22/10/2010

Do not Pass Go

Unlike a very large number of its citizens who have already made up their mind, successive Canadian government have been spinning in the wind with the issues around recreational drug use.
Those of us who are old enough remember attended the Le Dain Commission public hearings on the non-Medical use of Drugs in the late 60’s, early70’s. About 12,000 people attended and participated in these hearings which were held across Canada. A number or prominent individuals gave testimony including John Lennon. It was a big deal.
Go Directly to Jail
In June 1970 the Commission delivered its interim report, calling for the decriminalization of all drugs. Going far beyond suggesting decriminalizing marijuana, commission chair Gerald LeDain recommended a maximum fine of $100 for possession of any drug, including "hard drugs" like cocaine and heroin. Although the Commission report was widely praised for its thoroughness and thoughtfulness, as might be expected, its conclusions were largely ignored by the federal government.
Over the years, as other countries relaxed their attitudes toward recreational drug use, particularly pot, Canada typically couldn’t make up its mind. Tolerance varied depending on where you lived. For a while, particularly in B.C. and Quebec, people smoked weed openly in some bars. A practice you most likely wouldn’t have wanted to try in Saskatchewan.
 In 2005 Cannabis surpassed wheat as Canada's most lucrative agricultural crop. Canada's  cannabis market is estimated to be worth $8.5 billion annually, approximately three times the size of Canada's largest legal crop. In British Columbia alone the growing and selling of marijuana it is estimated to be worth $6 billion a year.
Several polls since 2003 have found that a majority of Canadians agreed with the statement, "The use of marijuana should be legalized", the latest being the 2009 Angus Reid poll, with 53% for legalization   
The Green Party of Canada supports the legalization of cannabis. The Liberals have several times toyed with the idea of decriminalizing the drug.
The New Democrats previously supported the legalization of the cannabis until   Jack Layton reversed his position on the issue in 2009. Before that, Layton encouraged people to “join the party” and support the NDP because he believed they should be allowed to smoke marijuana in the comfort of their own homes or in cafes without being considered criminals.
In the end no one was brave enough to make the move. The right wing and the RCMP would raise a fuss, no question, there is a lot of job security in fighting pot use.
These days, even in the face of the American anti drug crusade, California is moving to legalize possession of marijuana for personal use.
In Canada our government under the direction of Stephen Harper is attempting once again, to move his crowd, and us, off in another completely different direction.  Harper wants to toughen up punishment for drug use. Harper wants anyone who is found growing a more than five pot plants in the backyard to go directly to jail. This is all part of Harper’s tough on crime legislation but as usual, his legislation is much too far reaching. Parts of the bill make sense but to say that in the government’s view growing six plants is a serious drug crime is sheer nonsense.
 Going to jail for seven to ten months for growing six plants in the back garden or under a grow light in the basement makes no sense at all.
I simple can’t understand why these guys don’t understand that the real problem here is not the substance but the prohibition of the substance. 

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