It’s High Time For Canada To Talk Pot

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Marijuana exists in a funny limbo in this country.

Despite a growing number of people who feel it should be decriminalized, or outright legal – and regulated – it remains a controlled substance.

And, as such, we have a multibillion-dollar industry in Canada attempting to operate under the radar of the law.

Weed is grown covertly on farms, in houses, condos or industrial bays, but is used widely across the country.

Often, the grow sites are booby trapped, electricity is stolen, and the property is contaminated, both with chemicals used in growing and mold damage.

A fire at a Calgary grow op even levelled a number of homes in 2009.  Police say there is also the risk of break-ins and home invasions associated with these things.

Despite all of these apparent dangers Albertans just don’t care, or aren’t aware.

That’s one of the key findings in a new provincial report prepared by Calgary MLA Rick Fraser, the associate minister of public safety.

“The prevalent view of marijuana use is that it is either used as a recreational drug or for medical purposes,” he says in the report.

“There is a misperception that growing marijuana is a victimless crime, and this perception detracts from community involvement in reporting suspected MGOs.  Many Albertans do not report marijuana grow ops when they know or suspect a residence in their community has been converted into one.  The crime is likely not viewed as a danger to the community.”

It’s not really until people find themselves living next to one that they perceive this as a problem.

And so, because of the damage done to homes and the potential risk to public safety, the final recommendations report for Grow Op Free Alberta lists a host of solutions to existing problems, including requiring real estate agents to disclose a home was used to grow pot, guidelines for proper and safe remediation and bumping up tools to identify grow ops.

The one solution missing? Legalization and regulation.

I get it – all the province can really do in its power is mitigate the damage, try to hold people accountable when properties are made unfit for habitation, and ensure that remediation is done properly.

But, as public attitude shifts towards acceptance of marijuana, and a desire that governments leave adults alone to smoke what they please, the province could also take the lead in pushing the feds to make changes to criminal law in Canada.

So long as the status quo exists, residential grows will remain a big problem, with thousands estimated to be operating in Alberta.

The recommendations in the report give significant focus toward education, but I think despite the emphasis placed on informing the public, I don’t think we’ll start to see an increase in police reports.

Even if more people start reporting grow ops, that won’t necessarily mean there will be a reduction in people looking to grow marijuana.

So long as the trend toward supporting decriminalization and legalization continues, the public will believe that the key is a change in federal drug laws, not provincial public safety endeavours, no matter how wise they may be.

When looking at people opting not to report grow ops, the reasons behind their complacency are key.

And, with as many as two thirds of Canadians in support of decriminalization or legalization, we shouldn’t be surprised people aren’t reporting grows, and perhaps it should be taken as further sign we’re ready for greater debate on the issue.

As we’re approaching a federal election in 2015, here’s hoping we get one.

Source: Calgary Sun, The
Copyright: 2014 The Calgary Sun
Contact: http://www.calgarysun.com/letter-to-editor
Website: http://www.calgarysun.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/67
Author: Dave Breakenridge

Pot Smoking Stats Real Eye Opener

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Do you smoke pot? According to stats I saw this week, 12 per cent of Ontario residents 15 and over smoked marijuana at least once over a recent 12-month period.  Which is about 1.3 million Ontarians.  Or about 130,000 people here in York Region.

This is according to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey for 2012, which asked Canadians over 15 if they used cannabis or hash.

Keep in mind these were only the people willing to admit to using pot.

The real numbers could be a lot higher, pardon the pun, considering this is a type of behaviour not everyone would readily admit to on a government form.

For political prognosticators, that’s a lot of Justin Trudeau supporters.  Maybe that’s why Stephen Harper’s poll numbers seem to be going up in smoke.

And here I thought some people were just really happy, really hungry, or had the giggles.

Next time someone laughs at one of your jokes, you’ll be tempted to ask, “Did you actually think that’s funny, or are you just high?” And stop eating those Cheesies.

Obviously it can’t be just teenagers, whose current slang words for cannabis or getting high – according to this thing called Google I have on my computer – include to get blazed, chief, burn one, bent, kush and, well, by the time someone like me is using them in a community newspaper, they may already be obsolete.

Point is, considering the stats, there must be professors, lawyers, MPs ( such as the aforementioned Mr.  Trudeau ), journalists, the Ford family, and many others out there, who you would not think of as your typical pot smokers, who are, in fact.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t have a whole lot against people who smoke up.

