Pubdate: Wed, 20 Sep 2017
Source: Record, The (CN QU)
Copyright: 2017 The Sherbrooke Record
Author: Mike Mcdevitt
Page: 6


It's been almost two full years since young Justin Trudeau and his
Liberal party performed one of the most impressive revivals of a
political party in Canadian history, regaining power from the Royal
Canadian Harper Government and providing the country what was, in
contrast, a progressive, marketing friendly face to the world. In
addition, Young Justin has benefited from the stark contrast between
his own public persona and that of the pustule of awfulness that has
infested the American White House this year. For many progressives
around the world, he has come not only to represent a kind of politics
in direct opposition to his American counterpart and a signal of hope
to ease the despair of those who see in Trump the moral, economic, and
social failure that he represents.

Nevertheless, at half way through his initial mandate, the youthful
Prime Minster is being called to account for the aftermath of some of
his most ambitious - and daunting - promises.

To begin with, the hyperbole and grand statements of intent that have
spewed from Liberal mouths with regard to the state of Indigenous
relations been spectacularly ineffective in easing the conditions in
which thousands of Native Canadians live, and although sporadic
agreements have been signed, little improvement has yet been seen on
the ground. The much-vaunted Inquiry into the Disappearance and Murder
of Indigenous Women barely got off the ground before resignations and
recriminations began to tumble like dice. The recent restructuring of
government to divide Indigenous affairs between two federal
ministries, though promising has also not yet demonstrated any
fundamental improvement of the basic colonial relationship that, as
always, continues to, existed. Recently, the government has come under
criticism for its 'betrayal of the middle class' represented by its
announced plan to cut some tax breaks awarded to self-employed
professionals, like doctors.

In another matter entirely, it is beginning to appear that one of
Justin's most vaunted campaign promises, the legalization of
recreational use of marijuana, will represent one of his most
substantial betrayal - not because of a failure to deliver, but in the
way he kept his promise.

According to recent studies, approximately 12.5 per cent of Canadians
over the age of 15 use marijuana at least occasionally. Almost half
have used the weed at least once in their lives. A majority support
its legalization, although few could have expected the scheme the
federal government came up with to accomplish it.

Last year, the government passed legislation that kept the letter of
the promise by passing a federal law that would remove federal
penalties for the possession of small amounts of the drug for personal
use and allowing for the individual growth of a small number of
plants. As is the case with alcohol, however, the regulations, prices,
and controls to be applied to the individual provinces, some of whom
are not particularly excited about the process.

To make matters worse for the casual stoner, Trudeau quickly clarified
that the legalization process was not an endorsement of marijuana use,
but rather an attempt to wrest control of its distribution for
organized crime and to 'protect our youth.' To emphasize the point,
legalization will be accompanied by an enhanced and harsher
enforcement of regulations that could end up sending even more users
to prison than before.

Under the distribution system that has developed over the last several
decades, the vast majority of sales have benefitted organized gangs of
criminals like the Hells Angels and those who work alongside them.
These distributors rarely make any distinction in their clientele on
the basis of age and many are also the source of contraband tobacco
and many other, harder drugs. While marijuana might not be the
'gateway drug' of its opponents' nightmares, its dealers' doorways
often serve the same purpose. They guy with the pot is often the guy
with the cocaine, the speed, or any other in-demand substance, and
there are no controls over what these drugs might be laced with. The
money and contacts made in the process, also funds (and feeds) other,
less benign criminal activities such as sex trafficking and child

Nevertheless, for the average consumer, the non-system has worked
reasonably well, providing marijuana of relatively consistent quality,
and often locally grown. Long-term users have by bow already
established reliable suppliers who can supply reasonable quantities at
reasonable prices. They often even deliver.

Under the new regulations (and as yet we don't know what these will
be) the dependable dealer we have all grown to love is going to be
faced with a difficult choice. Either continue to supply the young
people who will be banned and face the potential consequences, or go
out of business entirely. While this might benefit the provincial
treasury, it will not in itself make life any easier for the consumer.

Those who dreamed of a corner 'mom and pop pot shop' are likely to be
terribly disappointed. In Ontario, for example, the province plans to
create a limited number of outlets reminiscent of the universally
despised LCBO. The Quebec government - which has-been surprisingly
anti-legalisation - in turn, has said it will not allow the personal
cultivation of plants at all.

Although the federal government has limited the legal sale of cannabis
products to those 18 years of age and older, provinces are free, as
with alcohol, to set their own limits and, although 21 has been set in
many jurisdictions, mental health officials are urging a lower age
limit of 25, given the association adolescent pot use has been
demonstrated to have with issues like schizophrenia. One thing we can
be assured of then, is that the higher the limit chosen the greater
will be the contraband market outside of government control.

As we have seen with regard to tobacco, a rigid government control of
a legal substance can lead to its own problems, and in Quebec, higher
taxes, for example, have only led to a proliferation of contraband
tobacco despite drastic penalties. In one local, informal survey, a
Sherbrooke newspaper revealed that 38 per cent of cigarette butts
recuperated from ash receptacles at Sherbrooke's main bus transfer
station were remnants of illegally obtained products.

There is no question that substances like marijuana should be
controlled in some way, but the process that is unfolding will result
in the corporatization of production, the nationalization of
distribution, and egregious increase in prices. It will also likely
fail entirely in its attempts to curtain the drug's use by young people.

Many believed that the Trudeau Liberals were introducing a more
tolerant approach to marijuana use; instead a more efficient method of
repression has been introduced. Smoke 'em if ya got 'em. For now.
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MAP posted-by: Matt