Bill C-15 Fans The Flames It Tries To Extinguish

There’s a scene in L’Écho du Long Sault about alcohol prohibition; Police officers dumping barrels of moonshine as though it were going to make a difference.

Ah, the 1920s prohibition. How quaint it seems now!

While alcohol might be here to stay – and people mostly remember prohibiton as the time of gangsters and speakeasies with free-flowing booze – we are seeing the same attitude today on marijuana.

The Canadian federal government estimates it spends about $400 million a year enforcing marijuana laws.

Yet according to Health Canada, the drug’s use has doubled in the last 10 years.

This never-ending campaign wastes officers’ time and has criminalized hundreds of thousands of harmless people.

Worse still, the government is now escalating the war on growers and dealers, which will make gangs and cartels even more ruthless and dangerous. Bill C-15 is worse than doing nothing.

Like all minimum sentencing laws, it will do nothing to stop crime; no criminal intends to get caught and the law is based on the impossible idea of police catching, charging, and convicting every grower.

The root problem – that marijuana sales represent $1 billion in illegal sales every year in Ontario, fueling organized crime – will continue unabated and unchallenged.

So here’s an idea for real change: Why not legalize the stuff?

Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP Pierre Lemieux says marijuana is a dangerous narcotic, but let’s be honest – this is an exaggeration.

You cannot overdose on marijuana. It is not addictive. It does not lead to fights and can do wonders for sick people.

Plus, even the federal government admits that no one has ever died from cannabis use.

Moreover, we Canadians already have the highest rate of marijuana use in the world; we smoke more than the Dutch, who legalized it years ago.

Some studies, such as the Canadian Addiction Survey, claim that more than 40% of Canadians have tried cannabis at least once. For people aged 18 to 24, this rises to an incredible 70 per cent.

According to the Conservatives, Bill C-15 will somehow reduce the marijuana supply and stop Canada’s biggest cash crop. (Estimates say marijuana sales are three times greater than those of wheat nationwide, if you compare dollars.)

So after 86 years of raids, arrests, handcuffs and criminal records, growers will suddenly disappear because they are afraid of jail?

I don’t believe it.

We all agree that organized crime is a problem. Gangs and cartels are something that no community should have to deal with.

But marijuana isn’t what’s causing organized crime. Prohibition causes it. With Bill C-15, the government is making things worse.

We here in Prescott-Russell are proud of our regional wineries and micro-breweries – and we also know that alcohol poisoning and liver problems kill thousands of Canadians every year.

Couldn’t we move towards a world where we are proud of a local pot field? Legalize, educate and reduce harm.

In 2002 the Canadian Senate was unanimous in saying marijuana is relatively benign; less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

But still, the Conservative government thinks anyone who grows their own plants should go to jail; be locked in a cell; be made unable to work; be labeled a criminal.

Originally they wanted six months’ incarceration for growing one plant.

What we’re seeing now is a campaign of misinformation and political posturing on marijuana, which I can only assume will fade over time.

Like previous establishment superstitions about rock and roll, dancing and comic books being a ‘moral corruptor’ of children, eventually fears of marijuana will ease.

With time it should become included in the long line of products which are legal despite not being harmless. (Like soft drinks or chewing tobacco).

It’s especially a shame the Liberals went along with Bill C-15 after coming so close to decriminalization under Jean Chrétien.

Congratulations to the NDP and Bloc Quebecois for voting against this one.

However, with a vote of 195 to 54, it seems there’s a long way to go before marijuana prohibition is made history.

– Article from The Review on June 24, 2009.