Legalize, don’t prosecute, pot use
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/08/2015 (2733 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Glenn Allan Price will get his day in court, but does the prosecution of purveyors of medical marijuana really serve the public interest? Well, if you’re the federal Conservative government, pursuing an out-of-touch political agenda, clearly it does.
Mr. Price, owner of a recently opened, unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary on Main Street, was charged by Winnipeg police with trafficking and possession following a raid Tuesday.
Many speculate an anti-marijuana activist in Vancouver, where dispensaries have proliferated and are licensed by city council, triggered the raid with a complaint to the Winnipeg Police Service earlier this month.
But Health Canada’s web page on medical marijuana, complete with a personal message from Health Minister Rona Ambrose, says the government will “proactively” pursue all storefronts selling the substance. (The federal act regulating medical marijuana makes selling from storefronts, even to those with medical authorization, illegal.)
Having had no luck in pushing local law enforcers in Vancouver to shut down storefronts there, it appears the federal government found more sympathy at the WPS.
Mr. Price has made no secret that he will defend his trade in marijuana in court, and Ottawa evidently replied “game on.” This despite repeatedly losing court challenges to successive laws that tightly restricted access to medical marijuana, judgments that underscored the needless frustrations of those suffering from conditions that can be relieved by smoking or ingesting pot.
But whether this force-of-the-law response to a dispensary (if, in fact, the store was supplying upon prescription, as Mr. Price contends) actually makes it to a hearing may depend on the outcome of the current election campaign on Oct. 19. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said if elected he would legalize the substance, which the Tories have warned would result in children falling into the grips of the evil weed.
Legalization makes the most sense. The evidence is regulation of a drug that is no worse than alcohol — booze, too, can be manufactured to varying strengths of alcohol and corrupted by additives to make it more potent, or potentially lethal — is the better tack.
It allows for good control and for taxation of a recreational substance, moving it into storefronts and out of the realm of organized criminals. Neither pot nor booze should be used by the young, the pregnant or when operating dangerous machinery or motor vehicles — that’s where government public-health campaigns, statutes and sanctions are most useful.
Most Canadians of an age have grown up in the era of easy access to pot, their experiences informing them better than an archaic Criminal Code and its Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which simply reflect the refusal of a government to move with the times. Past Liberal governments toyed with the idea of decriminalization, amid a growing reluctance among prosecutors and judges to slap criminal records on recreational users. There exists in Canada uneven application of the law already, as various jurisdictions exert less or more control over pot sellers and users.
Meanwhile, Canadians suffering from chronic diseases or ailments pot can alleviate are forced to find a doctor comfortable in prescribing its use, who will write an authorization that allows them to find a producer/distributor to mail them their supply. There is one federally authorized producer in Manitoba. Two in Saskatchewan. One in Alberta.
That’s hardly accessibility. That’s why people such as Glenn Price, and the 100 operators in Vancouver, quickly find a market. Supply falls short of demand. And that’s also why street dealers are happy the Harper Tories remain relentlessly irrational about weed.