HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html The Conventional Wisdom on 'Marihuana' Is
Pubdate: Tue, 27 Jul 2004
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Vancouver Sun
Note: Reprinted fromThe Ottawa Citizen
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Claims by politicians and police that we need tougher drug-law
enforcement to stop Canadian marijuana flooding the United States have
become pretty much conventional wisdom. It's time that changed.

Because of this conventional wisdom, we can expect the re-introduction
of legislation raising sentences on growers when Parliament convenes.

Before that happens, we would suggest parliamentarians take note of
the latest RCMP report on drugs in Canada because, whether the
Mounties intended it or not, the report contains powerful evidence
that the conventional wisdom is completely wrong.

Exports of what is described in Canadian law as "marihuana" -- the
law's spelling, like its thinking, is still stuck in the 1930s -- are
indeed a "thriving industry," the RCMP notes in The Drug Situation in
Canada, 2003.

But for the first time, the Mounties put that industry in perspective.
"Most of the marihuana available on the American illicit market still
originates primarily in the U.S. and in Mexico. Canada ranks far below
Mexico as a source for the U.S."

Far below, indeed. In 2003, the report states, U.S. Customs seized
more than 400,000 kilograms of pot on the border with Mexico. In the
same year, it netted a little more than 15,000 kilograms on the
Canadian border. Seizures are only rough indicators of what's really
going on in black markets, but these numbers suggest Mexican pot
exports are 27 times higher than ours.

The report also notes, briefly, that the single largest source of
marijuana in the U.S. is neither Canada nor Mexico, but the United
States itself. This fact is critical, yet the Mounties play it down in
the report.

Unlike Canada, no one says the U.S. is soft on marijuana. Under
American federal sentencing guidelines, cultivation offences that
might get as little as a few weeks in jail or even a conditional
sentence here are punished with three to seven years in prison.

And many state laws are even tougher. Major growers often face 10, 20,
or 30 years in prison -- even life without parole. An estimated
100,000 Americans are behind bars for marijuana offences.

Canadian police often note the disparity in punishments between Canada
and the U.S., but what they never say is what good all that punishment
has done. That's because there's no evidence it has done any good.

A U.S. Department of Justice report noted, "96.9 per cent of state and
local law enforcement agencies nationwide describe the availability of
marijuana as high or medium." And a survey of American teenagers found
89 per cent say it is "very easy" or "fairly easy" to get pot. The
U.S. is awash in weed, probably more now than at any time in its history.

And, as the RCMP admits, the biggest growers of that weed are
Americans undeterred by the mighty American war on drugs. Naturally,
the RCMP would rather we not conclude that the fight against marijuana
is a futile and destructive waste of money, but the Mounties' own
report, if read with care and a little background knowledge, leaves no

Keep that in mind when Parliament returns and the inevitable clamour
for more enforcement and tougher sentences resumes. 
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