Canadian Pot Conundrum?

Paul Walton: Canada’s pot conundrum

by Paul Walton, Nanaimo Daily News

The only appropriate message for those obsessed with the idea of making pot legal is get a life.

Last week I wrote a story that resulted in a letter advocating that Canada take a strong stand against marijuana production.

The letter writer has a point.

This is not a wonder drug that deserves to be made legal; nor is it a great evil that we should allow to be controlled by criminals.

Canada does need to take a strong stand on pot and perhaps that stand has to happen in the context of decriminalization, not legalization. This city is a good example of the failure to either put the resources into effectively stamping it out or finding a balance that decriminalization could bring.

The Hells Angels are just one of a number of crime groups swirling amidst the numerous independent growers making millions of dollars from growing marijuana. As a commodity that can bring very lucrative profits, it is a market not jealously guarded but violently guarded by those who control of it.

It is perhaps proof of the theory put forth by Karl Polanyi, in his brilliant economic history The Great Transformation, that unregulated markets will eventually destroy themselves and the society connected with them. The violence is how gangs regulate the marijuana market to keep it from destroying itself.

There seem to be several different types of pot smokers. There are the heads, who just want to get high and eschew anything that has responsibility attached to it. There are the medicinal smokers, who find relief from pain in conditions like MS, cancer and arthritis. Then there are the casual smokers, for whom pot functions as alcohol does for other people. It’s relaxing and serves as an anodyne to the stresses of every day life.

Canada seems to be not at a crossroads in connection with marijuana but a conundrum. While making it legal is plainly stupid, we have come about as close to decriminalizing it as possible without actually doing so. But actually decriminalizing it would cause some serious problems with our neighbour to the south.

The United States’ official stance is that marijuana is a drug and as such must be fought against and stamped out with illegality and harsh penalties. This is not a position that we should dismiss as the stance of an uptight profit-driven upper class. The experience with alcohol since the end of prohibition has been a dismal one.

Booze accounts for a vast amount of trouble, from drunk driving to domestic abuse and a host of other costly ills. Alcoholism remains a problem in this society. To allow pot smokers any more latitude on top of that is troublesome. If as North Americans we can’t handle our booze (another jealously guarded and heavily promoted market) the chance of being responsible with pot is unlikely.

The current state of affairs is perhaps the best one, except for the fact that it is fueling gangsters and their violent activities. Because it remains illegal and difficult to get, the problems related to smoking remain below the surface.

It is unfortunate that kooks like Marc Emery have made an ideology out of pot. His whining about going to jail because he broke the law is unsavoury. His argument seems to be that just because he thinks pot ought to be legal he should be exempt from being prosecuted.

The letter writer is correct. Pot is no panacea and also has its risks that we also need to educated about. And yes, until the laws change, those breaking them should suffer the consequences.

Article from The Nanaimo Daily News.

To The Editor, RE: Paul Walton: Canada’s pot conundrum

by Russell Barth

There is no conundrum. The facts are in, and they are as indisputable as the fact that the earth is a sphere.

1) Cannabis has dozens of proven medical applications, including the treatment of Autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Recent science out of Germany shows how cannabinoids stimulate the body’s production of TIMP-1, which helps healthy cells resist cancer invasion.

2) Prohibition subsidizes organized crime, wastes valuable tax dollars, increases crime, makes drugs of all kinds easier for kids to get than a decent lunch, increases crime, and deprives Canadians of a valuable source of medicine and $3 billion in potential annual tax revenue.

3) All science, history, and common sense on the subject shows conclusively that legalized, regulated sales to adults similar to alcohol and tobacco would do more to reduce crime, reduce drug use, and reduce the dangers associated with drug use than prohibition ever could.

These are not opinions. They are facts.

But prohibitionists like Paul Walton are like religious zealots. They are completely unconcerned with facts. They “believe” in prohibition, and the more you confront them with facts and science, the more they dig in their heels. I am consoled by the fact that more people are waking up to the true facts, and “believers” like Walton are a dying breed.

Finally, if we accept that the government can tell us what we can and cannot do with our own bodies and minds, then we must accept their ownership. That means the government owns us all – like pets, cattle, or slaves – and that we have only the rights that they grant. Anyone willing to accept that, as Walton seems to – deserves no rights at all.

Russell Barth
Federally Licensed Medical Marijuana User
Drug Reform Analyst and Consultant
Educators for Sensible Drug Policy



  1. Anonymous on

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  2. George Lenard on

    But you cant tell them much? Fed-up you are absolutely right! I have repeatedly tried to explain to our local Conservative MP. That you cannot continue to lie to the Canadian youth. And the stupidity of calling it a controlled substance means there is no control. The Conservatives have no problem with the legal pharmaceutical companies spreading the highly addictive as well as physically and mentally destructive,synthetic heroin, called oxcycotten, but if a man smokes a joint his children will be taken and his life destroyed? There is not reason for out governments to continue with this stupidity and longer. These Conservative will not listen! No let me ref raze that, these Conservative cannot listen. No sense conversing with people that do not listen. So instead just vote them out. I believe that Harper prorogued Parliament to avoid an election because he knows the real polls tell him the best he can do is lose seats. The people of Canada have had just about enough lies from the likes of these very poor excuse for politicians.

