CANNABIS CULTURE – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper answered questions this evening in a YouTube-sponsored poll and interview where marijuana was the #1 issue. As expected, the PM rehashed the same old tired arguments in defense of his destructive cannabis policies.
Marijuana- and crime-related questions dominated the YouTube/Google poll, coming in #1, #2, #3, #4 and several other spots in the top 10. A similar poll of “Ideas for Change” for US President Obama on Change.org also places marijuana legalization at #1.
Below is the video and transcript of Harper’s response to questions about marijuana:
PATRICK PICHETTE: The last question that we have today was the question that was passed with the most votes, and it’s about marijuana.
RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER: Oh really!
PATRICK PICHETTE: It was the question with the most votes, tackled the subject of marijuana. And it is written as follows: “A majority of Canadians, when polled, say they believe marijuana should be legal for adults, just like alcohol. Why don’t you end the war on drugs and focus on violent criminals?”
RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER: Well, it’s a good question. I’m not sure I’ve seen this particular poll. There are different polls on this subject that show different things, but you know, I have to say young children, I guess they’re now…Ben and Rachel are now getting pretty close to 14 and 11, but maybe they’re not that young, but they are at the age where, you know, they will increasingly come into contact with drug use, and I guess as a parent, you know, this is the last thing I want to see for my kids or anyone else’s children. You know, I understand that people defend the use of drugs, but that said, I don’t think…I think I’ve been very fortunate to live a drug-free life, and I don’t meet many people who’ve led a drug-free life who regret it. Met a lot of people who haven’t, who’ve regretted it. So this is something that we want to encourage obviously for our children, for everybody’s children.
Now, I also want people to understand what we’re really talking about here when we’re talking about the drug trade. You know, when people say focus on violent crime instead of drugs, and yeah, you know, there’s lots of crimes a lot worse than, you know, casual use of marijuana. But when people are buying from the drug trade, they are not buying from their neighbour. They are buying from international cartels that are involved in unimaginable violence and intimidation and social disaster and catastrophe all across the world. All across the world. You know, and I just wish people would understand that, and not just on drugs. Even when people buy, you know, an illegal carton of cigarettes and they avoid tax, that they really understand the kind of criminal networks that they are supporting, and the damage they do. Now, you know, I know some people say if you just legalized it, you know, you’d get the money and all would be well. But I think that rests on the assumption that somehow drugs are bad because they’re illegal.
The reason drugs…it’s not that. The reason drugs are illegal is because they are bad. And even if these things were legalized, I can predict with a lot of confidence that these would never be respectable businesses run by respectable people. Because the very nature of the dependency they create, the damage they create, the social upheaval and catastrophe they create, particularly in third world countries…I mean, you look now, you look at Latin America, some of the countries to the south of us, and the damage the drug trade is doing, not just to people’s lives as drug users.
Look at the violence it’s creating in neighbourhoods, the destruction of social systems, of families, of governmental institutions, the corruption of police forces. I mean, these are terrible, terrible organizations, and while I know people, you know, have different views, I must admit myself sometimes I’m frustrated by how little impact governments have been able to have on the drug trade internationally. But we should not fool ourselves into thinking that if we somehow stopped trying to deal with it, it would suddenly turn into a nice, wholesome industry. It will never be that. And I think we all need to understand that, and we all need to make sure our kids understand, not just that our kids…hopefully not just understand the damage drugs can do to them, but they understand as well the wider social disaster they are contributing to if they, through use of their money, fund organizations that produce and deliver elicit narcotics.
Harper was also gave a hollow answer when asked about mandatory minimum sentencing:
PATRICK PICHETTE: This question is from Chris in Waterloo, and he writes, “Since research has shown that mandatory minimum sentencing does not deter future crime, what makes you as the Prime Minister believe this is still an effective way of persecuting criminals?”
RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER: Well, I think the view of the population of Canada on this issue is actually pretty clear, that when serious crimes are committed, people expect the penalties to match these crimes. And obviously, you know, for 40 years our criminal justice system was going in a very different direction. We were…you know, there are these arguments that told people somehow if you don’t punish criminals, that crime will go away. I never quite understood the philosophy, but I think people understand that that approach has not been effective. So we have been, since we’ve come into office, trying to make sure, trying to toughen up our laws and make sure that the crimes are appropriate.
You know, for example we think that if people commit serious crimes, violent crimes, we don’t think it’s appropriate that they would serve their sentence at home, what’s called conditional sentences, effectively house arrest. We don’t think it’s…and we don’t think it’s appropriate that very serious or repeat crimes would not be subject to at least some kind of minimum penalty, minimum prison time. I mean, surely if a crime is serious enough, a murder charge, for example, there should be some prison time for a murder charge. So these are the kinds of changes we’ve been making over time. They’ve been very well supported by the Canadian public. I don’t want to say crime is out of control in this country, but we do know that there have been some very worrying growth areas, particularly if you look at the areas of guns, gangs and drugs, and this is a growth area, not just in Canada, but around the world. It’s an international phenomenon.
But we do think it’s very important that the criminal justice system send a strong message that such behaviour is not acceptable, and that it be appropriately punished, and that those who engage in such behaviour understand what the likelihood of punishment actually is. Because what we do know about deterrence is it doesn’t work unless people are actually certain they’re going to get punished. But if you create a system where there’s always a loophole, and you can always get out of the punishment, or the punishment can always be downgraded or forgotten, then it’s clear, that kind of a system does not deter people.
PATRICK PICHETTE: Is not credible.
RT. HON. STEPHEN HARPER: Is not credible. It’s not credible. I think…I’m not an expert in this area, but I think the evidence suggests it isn’t the length of the punishment that matters; it’s the certainty of the punishment. And if there’s no certainty you’ll be punished, then no possible penalty will matter. So that’s why we think it’s important to actually have a minimum penalty for serious crimes.
Watch the entire interview on YouTube.