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