelling good looks, and 
intelligence-fuelled charm. He also represents a rare, new 
'progressive' victory at a time when much of the world has chosen, or 
is in the process of choosing, leaders with decidedly fascist 
inclinations - a fondness for violence, excessive nationalism, a 
contempt for science and 'experts,' and a glaring mistrust of any who 
might think differently. In that context, he is a beacon of 
multi-coloured light.

On the other hand, he is Prime Minister based on his leadership of 
the Liberal Party of Canada, an institution not famous for its 
independence from the corporate elite, many of whom make up its 
favourite constituency. Given that, the Trudeau government has also 
encouraged oil sands exploitation, pipelines, fracking, and oceanic 
drilling, despite the obvious planetary toxicity of our addiction to 
fossil fuels, to the dismay of many progressives who may have been 
over-optimistic about his environmental passion.

In spite of the dramatic success Trudeau has had scrubbing away 
residue from the Harperite Contamination, this was only the largely 
unspoken aspect of the Liberal Party's electoral campaign. In other 
area, his success has been less spectacular.

Bill C-51, the notoriously oppressive security bill, which the 
Liberals supported but promised to revise, remains unchanged, placing 
thousands of individuals at risk of virtually unaccountable 
repression, and the rest of the country at the whim of government. 
The latter issue seems not quite so urgent under the current regime, 
however, compared to the terror such power in the hands of Harperites 
instilled. Nevertheless, rights one enjoys at the whim of the 
powerful are no rights at all and governments, as well as attitudes, 
can change dramatically, of which Trudeau himself is a striking example.

One of the key promises the Liberals made during the election 
campaign is that, if elected, they would proceed with the 
legalization of marijuana, both for recreational purposes. This alone 
was surely a contribution to the Liberal electoral success as the 
belief in the medical benefits of the weed is gaining ground rapidly 
and its recreational use is enjoyed by millions of Canadians of all 
stripes and is viewed with profound indifference by most of the rest.

Nevertheless, what Colorado and Oregon have accomplished with great 
success and little complication has become mired in the Canadian 
Parliament's addiction to pondering, hemming and hawing, and fighting 
over details. Meanwhile, police are still arresting, charging, and in 
some case imprisoning Canadians for marijuana offences and have no 
intention of putting a halt to that. The law is the law, after all.

The medical use of marijuana was validated by the Supreme Court of 
Canada back in the Days of Darkness, and the Harperite government 
reacted in its usual way of dragging its feet and imposing whatever 
limitations it could to keep the subject moot, causing considerable 
discomfort to those for whom its use is helpful. Those entitled to 
its use are forced to purchase their medicine from 
government-approved sources, in what I hear is a contentious and 
often unsatisfactory process. Marijuana is a simple plant to grow and 
has very few demonstrated harmful effects. The restrictions, in fact, 
are almost purposely designed to counter the Court's explicit desires.

Marijuana, used recreationally, is perhaps the most benign substance 
of its kind on the planet. It is demonstrably less dangerous for the 
user than alcohol, tobacco, and even sugar, yet the government is 
handling it like toxic waste. If the government's commitment were 
honest, it would apply controls that, at the very least are no more 
restrictive than those opposed on them. Liquor laws, which are 
determined provincially, allow people to produce at home a limited 
volume of beer and wine annually for personal consumption. Their sale 
without a permit is forbidden. Other controls, such as age-limits and 
driving while impaired are treated separately.

The same sort of approach should be applied - and quickly - to 
cannabis. It should be made available through accessible retail 
outlets, at reasonable prices, and at potencies determined by the 
desires of the consumer. As its major health concern stems from the 
demonstrated correlation between excessive marijuana use in 
adolescence and schizophrenia, it recommended that it not be 
available to anyone under 21. This of course, will not go down well 
with the juvenile stoner crowd, but at least what would be available 
won't be laced with other less desirable substances.

Perhaps the greatest roadblock will be in the relationship between 
marijuana and driving. Government has determined that a blood alcohol 
content of 0.08 per cent should be the standard baseline for 
impairment and has acted, with little controversy, based on that 
rate. For marijuana, however, the problem isn't so clear-cut.

There is an old maxim states that a cocaine user will race gleefully 
through a stop sign, while a drunken one won't see it. The pothead, 
in turn, will wait for it to turn green. There is no agreed upon 
level of impairment in marijuana use and, as we can expect driving 
under the influence to be heavily sanctioned, significant research 
could still be done to determine whether a marijuana 'high' 
automatically equals impairment..

Legalization, if properly carried out, will see its greatest benefit 
stem from separating criminals from a major source of their income, 
unless of course taxes, as they have with tobacco, send the consumer 
right back to them.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom