Professors, former cops, high-profile politicians, and medpot club founders converged last weekend at an international conference called “Beyond Prohibition” at Vancouver’s Wosk centre, where they lauded legalization and talked about what society might be like after the drug war’s demise.
Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell spoke first, coming out loud and proud against jailing the marijuana community, and was awarded a standing ovation.
“If marijuana was charged in a court,” he said, “no jury in their right mind would convict. That is why I have long supported legalization!”
Mayor Campbell mentioned a recent study showing that marijuana wasn’t a gateway drug then chided, “I’m sure the study will be refuted by [US Drug Czar] John Walters by noon today!” He told how John Walters had once tried to convince him that US treatment centres were full of marijuana addicts. Campbell explained that US authorities offer offenders a choice between treatment and jail, and so of course offenders choose treatment, and thus the inflated and manufactured statistics touted by Walters. Later he added that “all of our drug war policies, all of them are set by the US. We are being led around by the US.”
As for Campbell’s vision of a drug-war free society, he sees marijuana sale regulated like alcohol and other recreational drugs. “I don’t want Rothmans taking over the marijuana industry. I don’t want them to have the ability to make a huge amount of dollars on this; what I want is to stop people from going to jail; to stop the waste of resources.”
Canadian Senator Pierre Claude Nolan, who recently headed a senate report recommending legalization, spoke last but brilliantly, also receiving a standing ovation. He chided the government for not following the recommendations of the report, and called the so-called decriminalization law now working its way through parliament “a worst case scenario”, because of provisions in that bill that would make the drug war even harsher.
There were many other mind-bogglingly amazing presenters, including Professor Peter Cohen from the University of Amsterdam; compassion club experts Hilary Black, Rielle Capler and Phil Lucas; Professor Jeffrey Miron from Boston University, US medpot doctor Tod Mikuriya and many others.
As a sample of some of the excellent research presented at the conference, NORML founder Keith Stroup wowed us with an analysis of the international treaties that most western politicians regularly cite as an excuse for preserving drug laws. These treaties include the Single Convention Treaty of 1961, the 1971 Convention on Psychedelic Substances and the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Stroup revealed that international think-tanks and even the architects of these treaties described them as allowing considerable flexibility for nations to choose their own drug policy.
To sum up the general consensus of the conference, it seemed unanimous among the presenters that full legalization was the best option. There were a variety of opinions about what that meant, or whether halfway measures like decriminalization should be thought of as steps in the right direction. Presenters mostly agreed that legalization should mean better quality control, more options for the buyer, moderate taxes on pot products, no restrictions on growing and vending beyond a commercial license scheme, the continuation of mom and pop operations, and closed doors for organized crime and big corporations. There were some excellent arguments put forward as exceptions, many of them by Professor Miron.
The conference was a resounding success, attended as it was by print media and television. The cannabis community owes a round of applause to BC Civil Liberties Association Policy Director Kirk Tousaw, who organized the event and lined up the speakers. For more about the conference, read the next issue of Cannabis Culture Magazine.
* BC Civil Liberties Association: bccla.org