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Legalizing marijuana reflects today's reality

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Newshawk: creator@mapinc.org
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Contact: sunletters@pacpress.southam.ca
Pubdate: Wed, 09 Aug 2000

Legalizing marijuana reflects today's reality

Prohibition is not working and decriminalizing the drug will bring
new problems. There will be adjustment pains, but allowing its manufacture
and use will bring major pluses. Vancouver Sun In 1995, the Canadian
Centre for Substance Abuse researched illicit drugs and reported:
"The current law prohibiting cannabis possession appears to have had
a very limited deterrent effect." So it's fair to ask, if prohibition
hasn't reduced the use of marijuana, what has it done?

In that year alone, 63,851 Canadians were prosecuted for drug offences,
two-thirds of them marijuana charges. About half were for simple possession
-- somebody had a little bit for personal use. Yet the government's
cost of pursuing these mostly trivial cases was, figured conservatively,
more than $200 million.

The number of marijuana charges is still rising despite reluctance
in many police jurisdictions to do more than confiscate small amounts,
and our laws have made criminals of hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
It has created an underground criminal industry to supply what even
our courts describe as a benign, nearly harmless intoxicant that has
well-documented medicinal properties.

There are two options for amending marijuana law -- decriminalization
of simple possession, or outright legalization. The first is the popular
choice among Canadians and one the federal LeDain Commission proposed
more than a quarter-century ago. It would remove the penalties for
having marijuana but create an institutionalized oxymoron -- legal
to buy, illegal to sell. Anyone familiar with our prostitution laws
-- under which selling sexual acts and paying for them are legal,
but both parties can nevertheless be arrested -- would advise against
more of the same.

So the status quo does not work. Decriminalization will not work.
The unavoidable answer is to legalize marijuana.

It's naive to imagine this can be done without difficulty. But hardly
any of the problems will be new -- they exist now, although under
the table. How will we determine a safe level of blood-THC for driving?
How do we regulate its growing and manufacture? (And how does a government
seemingly determined to kill the tobacco industry give approval to
another smokable plant product?) Who will sell it? Where? To whom?
And, in the world of

realpolitik, what will the neighbours -- the United States -- say
if we legalize a drug they are committed to eradicating?

These problems are real and difficult, but legalization has a couple
of big pluses. First, the potential tax revenue would more than pay
for the administration of legal marijuana (with much left over). And,
most importantly, legalizing marijuana would remove the criminal element
from its production and distribution, by regulating the industry along
the same lines as most other adult vices.

Ontario Justice Marc Rosenberg, in a judgment that struck down the
simple possession law last month, said: "This is a matter for Parliament."
He's right, and the clock is ticking.