They used to bother me more, when I thought of all the mayhem created by the people growing the pot, with law enforcement chasing them – all in the quest to supply herbal refreshment to people who rationalized that their little illegal indulgence was harmless.

But as the pot laws become more relaxed, particularly in the U.S., the people who smoked up despite the laws and the negative consequences for society, seem a little less selfish, a little more mainstream.

Things are being legalized, taxed, in some U.S.  states, including Colorado and Washington.  In Canada, we are just getting a sniff of this brave new world.

So now, there is a rush by all kinds of people to get into Canada’s “medical” marijuana business.  Why?

Because of several recent court decisions, the projection in the next few years is that up to 400,000 Canadians will have gotten themselves permits to use medical marijuana, as in daily, up from 40,000, which now must be supplied by government approved growers ( think $ signs ), with Canada’s doctors forced to take part in the approval process for “patients”.

This despite what the Canadian Medical Association says is a lack of scientific evidence that marijuana is anything other than a recreational drug, even if it is, anecdotally – for some – helpful dealing with illnesses that cause pain or seizures.  Fine.  But 400,000 people?

Maybe, like the U.S., it’s time to give everyone the right to smoke pot ( responsibly – no driving ) and leave the doctors and Ottawa out of it.  Something to put in your bong and smoke before the next federal election.

An Investigation Into B.C.As Controversial Civil

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The office has increased the number of files it accepts and amount of money it makes, but there are growing concerns about its fairness and transparency

It was Oct.  15, 2007, when the RCMP officer knocked on David Lloydsmith’s door.

Mr.  Lloydsmith, a former electrician on partial disability living in the Fraser Valley community of Mission, was told the officer was investigating a dropped 911 call.  Mr.  Lloydsmith lived alone and said he hadn’t touched the phone.

The officer asked to come in and search the residence, according to court documents.  Mr.  Lloydsmith declined several times and finally moved to close the door.  The officer then forced his way in and put Mr.  Lloydsmith in handcuffs.  A second officer arrived within minutes and the Mounties began their search.

They eventually found marijuana plants in the basement.  Mr.  Lloydsmith was arrested, but released without charges.  The initial officer wrote in a report that the offence was “minor” and, with the plants removed from the home, public interest had been met.

Mr.  Lloydsmith thought the ordeal was over.  But three years later, the province’s Civil Forfeiture Office moved to seize the residence.  The legal battle continues, despite an earlier ruling that the evidence collected against him was in breach of the Charter.  A judge described the search as “warrantless” and “unreasonable.”

Mr.  Lloydsmith is one of the hundreds of British Columbians who have become caught in the relatively new spectre of civil forfeiture – a process originally intended to fight organized crime that has come to have a much wider reach.

A Globe and Mail investigation spanning several months and more than two dozen interviews has found the Civil Forfeiture Office has rapidly increased the number of files it accepts and the amount of money it brings in, while remaining largely out of the public eye.  But as the scale of the forfeitures has grown, so too have concerns about fairness, public interest, and transparency.

Documents obtained through freedom of information show how the office’s policy works when it comes to accepting files.  The office does not investigate cases itself and instead relies on referrals from law-enforcement agencies.

The documents say the director must assess a file on four grounds before accepting: public interest, strength and adequacy of evidence, fiscal considerations, and interests of justice.

The office does not need criminal charges, or convictions, to move on a property and the penalty – losing one’s home, for instance – can seem disproportional to the alleged offence.  The burden of proof is lower in civil court than criminal, on a balance of probabilities instead of beyond a reasonable doubt.  Evidence that could be seen as unfit for criminal court can be seen as fit for civil court.

Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce civil forfeiture, and eight of 10 provinces have such programs today.  B.C., despite opening three years after Ontario, has taken in more money than Ontario and critics have contended it’s operating as an end-run on the justice system.

The office’s executive director said 99 per cent of the people the office targets settle on terms favourable to the office.  Unlike Ontario, B.C.  has a budget target it must meet.  And cases that in the past have been conducted as offences under the Motor Vehicle Act, Wildlife Act or Employment Standards Act, for example, are being pursued under the Civil Forfeiture Act.

B.C.  Justice Minister Suzanne Anton expressed her support for the system and said the program meets the public interest.  The minister also noted many millions of dollars have been handed out to community associations and police as a result of the office’s work.

