News from Ottawa that a parliamentary committee has recommended the
decriminalization of marijuana is, well, intoxicating.

I mean, we've talked about it since Trudeau's Ledain Commission back in the
stone age.

The North Shore has always had a particular love affair with the cannabis
family, especially its industrial hemp cousins. Until shortly after the
Second World War, shipyards here had a special interest in hemp fibres
because as Lord Nelson knew, they resist salt water well. If all that
second-hand ganja smoke you accidently inhaled made you forget, we built
dandy ships around here.

Since we're on the cusp of the age of Aquarius, or at least cannabis, we
won't debate the why of decriminalization. SFU's star criminologist Neil
Boyd has explained the real picture - sans bogus U.S. "war on drugs"
propaganda - to us for years. An Ottawa Senate committee recently released
an 800-page report that took four years to compile. Their unanimous
recommendation? Outright legalization. It's enough to make old potheads
flash back. Somebody call Cheech and Chong!

In the "my part in Hitler's downfall" department, I'm happy to report that
District of North Vancouver council debated decriminalization in January,
1998. Whatever else you think of him, Coun. Ernie Crist had the guts to
bring the topic forward for local, public discussion. Normally bashful, I
may have even offered a few words on the subject myself. Our resolution
called on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to examine the
situation mindfully. Amazingly, the Feds sometimes listen. Now, at last,
we've come to this. It's a shame Le Grand Pierre isn't around to see how
things turned out.

Last year at a Vancouver appearance, philosopher/Governor General's
handyman John Ralston Saul said, "Reform tends to come when reformers join
in the democratic process." That makes good sense. Let's teach it in every
classroom. Why? History shows the wheels of justice move slowly, but that
if you're willing to put your shoulder to it, things do change - often for
the better.

In l995, 31,299 minor cannabis possession charges were brought before
Canadian courts. That's an unholy strain on our legal system for a rap
that, unlike tobacco, is non-addictive and that appears to pose less health
risk than booze. Estimated costs for police and judicial work regarding
cannabis-related charges were in the vicinity of $280 million. It's
conjectured that when the $46,000 annual cost per jailbird is factored in,
our Canadian government typically spends over $900 million a year on the
cannabis suppression business. $900 million? Holy smoke! That's not a war
on drugs: it's a bureaucratic industry.

But that's another story - how smart cops in the pot-happy '60s understood
that the big budget future wasn't in busting the nation's few junkies (who
willingly stick needles into themselves anyway: it hurts); it was hassling
young folks for "Maui-wowie." Disciplining legions of young and
young-at-heart potheads took manpower, lots of it, and vehicles, radios,
equipment, big budgets. It was an empire-builder's dream - and many a
parent's nightmare.

Drug war headlines always involved Mafia cocaine cartels, but for too long
the real story was pinching your neighbour's kid for holding a few joints.
That phony war has finally collapsed under its own hypocrisy. But not
before it turned the cheesy weed we toked in the '60s at $15 an ounce into
a scientifically high-octane commodity worth 20 times that now, and so
potent it causes former Panama Red types to dematerialize. It's not for
nothing that when you've got a product generating untaxed mega-millions,
the government starts casting a gentler eye upon the situation.

Roy Romanow's red-hot report on Canada's health-care crisis says we need $7
billion to sustain our besieged medicare system. Since we're
decriminalizing pot, with the inevitable step to licensing and controlled
selling of it Amsterdam-style, let's tell Ottawa to kick the immediate
savings on legal, policing and prison costs, as well as whatever profits
the next step raises, and use them to fund health-care improvements in this
country for the folks who built it with their honourable sweat and labour.
We can start with Lions Gate Hospital.

That's this old former head's patriotic suggestion. Beam me up, Scotty! And
a happy and holy Christmas to all.

Pubdate: Mon, 23 Dec 2002
Source: North Shore News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 North Shore News