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Let's face facts: It's time to make marijuana legal

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I can't imagine how much money has been spent in 100
years of trying to rid the country of marijuana. But
however many mega-billions it adds up to, I'm going to
go out on a limb here and suggest that it's all been
for naught.

I mean, one look at the TV footage of that great big
barn of a marijuana operation discovered alongside the
highway in Barrie, Ont. tells you everything you need
to know about how the "war on drugs" is going in
Canada. Not well.

I guess we could blame police, although it seems to me
they've been trying their damnedest for the better
part of a century now. Or maybe the courts for being
too lenient in their sentencing. Or the Summer of

But I'm thinking that the real problem is us, smoking
marijuana by the bushel from one end of the country to
the other and then acting like it's a surprise that a
hot little growth industry has sprung up to keep us

Market forces are a powerful thing, especially when
the product in question brings pleasure. People like
pleasure. They'll seek it even when it's illegal,
which is why laws to stop drug use and prostitution
have had little effect.

And as long as there are buyers, there are always
going to be sellers. That massive hydroponics
operation in Barrie, not to mention the 20,000 or so
grow operations right here in B.C., exists because
there's a phenomenal demand for marijuana.

What's to be made of that? An illegal drug that four
generations of Canadians have been warned away from,
at times hysterically, continues to be in such demand
that an extensive and complex industry has developed
to serve an immense market.

Have we gone mad? Don't we know what happens to people
who smoke marijuana?

Yes, we probably do, which would explain why an
estimated one million Canadians regularly break the
law around marijuana possession. Because the truth is
that nothing too bad happens when people smoke pot.

That's not to say that the drug is good for you. Few
drugs are. But marijuana also isn't the insane-making,
violence-inducing, soul-destroying substance that it
has been made out to be for too many years to count, a
fact that a long line of users has happily discovered
for themselves.

If marijuana had been dealt with from the start as the
rather interesting garden plant that it is, the
cautionary tales we all heard as kids might have
focused on health risks from smoke inhalation and the
drug's detrimental effect on the immune system, or its
poor fit with school, work and heavy equipment.
Informed decisions could have been made based on the
drug's actual risk factors.

Instead, we got the reefer madness treatment. We got
the scary lectures and the frightening movies in
guidance class. We got the "Just Say No" campaign as
it trickled north from the U.S., and then the "gateway
drug" version a few years later. When we smoked pot
anyway and the sky didn't fall, we ended up concluding
that we'd been lied to.

Which has brought us to the point that we're at now,
where marijuana use is so common -- and the laws so
widely ignored -- that urban farms are springing up
everywhere from posh neighbourhoods and middle-class
basements to abandoned breweries along one of the
busiest highways in the country. And now we really do
have a problem, because organized crime owns the vast

What's the solution? Give up the fight. Legalize

Knock the illegal profit out of the business by
returning pot to its humble roots as a simple plant.

Let people grow it in their yards instead of skulking
down to Centennial Square to see if some kid can buy
it for them.

Lift the curtain of shame around Canada's bustling
marijuana trade and recast it as a legal enterprise
that we Canucks are obviously quite good at.

The country's marijuana industry thrives because
people like the stuff. And while it's not necessarily
good for them, neither is it terribly bad,
particularly when compared to legal drugs such as
alcohol and nicotine.

So let's quit the foolishness and move on. We've gone
to pot, and there's no going back.


Jody Paterson
Times Colonist

CN BC: Column: Let's Face Facts: It's Time To Make Marijuana Legal
Wednesday, January 14, 2004