“The public has a very strong interest in seeing that people do not keep ill-gotten gains,” she said.  “And that’s why generally there’s public support for this Civil Forfeiture Act.” Civil forfeiture itself is not a new concept.  Its roots date back about a millennium, to Europe.  Modern civil forfeiture, however, evolved in the United States, where it was brought in to target drug lords but has grown controversial in recent years.  Controls have appeared lax and the programs have developed into cash cows.

Ontario was the first Canadian province to introduce civil forfeiture legislation.  The Civil Remedies for Illicit Activities Office opened in 2003.  In 2009, Ontario’s legislation withstood a challenge in the Supreme Court of Canada in a case commonly known as Chatterjee.  The court ruled the Ontario legislation did not conflict with the Criminal Code.

Yukon considered such legislation but decided against it in 2010, following a public outcry from people who said it would infringe on their rights.  A Yukon government spokeswoman said the territory has no plans to revisit the issue.

B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office opened in 2006 under the Liberal government.  It was heralded as another tool in the fight against gangs involved in the billion-dollar drug trade.  The “bling-bling,” as former solicitor general John Les put it after a 2007 bust, was about to disappear and the province has described itself as a modern-day Robin Hood.

In 2011, B.C.  became the first province to introduce a process known as “administrative forfeiture,” which makes it easier and quicker to seize property worth less than $75,000.  Robert Holmes, then the B.C.  Civil Liberties Association’s president, decried the move as another attempt to avoid proving cases in court.  Mr.  Lloydsmith is sitting at his kitchen table, near a window that overlooks the front steps the RCMP officer once climbed.  He has lived in the home for more than two decades.  It’s assessed at about $250,000.

He knows some people won’t sympathize with his plight – he’s heard from them.  They say he should never have grown marijuana in the first place.

He stresses he is not a bad man, nor a rich one, and indicates he started growing after he had trouble getting prescriptions.  Mr.  Lloydsmith went on partial disability after breaking his back on the job.  The exact number of plants discovered in his basement is under dispute.  A police report said it was a few hundred, a fact his lawyer denies.

Mr.  Lloydsmith says he will have nowhere to go if he loses his home.  “My world is right here,” he said.

He said the stress from the case has taken its toll.  He’s fought depression and lost 35 pounds.  It shows – he’s wearing an old sweater that’s become far too large.

“I don’t sleep now.  I can’t get it out of my mind.  It’s torture, it’s like a nightmare,” he said.

In court documents, the office argued Mr.  Lloydsmith’s property amounts to “proceeds and instrument of unlawful activity” and can be seized.

Bibhas Vaze, Mr.  Lloydsmith’s lawyer, said it’s an affront to democratic rights to suggest the Charter shouldn’t apply in this case.  He said the house can be accounted for as purchased through legitimate income and Mr.  Lloydsmith does not have a criminal record.

He worries about the legal ramifications if Mr.  Lloydsmith is to lose.

“Because then, as far as I’m concerned, it will be carte blanche for cops to go into people’s homes in violation of the Charter, based on what they could find, whether they have any good information,” Mr.  Vaze said.  “Why even get a warrant then?”

In a sign of the importance of Mr.  Lloydsmith’s case, the B.C.  Civil Liberties Association has decided to intervene.  It’s back in court in mid-February.  Gian Hong Jang and Yue Wang Jang own a Vancouver janitorial company.  In April, 2008, the husband and wife purchased a second property so Ms.  Jang’s parents would have a place to reside.  The Kerr Street home was bought for $720,000 after the couple secured a bank loan, according to court documents.

In September of that year, Ms.  Jang’s parents moved out of the home.  The Jangs decided to rent out the downstairs portion of the property and found tenants online, according to court documents.

The couple said they had no reason to believe anything was amiss, until Vancouver police raided the home in December and found a marijuana grow-op.  The Jangs were not charged but, in August, 2009, the Civil Forfeiture Office attempted to seize the property.

The office alleged that it would present evidence that the Jangs’ primary property, their own home, was also purchased with marijuana proceeds and it attempted to seize that residence as well.

The Jangs obtained a lawyer but, on the eve of a court date, decided to settle to minimize their losses.

They were allowed to keep their home, but had to give up 50 per cent of the equity in the property they’d been renting out.

David Karp, the Jangs’ lawyer, said the case still irks him.  He said the janitorial company was legitimate and Mr.  Jang “worked his ass off six days a week.”

However, he said his clients were wary of further court costs and the uncertainty of trial.

