HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Should Pot Be Legal?
Pubdate: Sun, 20 Jun 2004
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004 Calgary Herald
Author: Steven Martinovich
Note: Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.
Cited: Fraser Institute Report
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


This writer agrees with a Fraser Institute report calling for
marijuana to be legalized and taxed.

There's an old saying that some of what a conservative believes today
was fought for by liberals 20 years ago. That could explain a report
released June 9 by the Fraser Institute. The solidly conservative
think-tank declared that marijuana should be legalized and taxed by
the federal government. The report's conservative estimate is that the
government could realize $2 billion in new revenue.

Not surprisingly, police associations dismissed the report. Paul
Shrive, the head of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, argued
that taxing marijuana would see the government making money off those
who were addicted -- forgetting perhaps about the windfall alcohol and
tobacco provide provincial and federal coffers. Shrive also stated
that in his years of policing he'd never seen someone who was addicted
to "extreme" drugs who didn't start out with marijuana.

At the risk of being facetious, milk is probably the ultimate gateway

Correlation does not equal causation.

Police officers are understandably leery about legalization, citing a
lack of proper training and tools to deal with a liberalizing of drug
laws, but it's a move whose time has come. Although police are
justifiably concerned about an increased workload and the fact that
liberalization could aid criminal elements, the war on marijuana is a
giant drain on resources that has remarkably few successes to show for

About $400 million a year is spent on arresting, prosecuting and
jailing drug criminals in Canada, an investment that has resulted in
more than 600,000 Canadians with a criminal record for marijuana
possession. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2,000
Canadians go to jail every year for marijuana possession, at a cost to
the taxpayer of $150 a day to house each of them. If the intent of the
war on marijuana is to dissuade people from using it, it's a failure,
as well. In a recent Toronto study, 92 per cent of those found guilty
of possession were still using the drug a year later.

The prohibition against marijuana is as much a moral crusade as it is
a health campaign. That will cause many to see any liberalization as a
loss for decent society. It's really about realizing that millions of
adult Canadians want to use marijuana and are willing to break the law
to do so. We can keep punishing them and branding them for life or we
can admit that society is changing and that marijuana isn't the danger
that its critics have claimed it is. Marijuana may cause some health
problems with chronic use. But the greater danger is fighting a war
against Canadians and any government that crusades against its own
citizens eventually loses.

A look at the raw numbers certainly proves that. As Steve Easton
pointed out in his report, there are 17,500 marijuana grows in British
Columbia alone. Only about 13 per cent of offenders in that province
are actually charged -- the number rises to 60 per cent when the rest
of Canada is included -- and of those, 55 per cent receive no jail
time. On the consumption side, 23 per cent of Canadians have admitted
to using marijuana some time, while 7.5 per cent are using it
currently, or about 1.87 million people.

Of course, fiscal conservatives should be wary about giving government
yet another revenue stream, given that alcohol and tobacco taxes
haven't exactly stopped any level of government from running deficits.
That shouldn't stop us, however, from realizing we are behind the
times on this issue. The war on marijuana has been a drain on society
that has only resulted in wholesale flouting of the law at the cost of
billions of dollars. Legalizing marijuana and taxing it not only turns
the flow of money the other way, it recognizes reality.
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