I’m sure it wasn’t the Canadian government’s intention to play Lucy snatching the football away before Charlie Brown can kick it. But it’s getting harder and harder to trust that the Trudeau government has any intention of following through on promises to legalize and/or regulate marijuana use, medically or recreationally.
Canadian voters feel betrayed. We all had our own reasons to reject the Harper government, but the Liberal election campaign put the pot issue front and centre as a large part of the Liberal Party policy initiatives, that “breath of fresh air” we were told was coming to Ottawa. A lack of action on this issue betrays the constituency that voted the Liberals into office, and paints the party as no different to the Conservatives, who at least made their rejection of legalization cut and dried.
On Wednesday, roughly 500,000 medical cannabis users in Canada over the age of 25 got a small reprieve from the fear of imprisonment for possession, when a Federal Court judge struck down a ban on home growing. The previous government had put that into place when Ottawa moved to a system of large-scale commercial producers, once more putting commerce before citizens’ needs.
Justice Michael Phelan ruled that those new bans were “over broad and arbitrary,” effectively forcing patients to choose between their medicine and prison, and added, “I agree that the plaintiffs have, on a balance of probabilities, demonstrated that cannabis can be produced safely and securely with limited risk to public safety and consistently with the promotion of public health.”
There are around two dozen commercial producers right now, who ship legal, dried marijuana and cannabis oils to about 30,000 patients. Even under the new math, that still means the other 470,000 patients are getting relief elsewhere.
One of the arguments put forward has been that if people are allowed to grow their own, ‘everyone’ will do it. Really? Just like ‘everyone’ brewing their own beer and making wine in their homes has decimated legal trade in alcohol? Neither the Beer Store nor the LCBO seem to be hurting for customers.
Having the right to grow your own doesn’t mean every user wants to do so. Not everyone wants to tend to plants, even if they’re looking forward to the harvest. The plants stink, for one thing, which might be a big deterrent to someone with cancer treatment induced nausea. And it’s hard to imagine that someone with a long-term or terminal illness wants to spend much of their precious time worrying that the plants are getting enough light, or that they’ve remembered to water and fertilize regularly.
But more importantly, a large percentage of Canadians admit to using marijuana, whether medically or recreationally, for the same reasons their parents used alcohol – relaxation and pain relief. The Liberals won the last election with a promise to legalize pot. We were told that process could take more than a year. What we didn’t expect was that Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister and Toronto’s former police chief, would be put in charge of the task force to consult and craft new laws around marijuana.
Blair, a by-the-books hard ass who famously oversaw the utilization of violent repression against protesters at G8/20, has insisted the government will take proper time to consult and proceed with caution — and he wouldn’t even commit to passing legislation before the next federal election.
At the same time, licensed producers have been lobbying the government for a role in recreational production. The big pharmacy chains like Shoppers Drug Mart are drooling over the chance to sell the drug. Municipalities, meanwhile, are dealing with the proliferation of illegal dispensaries.
Clive Weighill, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, is begging the government to clear up the confusion his officers are facing.
“Right now it’s just a big fog,” he said. “We know it’s going to be legalized, but we don’t know how it’s going to happen, who’s going to be consulted. If they could just come out with a real bare bones action plan, just so the Canadian public can say OK, these are the steps we’re going through.”
Enforcing a law that the government has declared it will eliminate is not just confusing, it’s unethical. There is no moral basis for enforcing a law that remains on the books, even as the government moves towards repeal. The people spoke to the ethical standards of the community when they elected the Liberal Party with a very strong mandate. I’ll say it again: It is unethical and immoral to continue enforcing a law that is in the process of being repealed.
As Blair fiddles, thousands of users keep getting burned for possession, and the black market continues to thrive.
Blair has said that the goal is to strictly regulate the drug, restrict its access to minors, and to take billions of dollars in black market sales away from organized crime groups. He’s just going to need … oh .. about four years … to do that.. Blair, it’s shit or get off the ‘pot’ time, indeed.
