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Smoking Away Prohibition

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Pot, ganja, hash, kif, mary jane, reefer, bud, weed: whatever you call it and regardless of whether or not you smoke it, everyone has an opinion regarding whether or not marijuana should be legalized. Whether it’s an apathetic shrug of the shoulders, a vehement “no” or an enthusiastic “yes,” it’s an interesting, complex and deeply rooted debate that, while nowhere near over, may soon be forced to come to a head.

The myths of B.C. bud surreptitiously supporting the province through American exports always intrigued me; so, months ago when I spotted the book Bud Inc.: Inside Canada’s Marijuana Industry I was instantly compelled to buy it. Written by Ian Mulgrew, and a finalist for the National Business Book Award, this is not some stoner manifesto, but a serious, economic and analytical look at the marijuana industry in Canada and the subsequent fight for legalization.

According to Mulgrew, B.C. exports over $2 billion in pot each year — nearly three per cent of the provincial GDP. In 2000, Canadians spent nearly that much again in domestic consumption; clocking in at approximately $1.8 billion, domestic marijuana sales are just shy of tobacco at $2.3 billion. Remember, these are all estimated figures, based on a black market analysis where the chains of supply and demand are never certain and any and all investment can — quite literally — go up in smoke. Just imagine the possible tax dollars waiting for collection and obstructed only by prohibition. From an economic standpoint alone, legalizing marijuana would be great for our economy. Just think of all the tourist dollars that would trickle our way from our neighbours down south, instead of across the Atlantic to our Dutch friends.

Marijuana has become so demonized in it’s 80 or so years of prohibition that debunking years of fear mongering and misconceptions may prove one of the hardest parts of the legalization fight. Even many regular stoners I know accept many negative pot-myths at face value and regard them with the same kind of disdain as a smoker does surgeon general’s warning. Did you know that marijuana has fewer side-effects than Aspirin? Neither did I, but Bud Inc. and numerous other medical sources proved to me that marijuana is even more harmless than I had previously believed. There are no recorded cases of overdose from marijuana alone, there are no proven links to pulmonary ailments and its health benefits are numerous — and still primarily unknown. Marijuana has been shown to help everything from glaucoma to PMS, and it is suggested to potentially help reduce brain damage when administered to trauma victims. Mulgrew also stated that when other countries have legalized pot, reported usage saw little to no increase once the drug was legal.

Ninety per cent of Canadians agree that medical marijuana should be legal — not even 90 per cent of Canadians agree that global warming is real. Why, then, is the government still persecuting those trying to supply medical marijuana and putting up roadblock after roadblock for those who are in dire need of relief?

If medical marijuana is okay, and the Reefer Madness style side-effect myths are finally being debunked, why is marijuana still illegal?

I spoke to Sgt. Andrew Harrington of the Waterloo Regional Police Service about this very issue, and he expressed fears to me that marijuana is a “gateway drug” and that legalizing it would send the wrong kind of message to our children. This was, of course, after he had informed me that the regional police have been keeping large grow-ops out of residential areas and the subsequent organized crime out of the region — maybe that’s why I’ve heard it’s been so hard to get pot lately.

Harrington told me that every *edit addict he knows started with pot — of course they did! Where did they start before that? It’s not as if one day — unbeknownst to anyone — little Johnny spontaneously smoked a huge spliff. I’m quite sure little Johnny downed his share of Jack Daniels and/or Marlboros before hitting the bong. Every addict starts somewhere, it’s just a question of when and where. What they choose to start with, be it cough syrup or a joint is impossible to control, regardless of whether or not pot is legal.

The phrase “gateway drug” is little more than rhetoric to keep the conservatives happy and pot out of your local coffee shop. Every addict starts somewhere, whether it’s pot, cigarettes, alcohol or caffeine — they’re all drugs. Ironically, the only illegal drug I mentioned is the one with the fewest side effects.

Throughout Bud Inc., Mulgrew likens the current attitude towards pot with that towards booze during the 1920s prohibition. He even compares the prohibition-era economic system — that built such Canadian mainstays as Molson and Seagram’s — with today’s Canadian marijuana entrepreneurs “running” bushels instead of barrels to our American comrades. The many marijuana activists, growers, connoisseurs, specialists and chefs he interviewed all used similar diction. They refer to marijuana’s current legal state as “prohibition” and see their fallen buddies in jail as martyr-like crusaders for the legalization cause.

How and when — and for Mulgrew and his many interviewees it’s a “when,” not an “if” — is hard to say, but there is something you can do. Like speakeasies in the roaring ’20s, the covert coffee shops popping up all over Canada hope to take marijuana use to such levels that the police can no longer enforce against it and are forced to legalize. The usage is there; it just isn’t documented. In the 1970s, the government almost legalized pot — how could it not when Margaret Trudeau was sparking a joint behind her RCMP escort — because the numbers were there to support it. Over the last decade and a half, the numbers have risen again — so join the National Organization for the reform of Marijuana Law (NORML) or the Canadian Cannabis Coalition. Make your voice heard and let the government see that the numbers are there.

Until marijuana isn’t taboo, until the reefer madness ends, the prohibition will continue. We can only hope that, as Ben Dronkers, progenitor of the Sensi Seeds conglomerate and grower, said so optimistically in Bud Inc., “two generations from now, people will think, ‘What silly people, those who had the drug war.’”



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Copyright: 2007 Imprint Publications
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