“They essentially flip it on its head,” Mr.  Karp said of the Civil Forfeiture Office.  “You’re guilty until you prove you’re innocent.” Robert Milligan is a second generation guide outfitter.  He owns and operates Coast Mountain Outfitters, a company based in the northern community of Terrace that specializes in mountain goat hunting, but also offers bear hunting and fishing expeditions.  To run his business, Mr.  Milligan requires a guide outfitter’s certificate.

The Civil Forfeiture Office, however, is attempting to seize that certificate.  Mr.  Milligan is accused of several offences – from using a snowmobile for the purpose of hunting in a closed area, to using a helicopter to transport hunters who were not physically fit, to using bait to lure a bear more than a decade ago.

The office is also seeking an order that would force Mr.  Milligan to turn over his profits.

The case, and the fact that it’s being handled through the Civil Forfeiture Act instead of the Wildlife Act, has drawn the ire of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C.  Scott Ellis, the association’s executive director, said it plans to intervene in the proceedings.

“I was going to say the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, but I’m not even going to say there was a crime committed,” Mr.  Ellis said.

“It’s taking a sledge hammer – which is a quote you can use from me, if you like – to kill a mosquito.” Mr.  Milligan, in a statement released through his lawyer, said losing the certificate would be “utterly devastating.”

Nicholas Weigelt, the lawyer, said the plan had been for Mr.  Milligan’s children to take over the business.  He said losing the certificate would be akin to losing the family farm.

Although he could not say exactly how much the certificate is worth, Mr.  Weigelt said those in large and remote territories can sell for millions.  Mr.  Milligan’s certificate offers exclusive access to a large space.

Mr.  Weigelt said only one of the office’s claims has merit – one of Mr.  Milligan’s guides did ride his snowmobile into a closed area.  But it was unintentional, he said, and the snowmobile only ventured 400 metres into the closed space.

Mr.  Weigelt said some of the complaints appear to have been made by competing land users.

“I, like most members of the public, thought the government through the Civil Forfeiture Office went after criminals,” Mr.  Weigelt said.  “Regulatory offences are offences, they’re not crimes.”

This is not the only time the office has taken an offence that falls under another act and tried to pursue it under the Civil Forfeiture Act.

The office was unsuccessful last year when it attempted to seize a motorcycle owned by Jason Dery, after he was caught speeding on a quiet Vancouver Island road.  The office argued the Motor Vehicle Act offence made the Ducati – valued at anywhere between $7,400 and $14,000 – an instrument of unlawful activity.  A B.C.  Supreme Court judge disagreed and ruled in Mr.  Dery’s favour.  ( The judge added that the decision should not be seen as acceptance of Mr.  Dery’s driving.  He had been cited for more than three dozen motor vehicle offences over the previous two decades.  )

The office had until recently been pursuing a case against Mumtaz Ladha for an alleged violation of the Employment Standards Act.  Ms.  Ladha had been charged with human trafficking, though she was ultimately acquitted.

The office would not immediately agree to drop the case after Ms.  Ladha was exonerated, but relented about a week later.  Casey Leggett, Ms.  Ladha’s lawyer, said media attention around the potential forfeiture likely didn’t hurt her cause.  The different cases highlight the different concerns that have been raised with respect to the office.

Mr.  Lloydsmith’s case speaks to admissibility of evidence, among other things.

The Jangs are among the many landlords who said they had no idea what their tenant was up to, raising questions about severity of punishment and public interest.

Mr.  Milligan’s case demonstrates how an offence under a different act can be pursued through the Civil Forfeiture Act.

In 2007, the Civil Forfeiture Office moved on the Hells Angels clubhouse in the Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo.  It later went after clubhouses in Vancouver and Kelowna.

However, even these instances, in which the office did what it was essentially created to do, have not been without controversy.  Joe Arvay, one of the country’s most influential lawyers and a constitutional law expert, announced in October that he would represent the Hells Angels in a constitutional challenge of the Civil Forfeiture Act.

“If it takes the Hells Angels to demonstrate that the government has acted unconstitutionally, well then good for the Hells Angels,” he said.  “There have been a number of cases …  where you look at what the director has done and you say, ‘Really?’”

The constitutional challenge could put those who feel they have been unfairly targeted, or that the process is flawed, in the delicate position of rooting for the Hells Angels to succeed.

Rick Ciarniello, president of the Vancouver chapter of the Hells Angels, said the legislation should trouble everyone, not just the group’s members.

