HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Marijuana Is Not A Joke
Pubdate: Tue, 19 Mar 2002
Source: Guelph Mercury (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Guelph Mercury Newspapers Limited
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


A decade after former U.S. President Bill Clinton created a storm by 
publicly admitting to having once smoked marijuana, similar admissions from 
less-prominent political players have been coming more easily.

When leadership candidates in the race to succeed Mike Harris as head of 
the Progressive Conservative party and premier of the province were asked 
last weekend if they had indulged, for example, three of the five piped up. 
They had tried pot, they said, and lived to tell the tale -- or rather the 
joke. For that is how they managed to handle the question. Except for 
Elizabeth Witmer and Tony Clement: both denied ever having drawn a single puff.

So who's ahead? Ernie Eves is, but it doesn't matter. Since 38 per cent of 
adult Canadians have tried marijuana, there's probably not a lot of shame 
attaching to the admission. Indeed, those who do 'fess up are just as 
likely to be rewarded for being proper hipsters as they are to be punished 
at the polls for indulging in an illegal substance.

Beyond making jokes about it, however, none of the candidates would commit 
to any other observations about marijuana as an illegal drug and a problem 
of substantial proportions. Yet that's what it is to the police throughout 
Ontario. Try as they might through busts of ever-expanding value and 
proportions, they are failing. Arresting growers has become a regular 
police activity, and while it may give detective squads something to do 
(and something to crow about afterwards), it clearly hasn't stopped the 
cultivation of the weed. Obviously there's a lot of money being made, and 
some Ontarians are undoubtedly becoming very rich thanks to the briskness 
of the black market trade. Were the truth to be known, it would surprise 
few farmers to learn that marijuana has overtaken tobacco in value as a 
cash crop.

So what's the joke? The reality is that marijuana profits are not being 
counted. They're not being taxed. The substance is uncontrolled and growers 
are stealing enormous amounts of electricity. Add to this the cost and 
danger of police raids, the court costs and the expense of harbouring 
criminals in jails, and somebody should be finding the joke very unfunny. 
The marijuana trade is a huge public expense. And not one of the 
prospective leaders acknowledged that.

The answer to not having it as a huge public expense is to legalize it. Let 
growers be licenced. Let them begin selling it openly. Let fields of the 
stuff wave proudly in the summer breezes.

Legitimizing marijuana production would solve two problems. It would be the 
death-knell of illegal operations and it would allow the stuff to be taxed 
to the hilt. Young Tory followers of Ernie Eves, Chris Stockwell and James 
Flaherty wouldn't have to scour the back alleys in search of shadowy sales 
folk. They might be able to buy the quality-controlled product from many of 
the same people who now sell cigarettes.

Yet none of the candidates seems to have viewed marijuana as anything but 
raw material for some clever repartee. That's too bad. For marijuana is not 
an unimportant side issue and it's not withering away.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager