Pubdate: Sat, 03 Feb 2018
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Jeremy Kemeny
Page: A17


Millions of criminals are Canadians buying pot from Canadians, writes
Jeremy Kemeny

Everyone smoking recreational marijuana right now is a

That is according to Canadian law and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
who - planning to legalize this summer - has encouraged authorities to
enforce these rules.

There are a lot of criminals. In 2016, an estimated 4.9 million
Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 years old spent money on pot,
which translates into $5.7 billion according to a new Statistics
Canada report. And 94 per cent of that, the agency said, was consumed
illegally. Your child, sibling or parent might be guilty. You probably
have a cousin that's guilty. Some of your friends are likely guilty.
That's millions Canadians guilty of possession of cannabis.

What happens after legalization? One day pot smokers are sitting on
their couch, watching Futurama reruns and eating too much snack mix
illegally. The next day, they can buy marijuana from a government
approved shop and watch cartoons as a free, law abiding citizen. Here
in Ontario, the pot will come directly from one of 40 government
operated dispensaries. This is a preposterous situation and one that
could have been avoided.

Marijuana should have been decriminalized years ago … and it almost

In May 2003, Outremont MP Martin Cauchon sponsored Bill C-38 - not to
be confused with the C-38 of Feb. 2005, The Civil Marriage Act. The
earlier C-38 was a decriminalization bill, specifically intended to
contravene the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act passed by the same
government seven years earlier. The majority Liberals were on board
with this idea. Then prime minister Jean Chretien joked in an
interview with the Globe and Mail, "perhaps I will try it when it will
no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in
the other hand."

I remember this failed bill. I remember, even though I may have been
stoned on the couch of my friend's student house, playing Mario Cart
on Nintendo 64 while it was being read. The summer months of 2003 were
glory days for stoners. No one knew if marijuana was going to be legal
or illegal so everyone that smoked did so indiscriminately.

But, of course, that high was short lived. In November of 2003
Chretien prorogued parliament to avoid the Auditor General's report on
the sponsorship scandal. The next year the Liberals, shamed from the
corrupt advertising program, were reduced to a minority government. In
2006, the 13-year-old regime fell, Stephen Harper's Conservatives were
elected and the decriminalization bill was never passed.

In 2003 I was in my young 20s and I didn't care much about prorogation
or the sponsorship scandal. I cared about passing the intro to
psychology final at McMaster and scrounging change for pizza. Even
though there were no dispensaries then, pot was pretty easy to find.
One friend grew it in his apartment. Another friend's parents grew it
in their backyard. There was little moral ambiguity but it was still

Had the decriminalization act succeeded, it's possible, but not
likely, that the current legalization Bill C-45 would be unneeded.
Under the conservative regime, even when polls showed two-thirds of
Canadians wanted the government to ease up on possession laws, Harper
refused, saying legalization was the "wrong direction for society."
Had the country taken a path to legalized marijuana then, it's
possible all today's dispensaries would be regulated, supported by
authorities and paying large sums in taxes.

Now 15 years later legalization is coming, but the process is as shady
as a back alley drug deal. The Ontario plan will see all the hash cash
in provincial coffers. Illegal dispensaries are sure to get the short
end of the stick; their crime is supplying the demands of millions of
Canadians. When legalization goes through, the government of Ontario
will shut down these dispensaries. With so few provincial drug dealers
- - only one store in Hamilton - they will find themselves incapable of
growing and selling the quantities of marijuana desired. The black
market will live on.

This massive quantity, an estimated 770 tonnes of mostly illegal pot
was purchased in the country in 2016. Stats Canada says $5.4 billion
dollars of it - 94.7 per cent of all marijuana consumed - comes from
Canada. Canadians growing pot for Canadians.

The majority of these millions of people - relatives and friends - are
not violent, they don't support international terror and they aren't
in gangs. Dispensary owners may be breaking the rule of law, but it's
because the rules failed us. There should be no ambiguity. Marijuana
should be decriminalized now.
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MAP posted-by: Matt