“Governments everywhere are now routinely using these ‘civil forfeiture’ laws as a substitute for the criminal process.  Most people seem to just cave when faced with these forfeiture lawsuits.  It is just too expensive and stressful to fight back when faced with the resources of the state,” he wrote in a statement.  “We aren’t going to do that and our fight will be for all British Columbians.” The office itself is a black box.  Its location is not made public and, unlike Ontario, B.C.  does not disclose who works there.  The province’s information and privacy commissioner is expected to rule in a matter of months on whether the staff list should be made public.

Rob Kroeker, who was the office’s first executive director, left the post in October, 2012, for a position with a gaming corporation, according to documents released through freedom of information.  He was replaced by Phil Tawtel.  Both men had previously worked for the RCMP.

In an August briefing note to Minister Anton, obtained through freedom of information, Mr.  Tawtel said revenue derived from forfeiture is used to operate the program ( legal and administrative costs ) and provide crime-prevention grants to community associations and police.  Litigation is the single biggest expense.

Mr.  Tawtel said the grants are critical because they generate positive feedback and provide government with a way to identify emerging issues and priority commitments.

The office has issued about $11-million in grants since it opened, and paid about $1.3-million to victims of crime.  Grant applications can be found on the Ministry of Justice’s website.

Those numbers have been helped by a sharp increase in seizures in recent years.  In its first year, the office brought in about $600,000.  In 2010-11, it seized approximately $4.8-million in property.  That figure more than doubled the following year, to about $10.8 million.

By the end of fiscal year 201213, the office had seized more than $31-million in property since it opened.  That total has since reached $41-million, more than Ontario which is at $39 million.

Unlike Ontario, B.C.  has an annual budget target it must reach.  In the briefing note, Mr.  Tawtel wrote the office must “meet an assigned budget target to the government which has increased over the past two years by $1M to its current $3M.”

The office has made more than three times that target in fiscal year 2013-14, seizing about $9.5-million in property.

The number of files the office has accepted has also grown, from 69 in 2008, to 240 in 2011, to 418 in 2012.  In 2013, the office accepted 467 files.

The complaint most often cited by defendants in civil forfeiture proceedings is that of cost.  Legal aid is not available and defendants are put in the position of assessing whether it’s better to fight their case in court or to settle to try to minimize the damage.

Blair Suffredine, a lawyer and former Liberal politician who served in the legislature from 2001 to 2005, last year went up against the office in a case involving the seizure of $9,251.  The money was found on a property in which marijuana plants had also been discovered.

Mr.  Suffredine’s client, Bill Pundick, was living on part of the property but was not its owner and maintained the money had been obtained lawfully as part of his decades-old currency collection.  The judge ruled in the pensioner’s favour and said it was “not a case where wads of tens or twenties or fifties are rolled up and bound by elastic bands.”

Mr.  Suffredine, who did not play a role in establishing the Civil Forfeiture Office during his time in government, said its conduct in the few cases he’s handled amounts to bullying.  He said the office tries to stretch out a case and make it so expensive that the defendant has to settle.  Going after pensioners was not the plan, he said.  “What was intended was to get the guys who are making big money,” he said.  In a joint telephone interview with Minister Anton and Mr.  Tawtel, the minister portrayed Mr.  Tawtel as a gatekeeper who ensures it does not go after cases that are outside the public interest or the interests of justice.

Ms.  Anton said the office’s target remains organized crime, but any unlawful activity is fair game.  When asked if she’s worried people who did not receive ill-gotten gains are being swept up in the process, she said no.

Mr.  Tawtel said the Civil Forfeiture Act has a number of safeguards, including court oversight.  But very few cases make it to trial – the first wasn’t completed until 2011.  As Mr.  Tawtel himself noted, 99 per cent of people settle on terms favourable to his office.

Ms.  Anton said she does not believe a settlement rate that high suggests the process is flawed.  She said she’s very confident in the system.

“Sometimes the cases, often they do settle.  And that’s because generally the director brings them forward in proper circumstances.  In fact, I would argue the director brings them forward always in proper circumstances because that’s his job,” she said.  “The point is not to make money.  The point is to deprive people of ill-gotten gains.”

She declined to comment on whether the office should take cases in which evidence was collected in breach of the Charter, since such a matter is before the courts.

She declined to comment on whether the Civil Forfeiture Act is being used too broadly for similar reasons.

When asked whether she sees any problem with giving the office a budget target, whether she’s worried the quota leads to the pursuit of cases that don’t meet high standards, her answer was simple: “Absolutely not.” Although it has had some defeats, the Civil Forfeiture Office has also had some wins, both inside the courtroom and the community.