  3. RE Marc a Bull on

    Barth would be a great new prince of Pot’
    he can legally smoke pot cause he’s a medical patient,
    I think for anxiety and various mental illness
    he also dresses up as jesus Christ from time to time and walks around the streets of ottawa. His profession is stand up comic- all that and his 48,000 angry letters to the editor all basically the same .. you can always find him because he’s in public assissantce- no day job to get in the way of his act up icvism

    these Barthofanatic facts, applied to his corronation as the new prince of Plop would give the legalization movement all the upholstery they would ever need to sit back in comfort the dead engine vehiclethey are driving – forward into the distant past!

    gentlemen, prepare your bongs- next stop Skid Row
    your captain: Russel Barth- bi polar partisan folk hero

  4. Anonymous on

    Survivors of Canadian Residential Schools Plan Civil Disruptions of BC Olympics
    British Columbia Olympics to Face Civil Disruptions by Survivors of Canadian Indian Residential schools –
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    By Hidden from History
    VANCOUVER — The group representing survivors of Indian residential schools on Canada’s west coast announced today that it will hold civil disobedience actions and disruptions during the February 2010 Olympics near Vancouver if the Canadian government and mainline churches have not announced a timetable for the repatriation of the remains of the thousands of children who died in these schools.
    The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (FRD), which held high-profile protests and occupations of churches in Vancouver and Toronto during 2007 and 2008 and compelled the Canadian government to issue an apology for the residential schools in July, 2008, has given Canada and the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada until February 15, 2010 to announce when and how they will return for a proper burial the remains of Indian children who died under their care.
    Read article:

    Shame on you all canada!!

  5. Fed-up Taxpayer on

    It’s only eight million people imprisoned every year, who aren’t me…get a life. Nobody has died due to cannabis consumption in the last thousand years, or more, and alcohol is quantifiably lethal? So what. Get a life. What will the kids think if we re-legalize this non-addictive, non-toxic and non-carcinogenic substance? They’re certainly not gonna think, “Oh, maybe they do have a concern with the fact that I can easily acquire cannabis within a half-mile in any direction, with absolutely no questions asked or ID requested”.
    Maybe, just maybe, regulation of this relatively benign plant substance is the way to go to as far as keeping cannabis out of the hands of the vast majority of minors.

  6. George Lenard on

    The neo con trash style reporting by right wing sympathizers who continue the deny the fact, do so with such a “dubious” nature. How does the right gain ground? Because all of those eligible to vote do not exercise their obligation to do so? There is one way and one way only to stop the absolutely archaic political ideology Harper and the right wing Conservative Party are shoving down the throats of the majority of Canadians. If every one that voted against the Conservatives brings one voter that did not vote in the last election, we can give Harper and Party a slap in the face for thinking he can lie to Canada any more?

  7. Johnny Blazze on

    Canwest editor is like saying Conservative editor, Canwest is the official Conservative News Paper chain.

    Perhaps Russell could take the place of Marc. for a while.

  8. Dan-o on

    The most telling facts are the victim stories posted around the web(particularly on These are real stories of people maimed killed and otherwise abused for a plant that doesn’t harm the user. Kids are losing their funding for college and families are being broken up either by jail or death. Prohibition of cannabis and the often over-exuberant police forces are causing these tragic stories daily. Cannabis is not. Society’s cure in the matter is far and away worse than the “disease”.

  9. Brad in Oz on

    What an ignorant, distorted and brain washed view of the drug war situation.

    Paul states:

    “The experience with alcohol since the end of prohibition has been a dismal one.”

    Has it really?

    During alcohol prohibition extremely violent armed gangs ran the majority of trade; killing each other, innocent citizens and police officers alike (just as with the current illegal drug trade). Alcohol consumption rose dramatically in the USA during prohibition and there’s absolutely no evidence that alcohol related violence among persons who consume alcohol has changed after repeal of prohibition.

    Paul also states:

    “Booze accounts for a vast amount of trouble, from drunk driving to domestic abuse and a host of other costly ills. Alcoholism remains a problem in this society. To allow pot smokers any more latitude on top of that is troublesome. If as North Americans we can’t handle our booze (another jealously guarded and heavily promoted market) the chance of being responsible with pot is unlikely.”

    What the hell alcohol related problems have got to do with pot related problems, I’m stuffed if I know – but then again that’s idiot logic for you!

