HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html The Evolving Politics of Pot
Pubdate: Fri, 28 Oct 2005
Source: Banner, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 The Orangeville Banner
Author: Lee Ann Waterman, Editor
Cited: Russell Barth
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Just about every time The Banner runs a story about a local police 
busting a marijuana grow operation, we receive a letter to the editor 
or two from people championing the other side of the story and urging 
our reporters to do the same.

Most often the letters come from Russell Barth, who identifies 
himself as a "federal medical marijuana license holder" and former 
federal Marijuana Party candidates, and other members of what I would 
call national marijuana movement.

The most recent one arrived just last week, after we printed 
information about Caledon OPP discovering huge amounts of pot and 
cash at three separate residences over a 12-hour period earlier this month.

His letter asserts "By not legalizing and regulating the cannabis 
industry, our government is deliberately subsidizing the underground 
economy, making pot easier for kids to access than either tobacco or 
alcohol, and wasting valuable policy resources. If that isn't 
'organized crime' I don't know what is."

But we also get the occasional letter from a local resident, also 
wondering why The Banner doesn't also include the opinions of 
marijuana proponents in articles like the one mentioned above. I 
remember a particularly outraged response from a reader to 
information, provided by local police, about how to spot and the 
dangers of indoor grow operations.

To be honest, I'm not sure how to address this one. On one hand, as 
journalists, our job is to examine all angles of any particular issue 
or story. But, on the other hand the production, sale and possession 
of marijuana is illegal in this country, and we report on other 
police activity -- such as charges for theft or assault -- in much 
the same way as we do the drug charges.

Besides, I'm not sure where to find a local source to speak for the 
pro-pot side.

And, my assumption has been that most in the community would support 
our handling of these stories.

But recent events are starting to make we wonder if marijuana use is 
more mainstream than I may have thought.

One event is the introduction of U.S. cable show Weeds to Canadian 
television. The show's main character is widowed suburban mom selling 
pot to support her family. Her customers include her accountant and 
his upper-middle class friends. Weeds, and other television shows in 
smaller doses, are breaking the stereotype of the typical marijuana 
user. And, if these shows reflect our reality, then pot-smokers are 
not teenagers and people on the fringes of society (or at least not 
just), but average working, intelligent adults who enjoy a joint 
rather than a glass of wine at the end of a long hard day.

Of course these are American shows. Where do Canadians sit on the issue?

A Ipsos Reid/CTV/Globe and Mail poll conducted in November 2004 
indicates that approximately half (51 per cent) of Canadians support 
the decriminalization of marijuana. The same survey indicated only a 
third (36 per cent) of Americans were of similar opinion.

Also in 2004, Statistics Canada reported that 4.5 million Canadians 
have used marijuana. The Canadian Medical Association estimates that 
1.5 million Canadians smoke marijuana recreationally.

The other event that has prompted my pondering of this subject is the 
unmistakable odour of pot smoke I occasionally catch on my evening 
runs. Sometimes the source is a couple of young people, but other 
times it's the garage of your average suburban house or an adult out 
doing some yard work. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake