Government inaction is required to solve this problem. That’s right, I said inaction. If the federal government does nothing in the next 12 months, marijuana possession will no longer be illegal in Ontario. The Ontario Court of Appeal recently ruled that Canada’s laws prohibiting marijuana are unconstitutional because they prevent the medicinal use of the drug.
According to law professor Alan Young, marijuana possession could become legal by default — as did abortions when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down laws that criminalized them. The Government of Canada did nothing and abortions became legal. If marijuana possession is decriminalized in Ontario, it would be only a matter of time until other provinces follow.
Let me clarify a few things at the start. The motives of those seeking decriminalization of marijuana are always suspect. Advocates are often suspected of trying to justifying their own habits (I am not a marijuana user). Or, they must be trying to push a debauched lifestyle (I live a sedate, conservative lifestyle). Must be promoting politics (well, got me there, although I am not a member of any political party).
Another charge is that marijuana advocates are trying to corrupt our youth. As a father, I take this allegation seriously. I am not in favour of the recreational use of drugs by teenagers. But there has to be a better way to control drug abuse. Marijuana prohibition has failed miserably. More than one-half of Canadians have tried marijuana, and approximately one-quarter use it regularly.
Prohibition creates an aura of “forbidden fruit”. As the Bible teaches us, when a fruit is within reach, and we are told not to eat it, it gains an irresistible mystique. It didn’t work for alcohol, it won’t work for marijuana. The non-medical use of marijuana is a public health issue. Its use can be controlled more effectively through education, similar to the way that advertising campaigns have reduced the consumption of tobacco.
There is another aspect of Canada’s marijuana laws that galls me. Marijuana was only criminalized in Canada as a result of puritanical fervour in the United States.
Lurid rumours of the effects of marijuana use were imported by Canadian Emily Murphy. In her book, The Black Candle, she quoted a Los Angles police chief as saying that marijuana use drives peoples “completely insane”. For good measure, she added “death and abandonment” as effects.
In 1923, the Minister of Health rose in parliament to say that “another drug has been added to the schedule” of the Narcotics Control Act. Marijuana was not mentioned by name. No debate took place about the merits of criminalizing a plant that had potential medical applications. No mention was made about the devastating effect that it had on the growing of hemp — useful for the production of everything from clothing to paper and seed oil.
With one casual act of parliament, based on an American delusion, a whole potential industry was criminalized. In a strange twist, the agency responsible for the enforcement of American drug laws, the Drug Enforcement Agency, acknowledged in 1988 that marijuana is “one of the safest therapeutic substances”.
Canadians keep feeding American paranoia. Americans look over their shoulder, and we flinch. Most recently, arrests for marijuana cultivation in B.C. have increased because of complaints from south of the boarder about exportation of our high grade marijuana. Americans are setting up a high-tech surveillance system along sections of the B.C.-U.S. boarder, complete with night cameras and motion detectors to stem the flow of drugs and contraband.
The war on drugs in the US has been a war against its own citizens, especially visible minorities and the poor, who have little resources to defend themselves. Paranoia has reached a high level in politics with the selection of Pat Buchanan as presidential hopeful by a segment of the Reform Party of America.
Buchanan wants to erect a wall, similar to the famous Great Wall of China, along the Canada-U.S. boarder to keep the potent weed and alien hordes out. Millions of Americans will vote for this man. Its time we stopped scratching every time Americans get an itch. Subservience is not getting us anywhere.