Sergeant Lindsey Houghton, spokesperson for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C., the province’s anti-gang unit, said his agency will only refer files to the Civil Forfeiture Office if they involve people with direct relationships to guns, gangs, and violence.

He said the office does serve as a deterrent.  The unit this week received a vehicle from the office that’s been draped in antigang messaging.  The seized sport utility vehicle will be taken to school to warn young people about the dangers of gang life.

Abbotsford police received a vehicle in a similar manner for a similar purpose in 2011.  The department had the Hummer covered with messages that included “Gang life is a dead end” and “Easy money can get you hard time.”

The rolling billboards have also grown popular among police departments in the U.S.

The grants the province has handed out as a result of the office’s work have helped a wide variety of groups.

In February, 2012, the province announced $5.5-million in crime prevention grants for programs that included violence-prevention projects at half a dozen Lower Mainland schools and an anti-gang campaign in Kelowna.

About $1-million in grants was announced in March, 2013, with funds earmarked for women and family violence programs and a workshop on sexual exploitation awareness, among other things.

MOSAIC, a non-profit organization that assists immigrants and refugees, last year released a pamphlet to help foreign workers who may be victims of trafficking.

The pamphlets were made possible due to a $42,500 civil forfeiture grant.

Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2014 The Globe and Mail Company
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
Author: Sunny Dhillon


So Trudeau Smoked Pot. at Least He’s Honest

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That Justin Trudeau has dabbled with pot likely surprised few in Canada.  However, his recent admission that he took his last puff just three years ago is provocative.

We’re used to politicians saying they tried marijuana in their carefree youth.  And used to them drastically playing down the amount they smoked – that is, if they actually inhaled at all.  But these types of political confessions stopped being news a long time ago.

What’s different about Mr.  Trudeau’s divulgence is his acknowledgment he did it just a few years ago, while an MP.  And, not insignificantly, while the possession of marijuana was still a criminal offence in this country – and remains so.  That is either politically brave or stupid.  It is without question refreshingly honest.

It’s doubtful Mr.  Trudeau and his advisers would not have considered the potential fallout of his story about sharing a joint with friends at his Montreal home.  ( He also said he’s only tried marijuana five or six times in his life, and has never done other hard drugs ).  They likely determined that those who might be offended by his revelation were probably disinclined to vote for him anyway.

They also likely decided that the vast majority of Canadians would probably shrug at the news.  So he took a puff at a dinner party.  It’s a scene played out in living rooms and backyard patios among young professionals like Mr.  Trudeau every day.  Pot is the parlour drug of choice for many urbanites, and long has been.  Many prefer its mellow effect to the toll of an evening of drinking.

In Vancouver, of course, you can’t walk along a downtown street without encountering pot’s pungent odour.  I can assure you, Mr.  Trudeau did not hurt himself on the West Coast with his frank disclosure.  And certainly the young people who have been drawn to his political crusade aren’t going to punish him.  Rather, they will laud him for his candour.

The stigma that once existed around marijuana has mostly dissipated.  Almost every week another group is calling for its legalization.  Mr.  Trudeau himself recently came out in support of it.  Health professionals across the country have long pointed out it’s time to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis the way we do alcohol.

Even south of the border, where the war on drugs was lost a long time ago, some U.S.  states have moved to legalize cannabis.  So far, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shown no interest in moving down this road.  Even if Mr.  Harper believed that heeding the many calls to decriminalize pot was the right thing to do, he likely couldn’t do it.  The Conservative base would never forgive him.

Consequently, this allows Mr.  Trudeau to look more enlightened on the subject, more in tune with modern thinking.  A vast majority of Canadians support decriminalizing marijuana because it makes sense.  Why clog up an already overburdened court system with people nailed for having a bit of weed in their possession?

It will be intriguing to see what the Tories do with Mr.  Trudeau’s revelation.  Will they make a big deal out of the fact that he was breaking the law when he lit up? This, by a man who purports to want to run the country! They had no qualms about making fun of Mr.  Trudeau for being a drama teacher.  Will they now propose his marijuana use confirms he’s as big a flake as they’ve been suggesting?

Over the years we’ve learned that when it comes to trying to destroy political opponents, the Conservatives will do, and say, just about anything.

I would suggest, however, that going after Mr.  Trudeau on this matter will not get the traction the Tories are seeking.  If anything, it may just make Canada’s governing party look dated, out of touch and even a little paranoid.

Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2013 The Globe and Mail Company
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
Author: Gary Mason

Trudeau’s Admission Sparks Pot Debate

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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s marijuana mea culpa has sparked some serious reefer madness on Parliament Hill.

Trudeau’s confession that he smoked a joint after becoming an MP has put the pot-smoking predilections of politicians – if any – under the microscope.

It now seems every parliamentarian is being asked if they’ve ever fired up a fattie.

For the record, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he has stayed away from the drug after seeing a U.S.  Supreme Court nominee withdraw after it emerged he smoked marijuana in college.

“I came of age politically in the 1980s and I can recall when one of President ( Ronald ) Reagan’s nominees for the U.S.  Supreme Court had to withdraw because of his use of that substance, so I took my example from that,” Baird said.

The question also came up at a news conference with Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

Kenney says he has never smoked a joint – although he did admit to drinking coffee, a jab at the java-averse Trudeau.

“I’ll let Mr.  Trudeau’s comments and actions speak for themselves,” he said, parroting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s response a day earlier.  “All I can say is, I would like to make a public confession that I do drink coffee.”

Alexander chimed in, saying he, too, drinks coffee.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay also got in on the pot pile-on, saying most Canadians expect their elected representatives to stick to the straight and narrow.

“It’s currently against the law to smoke dope.  I think most Canadians expect that their member of Parliament will obey the law,” MacKay said Friday in Halifax.

“But this admission of smoking marijuana, breaking the law, doing so knowingly while he was a member of Parliament – the politics of this are such that there’s an element of hypocrisy of having voted on the record to increase penalties around the same time that he was lighting up.  So his credibility is a little up in smoke.”

Trudeau, who was elected to Parliament in 2008, voted a year later for mandatory minimum sentences for pot production.

Not everyone was such a buzzkill, though.  In an interview with Global TV’s The Morning Show, actor George Takei praised Trudeau’s candour.

“It’s going to be a great positive for him,” said Takei, who played Mr.  Sulu on the original Star Trek series.  “It serves Canada well to have a politician who can be known for his honesty and forthrightness.”

One of Trudeau’s caucus colleagues also came to his defence.

“People admire Justin’s candour and his common sense,” Liberal MP Scott Brison said in an interview.  “I’ve also had comments from people that find people like Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay hopelessly out of touch with near-toxic levels of sanctimony and more interested in attacking someone’s character than actually listening to reason.”

He said no one has questioned Trudeau’s judgment in toking while an MP.

“No, I have not heard that at all from anybody,” he said, dismissing Tory attempts to persuade Canadians that Trudeau is unfit to govern.

The End Of Pot Panic

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WRONG-ON-WEED CONSERVATIVES DON’T GET IT: CANADIANS WANT DRUG LAWS BASED
ON FACTS

On a late July cross-Canada tour, new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made headlines when he declared the time had come to legalize marijuana.  “Listen, marijuana is not a health food supplement; it’s not great for you,” Trudeau told reporters on July 25.  “But I did a lot of listening, a lot of reading, and a lot of paying attention to the very serious studies that have come out.  And I realize that going the road of legalization is actually a responsible thing to look at and to do.”

The Harper Conservatives quickly attacked, stating in a press release that “drugs are illegal because of the harmful effect they have on users and society.  We will continue protecting the interests of families across the country.”

To bolster their “tough on crime” position the Cons quoted several law enforcement officials on the harmful effects of cannabis.  Other critics chimed in too.  But plenty of people voiced support for Trudeau’s stance.  And pundits were divided on the political repercussions of the move.

At first glance, legalization does seem to go against the “law and order” tenor of our times.  In the Conservative press release, former RCMP assistant commissioner Fraser Macrae said “Cannabis is a currency for organized crime.” It doesn’t get much scarier than that, and a sizeable chunk of credulous Con supporters will likely go to their graves believing the propaganda they’ve been fed that marijuana is an evil on par with heroin, crack cocaine and crystal meth.

But in broader society, attitudes are changing.

Driven by the recognition that it’s marijuana’s very status as a black-market drug that permits it, like alcohol was in the 1920s, to be a cash cow for gangsters, people are increasingly persuaded that the “War on Drugs” as it relates to marijuana has been an abysmal failure.  Even from a health perspective, research is showing that cannabis, far from being a lung cancer-inducing, brain cell-destroying menace, actually yields many benefits, including relief from stress, pain, nausea and anxiety.

