Pubdate: Tue, 05 Dec 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Rob Breakenridge
Page: A9


While support for cannabis legalization has grown tremendously in
recent years, it's also true that there isn't unanimous consensus that
it's the right thing to do.

However, it's also the case that legalization is for all intents and
purposes a done deal, and so arguments against it are rather moot at
this point. Moreover, bizarre and irrational arguments against
legalization are not only moot, but really only serve to embarrass and
discredit those making them.

For Alberta's new United Conservative Party, dabbling in such
foolishness would represent a totally avoidable self-inflicted wound.
Obviously, the Rachel Notley government did not legalize cannabis, but
rather - as is the case with every other province - is designing and
implementing regulations around legalization.

So to that end, the comments last week from UCP MLA Ron Orr are truly
baffling. What's worse, because his party has been so mum on the
proposed regulations, Orr's remarks have become, by extension, the de
facto UCP position on cannabis. That's not helpful.

Last week in the legislature, Orr rose to speak to what he believes
are the "historical parallels" between Canada legalizing cannabis and
the opium problems in early 20th-century China. Those problems, he
maintains, "contributed to the Chinese cultural revolution under the

He took the comparison even further, describing how China eradicated
"the opium trade, the opium business, the opium tax revenue and all of
these wonderful things that are supposed to be generated from
recreational use of drugs."

The most charitable reaction to all of this was one of bewilderment.
Others were a little more taken aback. What exactly did Orr believe
his remarks were going to accomplish, or what specific NDP regulation
was he arguing against?

Whatever point he was trying to make - if indeed, there was one - was
lost in the ensuing backlash. Even his own party struggled to defend
him. It was a whole cycle of unflattering coverage for the new party
that was completely unnecessary.

If the UCP doesn't object in any serious way to the government's
regulations, then why say anything at all? If Orr has some concerns
about the impacts of opium use, then perhaps his bizarre rant might
have been more logically inserted into the conversation about
Alberta's ongoing opioid emergency.

Yet, oddly, he made no mention of that.

Cannabis, of course, is not an opioid, and is really not in any way
comparable. In fact, there are recent studies that indicate that the
availability of medicinal marijuana might have a positive impact when
it comes to reducing opioid use.

Nor is cannabis a gateway to harder drugs, if that's what Orr was
getting at.

If any drug could be seen as a gateway, it would be alcohol, but
that's not a justification for an interventionist, nanny-state approach.

Additionally, if it needs to be pointed out, a cannabis-driven
communist revolution is not in the offing.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney has gone to great lengths to invoke the legacy
of Ralph Klein, and painting himself as a leader cut from a similar

Perhaps the least contentious aspect of the Klein revolution -
certainly with a quarter of a century in hindsight - was the end of
the government monopoly on alcohol retail.

Even though the NDP has wisely avoided the government monopoly when it
comes to cannabis retail, the government will still be in control of
online sales, and it's still unclear how heavily the NDP plans on
taxing cannabis.

Instead of pushing discredited fear mongering in pursuit of a
prohibitionist approach, wouldn't it be nice to have a pro-free market
party in Alberta actually standing up for the free market?

If there's no political pressure from the opposition steering the
government away from an interventionist approach, then we run the risk
of inching down that path.

The legalization ship has sailed, and it was never a provincial
decision to begin with. The UCP would do well to come to grips with
these facts.
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