January 25, 2012
Canadians Are Coming To Accept That It's Time To Legalize Marijuana
The Netherlands became the world's first country to make cannabis available to treat cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis patients. Now a new poll suggests Canada is also reaching the tipping point as a 66 percent majority favours legalizing marijuana.
Health benefits of marijuana are now well documented. From depression and anxiety relief to reduced blood pressure, pain alleviation, glaucoma and cancer treatment.
The term "legalize" makes many cringe as critics claim that government entities have never had any right to enact or enforce any law to prevent the possession or distribution of herbs. So although there are attempts to legalize marijuana, many are asking themselves does it really make a difference since there has never been a right to make it illegal.
What it is time for is a sensible public policy discussion about what to do about a relatively benign substance that has been demonized and outlawed for a century yet is as readily available in schoolyards as cigarettes.
Bearing in mind a million dollars a year buys roughly 12 new cops, 14 teachers or public health nurses, ask yourself: Couldn't all that money be better spent?
The prohibition and a 40-year-long "War on Drugs" have led to pot being more widely accessible, taxpayers considerably poorer, gangs richer and thousands upon thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens branded "criminal."
Another 50,000 or so Canadians are busted every year for possession; throw in 20,000 or so traffickers and producers and this so-called war is costing us as much as $400 million annually in law enforcement, court and corrections.
The federal Liberal party obviously thinks so - 77 per cent of delegates at the weekend convention voted to legalize the herb, echoing the Senate special committee on illegal drugs (chaired by a Conservative), which 10 years ago urged the government to free the weed. Four decades ago, the LeDain Commission similarly called for an end to the criminal prohibition of cannabis.
You wouldn't think this kind of liberal mindset spans across the conservative party on Canada. After all
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper is getting tougher on pot growers than he is on rapists of children. Under the Tories' recent omnibus crime legislation, a person growing 201 pot plants in a rental unit would receive a longer mandatory sentence than someone who rapes a toddler or forces a five-year-old to have sex with an animal.
But across the country today, more and more people are in agreement including politicians.
Conducted Dec. 13 by Toronto-based Forum Research Inc., the latest poll of 1,160 respondents 18 or older showed that residents of B.C. were the most likely to support pot-law reform, with 73 per cent wanting change. Quebec had the lowest support for reforms at 61 per cent.
Who's leading the way? Those aged 55 to 64. Why? Yes, there are a lot of old hippies. But of all the age cohorts, the middle-aged and elderly, the late-boomers are learning faster than most that marijuana may be the Aspirin of the 21st century. Medicinal marijuana is changing the debate about pot across the continent.
It's was no surprise when the United States decreed that marijuana has no accepted medical use use and should remain classified as a highly dangerous drug like heroin. Accepting and promoting the powerful health benefits of marijuana would instantly cut huge profits geared towards cancer treatment and the U.S. would have to admit it imprisons the population for no cause. Nearly half of all drug arrests in the United States are for marijuana. It seems that Canada may have detracted from this political mentality.
According to MarijuanaNews.com editor Richard Cowan, the reason why cannabis has been suppressed is because it is a threat to cannabis prohibition “...there really is massive proof that the suppression of medical cannabis represents the greatest failure of the institutions of a free society, medicine, journalism, science, and our fundamental values,” Cowan notes.
In some U.S. states with med-pot pro-grams, big box stores have opened selling hydroponic gear, specialized equipment and supplies for growers.
There are 16 states that have medical marijuana programs and in the three west coast states, advocates are readying tax-and-sell or other legalization programs.
Ending the criminal prohibition of marijuana does not mean making it freely available - it means regulating it as we do alcohol and tobacco, far more dangerous substances.
Portugal legalized pot and other drugs a decade ago and the sky did not fall: European drug addicts did not flock to the country nor did Spain suffer the feared nasty side effects.
Marijuana is not addictive, does not kill brain cells and is not a "gateway" drug -- in fact, when pot is more available, studies show that the use of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine actually decreases.
This poll should spur the federal government to rethink its crime legislation and to begin a discussion about different models of legalization.
Recreational pot smoking then could be dealt with as we have battled the much more deadly use of tobacco - with public-health campaigns and education.
No one has gone to jail for taking a cigarette break or been busted for grabbing a quick puff, yet we've driven down usage and tobacco has far less cachet today.
The hipster attraction of marijuana can be similarly attacked without exposing our children to criminal prosecution and the risk of a record following them for life.
Let's treat marijuana and other drugs as a health issue rather than a crime.
It's cheaper, better for our communities and safer for kids.
It would let police focus on real criminals, ease the burden of overloaded, backlogged courts and save a fortune in expensive legal and penal costs.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.