Pubdate: Tue, 18 Apr 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Peter Stockland
Page: A7


There's something quasi quaint about the federal government
introducing legislation to legalize marijuana.

News reporting on the budding bill has generously employed terrible
puns to create a sense of giggling excitement about it. A Canadian
Press story advised that all of Ottawa is "buzzing" at the audacity
that dope represents.

Buzzing? Among the permanently buzzed, perhaps.

Clearer eyes can't help recognizing the stale nature of the gesture,
like watching poor old drunken Uncle Boo being shuffled into a cab
long after the other guests have left the party.

It is, after all, 2017. Once, pot smoking smelled like teen spirit. It
epitomized adolescent rebellion - and perhaps still does in the
congestive hearts of middle-aged balding men with ponytails.

Today, the fiscally conservative C.D. Howe Institute issued a report
advising Ottawa on taxation and regulatory approaches for an effective
federal-provincial marijuana distribution model.

C.D. Howe estimates pot taxation will raise $675 million for federal
and provincial governments in the first year. That's chump change as
government spending goes but upping the tax ante, the institute warns,
risks driving pot buyers to the black market - as happened when
governments tried to curb tobacco smoking through tax

Yes. Dope talk is now primarily tax talk. Yesterday's easy riders have
become our forward financial planners.

Still, the legalization of marijuana involves more than a token
paradox. It seeded the ground for every cause that came later by
raising the question of whether criminal law is the proper means to
communicate a nation's, a society's, a culture's moral

Somehow, all the other liberalizing agenda items of the last
generations leapfrogged it into legality. Why?

Perhaps smoking pot seemed too trivial. What chance did it have as a
pressing and urgent issue against a weighty later-comer such as the
decision to kill people in public hospitals, or the ideal of having
young boys and girls surgically contort themselves into the other sex?

Maybe it was our collective sense that legalizing marijuana really
does finalize what the British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge called
"the great liberal death wish." Did we intuit that it embodies what
Pope John Paul II called "the culture of death" in a way more
grievous, if that's possible, than every other aspect of progressive

Progressive causes most often centre on some novel form of bodily
obliteration, of course. But the real questions at the heart of the
legalization debate set to unfold in Parliament are spiritual, not

True, we will hear in coming days pointcounterpoint about the
pernicious - or not - effects of marijuana. Such data will be good for
the debate, although whether it will do any good more broadly remains
an open question.

The questions that truly need asking are these:

*What is the need we have as a culture for the inescapable effect of
ingesting marijuana?

*What is the hole in our social hearts that it fills?

*What void of human charity are we seeking to overcome by making it

For, contrary to decades of marijuana proponent propaganda, it's not a
drug like alcohol or caffeine. It differs in its nature. The very
purpose of pot is intoxication. It's the deliberate clouding of
reality; that is, of consciousness. It's the separating of the self
from an incarnate world of ordered love of neighbour.

It is possible, after all, to have a leisurely glass of wine with a
meal without being poured, addled, into a taxi afterward. Outside the
still highly debatable medical marijuana context, though, it's not
possible to recreationally ingest pot absent the intention of getting
high. Something in our deepest hearts rebels against that deformation
of the fully human.

We object to it not merely as a failure of individual choice or
control. We resist the universal acceptance of spiritual negation it
represents. Or at least we traditionally tried to do so, and too often
failed, which is why we embedded in our criminal law the moral
sensibility against it.

Soon, that last restraint will be gone. The great liberal death wish
will be granted in full, stale-dated and quasi-quaint as it might seem.

Trust me, it will smell nothing like teen spirit.

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Peter Stockland is senior writer with think-tank Cardus, and publisher 
of Distributed by Troy Media
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