The Trudeau government needs to take a long, hard look at Blair, and admit he’s just not the right choice for the job. You’re allowed to make mistakes in hiring, as long as you admit to the mistake and correct it. Blair himself called the number of Canadians charged with possession “shocking,” noting that in 2014 alone there were 22,000 charges laid, and that minority and aboriginal communities are disproportionately affected.
Blair says his concern is ‘public health.’ That flies in the face of science, as both Canadian and American scientists, amongst others, determined more than thirty years ago that marijuana was not dangerous and in fact had many scientifically-documented, medically beneficial, uses.
Ah, but it’s not that simple, says Blair. Why yes. Yes it is. It’s as simple as buying a can of beer or a pack of cigarettes. Alcohol and tobacco are 100% legal and have risks for ALL users, and often, those around them. But they’re legal.
It is that simple. This was a hot button, contentious, election promise and it needs to be kept. Sell cannabis at liquor stores or pharmacies or dispensaries, tax it, and require government issued ID to purchase it. We already have an existing legal framework for the regulation of alcohol and tobacco. States in the U.S. have hammered out regulations, and are reaping the tax benefits and new employment from the sales.
It took Colorado 34 days, from November 6th, 2012 when the citizens voted to legalize, until December 10th, 2012 when it became legal. This is not a four year process unless you make it one.
Crocodile tears don’t cut it, Blair. What’s the real reason you’re dragging your feet on this, beyond your own bias? What’s your basis for continuing to prosecute and persecute people who use a substance less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco, or even over the counter aspirin?
Cannabis activist Jodie Emery may have nailed the problem. “We need a moratorium on arrests and we need amnesty for two million Canadians since 1965 who have been given criminal records,” she told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.
Well, that just flies in the face of our bloated, inefficient prison system, doesn’t it! Continued arrests and prosecution of cannabis are a waste of taxpayer money, but they sure do keep the police and prisons busy! Why aren’t the police instead focused on pursuing hard drugs like meth, and cracking down on large importers and its producers? Is it because the low hanging fruit just looks so much juicier?
And devising complicated new laws and regulations covering every possible misuse or abuse of marijuana is nothing but a ‘make work’ project. There are already laws in place that cover every possible scenario. Some kid creeps into your backyard and steals your plants? That’s trespass and theft. Charge the kid. Some guy has 100 stinky plants growing in his house, or gawd forbid, his rented apartment? That’s a commercial business, not allowed on personal property. And destruction of rental property carries some hefty fines, if not jail time. Step away from the grownup blowing a joint, and go bust the real criminals.
This is not rocket science. Every nitpicking argument has been discussed and discarded, to the satisfaction of everyone but the most self-righteous and sanctimonious pearl clutchers. There will always be those who are against the legalization of anything, be it booze, pot, or completely naked strippers. Get over it. This is supposed to be a democratic nation, where adults make choices at their own considered risk. Continuing to ‘police’ the consumption of a drug less harmful than most of the ‘prescribed’ drugs on the market is outrageous and condescending.
Legalizing it should be done arbitrarily and without debate, the same way that it was originally criminalized in 1923, when it was added to the list of dangerous narcotics. High handed prohibition based primarily on a need to control and on personal bias, disregards the people’s right to self-determination and denies them the right to make personal choices in their own lives.
Simply taking what was once illegal and rendering it legal by government proclamation has been done throughout Canada’s history. Dragging out decriminalization/legalization as a policy point necessary for re-election will ensure the Liberals lose the ground they won in the last election. Just another promise not kept, the voters manipulated for political gain. The current government ignores that reality at their own peril.
Speaking of ignoring the voice of the people, the ‘unelectable’ Bernie Sanders continues to pick up momentum in the United States, despite a media that focuses on an increasingly bombastic and power mad Donald Trump, who very much seems to be in the grip of a psychotic break.
Sanders’ followers are as desperate to get out from under their current government as we Canadians were during the last election. His latest campaign ad captures the excitement and creativity inherent in his promises. Is asking for transparency in government, and real equality for all, doomed to failure? I guess we’ll find out in November.
Bernie’s new campaign ad rocks!
(first published Fe 28/2016 -bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/roxanne-tellier-legalize-it/)