    So he’s suggesting that a substance is more likely to be used irresponsibly if it’s legal?
    Of course, it all makes sense now, pot smokers will be saying: “Hey dude, this stuff’s legal now man, so now we can act irresponsibly”
    Again the idiot logic escapes me!

    Yep, if pot’s legalized surely our streets will be awash every friday and saturday night with pot cosnumers openly pissing in doorways, vomiting in the streets and having fights because someone accidentally bumped into them.
    Oh and our roads will be filled with all the people who dared not drive stoned when pot was illegal, but now see the legalization as a green light to act irresponsibly.

    Wake up Paul, lose your “educated” (read: brain washed) prejudice and realise that legal drugs aren’t all great for society, but PROHIBITION IS FAR WORSE!

  10. Anonymous on

    this walton asshole sounds like my father!! we are not going to change there minds so we need to roll over them..
    things are changing in the lower 48 thanks to a lot of hard work. as Bill C-15 go yes it is dead, however it will be reintroduced as soon as Harpo has things stacked in his faver. this dick need to go and soon

  11. plink on

    If ‘kooks’ believe that pot ought to be legal then they ought to legalise it, whether that involves being prosecuted or not. Marc Emery is definately not just ‘eschewing anything with responsibility attached to it’ in this respect. The comment “The current state of affairs is perhaps the best one” however seems a little distanced from the problem the article purports to trying to resolve.

    Walton seems to miss the fact that alcohol prohibition didn’t magcially create less alcoholism, what it did create was criminal and police violence (the criminals enacting a violence against the law, and the police enacting violence against people’s freedom)*. Arguing for only a slight decriminilisation of marijuana and a simultaneous vigorous prosecution of the law does the same.

    *I don’t see how because a criminal sells a prohibited substance he becomes more physically violent, romanticism probably.

  12. Anonymous on

    Paul Walton you sound like a broken record.You keep repeating the same story over and over again and you seem to be really out of touch with the way it is out there.I hope all Nanaimo folks arent like you.
    To have divided pot smokers into categories like you did is totally brilliant and is certainly the mark of a profound reflexion initiated years ago.
    I also use a system like you to classify authors who send articles to newspaper. You,I would imagine you in the straight section,classical look and rightist ideology.
    In the end,I think you have missed one pot smoker category,where I belong ,the ones who smoke to forget that people like you ever existed downhere.
    Its not very difficult to forget about people like you but Marc Emery him is someone who will never be forgotten for his outstanding contribution to the marijuana cause.
    Try even coming close to that…

  13. Riley on

    Emery is the reason that all the movements are taking place in California, and Colorado. He used his profits to fund most of the whats going on everywhere. The bill C-15 died when Harper prorogued so i dunno what these people are taking about.

  14. Brian Kerr on

    “…great majority of his fellows to make any some of change in the pot laws before Bill C- 15 kicks in. And that will be the end of the grow pot party once and for all. And we all know it”

    Not really just look south. Much harsher laws did not stop or even slow down growing. About half of the weed in the US is home grown, a small amount comes form Canada about 2% and the rest comes from Mexico.

    If mandatory minimums come to Canada prices will rise and more people will get involved in growing to reap the profits. Grows will become many and smaller to avoid the mandatory minimums and large grows may become even bigger as it wont matter any more.

  15. bud light on

    Full Time Pot Activist / certified medical pot patient Russel Barth has a couple of good points, its just too bad he is hostile and vague expressing them Or should we say barks them out like an old man Other full time stoners will applaud his latest cliff dive, but it would be hard to imagine his arguments will sway the great majority of his fellows to make any some of change in the pot laws before Bill C- 15 kicks in. And that will be the end of the grow pot party once and for all. And we all know it

    Us stoners failed to stave this off or any other legislation, and failed bad, Admit it, basically we wasted the last decade following a big mouthed short haired guy with glasses and a suit over the cliff. He was selling us seeds and trying to mobilize us into believing in him. he made a lot of money of us but we didn’t bel;ieve in him, but we did believe in the relative harmlessness of the pot plant we are not addicted to, but we sure can’t seem to get along without

    Mr short hair businessman pot prince kept getting busted & going to jail but nothing changed. We lost a lot of ground waiting for a prince to out talk the Feds and guess who won the battle of the big mouth? Hint: they live on Ottawa..

    Either stoners as a nation have to change tactics in a big way really fast or we will get washed away. The straights are not returning our calls and are just about to delete our number. This whole revolution is just about over and the stoners didn’t accomplish much or anything at all.

  16. J.P Lunds on

    So… question i have for Paul Walton…. if it is decriminalized…. who does he propose make it available?… this would ot solve the crime problem one bit… good attempt at seeming to be on both sides… doesn’t work that way..