As word spreads, and the number of Canadians with first-hand knowledge of pot grows from generation to generation, the electoral tide is shifting.  In one 2012 poll, 57 per cent of Canadians supported legalization and 66 per cent said they expected it to happen in the next 10 years.  In last November’s U.S.  elections, Washington State and Colorado voted to legalize pot, and a group called Sensible BC is currently undertaking a petition drive to force a similar vote in B.C.  in 2014.

With momentum growing to legalize pot, Trudeau’s position arguably could be a vote-getter in the 2015 federal election.

Not that the Liberals are the only party open to marijuana reform.

“The NDP’s position has been consistent since the early ’70s when the LeDain Commission suggested that Canada should move to decriminalize marijuana,” says Regina defence lawyer Noah Evanchuk, who ran for the NDP in the 2011 election.  “Since the time of Tommy Douglas and David Lewis that’s a position the NDP has supported.”

Under s.  91 of the Constitution, the federal government has jurisdiction over criminal matters.  Were the feds to decriminalize marijuana, says Evanchuk, it would enter a grey area constitutionally.  The federal government and the provinces would have to work together to set up a regulatory framework.

“What the NDP is saying is we need to bring in medical professionals, members of the bar from the crown and defence, peace officers, mental health officials, to ensure that we do things in a prudent way as was done with other mind-altering substances like [alcohol and cigarettes],” says Evanchuk.

If that thought’s abhorrent to you, keep in mind that a regulatory framework already exists for marijuana that, if you jump through the proper hurdles, permits you to both grow and consume it.

“I always have to remind people that marijuana already is legal in Canada,” says Tim Selenski, a long-time Regina advocate for medicinal marijuana who runs a head shop and online dispensary.  “I’ve been growing for over 10 years with a licence that allows me to do so.  So when cops pull me over with cannabis, which has been several times, I don’t get arrested.  But you need a licence.”

Under current Saskatchewan College of Physicians & Surgeons guidelines, doctors are required to meet stringent requirements like trying three alternative treatments ( often including addictive opiates ) before signing a patient’s application to Health Canada to legally obtain cannabis.

For many, the hassle isn’t worth it.  But Selenski has recruited over 60 doctors who believe in marijuana’s therapeutic benefits.  So that hurdle’s been largely overcome.  And the feds are about to introduce new regulations that will make it even easier for doctors to prescribe cannabis.

“There’ll be no more arbitrary Health Canada forms,” says Selenski.  “It’ll be pretty much like writing a [normal prescription].”

Within the next five years, Selenski estimates 300,000 Canadians will be legally licensed to possess pot.  Regulations on the supply side are also changing.  Concerned that individual growers were abusing the terms of their licence and over-producing for the black market, the feds are moving to a system of large-scale operators.

“They’re opening the door to big farmers,” says Selenski.  “I’m applying for one of the commercial contracts.  We have a $3.5 million building that we’re trying to light up.”

So with pot essentially legal anyway, why bother going through the formality of legalizing it? Well, the unfortunate reality is that when people are arrested and convicted for pot possession it still screws up your life.

“A criminal record of any kind carries with it severe repercussions,” says Evanchuk.  “It’s one of the last safe forms of discrimination for which human rights legislation doesn’t apply, whether it’s trying to travel, particularly to the U.S., or applying for a job where you’re bondable, or a job with the civil service.  So a criminal conviction, especially for a drug-related offence, sticks with you.”

Spurred by the passage of the Safe Streets & Communities Act in 2009, arrests for pot possession have jumped 41 per cent since 2006.  In a June article titled “Why It’s Time To Legalize Marijuana”, Maclean’s reported that in 2011, 69 per cent of all drug charges were tied to pot.

That’s 78,000 in total for possession, cultivation and trafficking.

Arrest rates vary, too, from community to community, depending on police policy.  In Vancouver, for instance, it was 30 per 100,000 people in 2011, while in Tofino it was 588.

That’s not the only inequity, says Evanchuk.

“There’s also a disparity in the type of prosecution based on ethnic status for First Nations people and socio-economic status.  So if you’re lower income you’re more likely to be prosecuted and receive a criminal record.  And although it’s not common, people in Saskatchewan do receive jail sentences for simple possession.”

In 2003, the Chretien government introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession.  Ten years later, the debate rages on.

But the direction society is moving is clear, says Selenski.

“We have cannabinoids in our body.  The same thing that marijuana produces, we produce in our bodies.  So for them to ban it because of these intoxicants, well=C2=85 you might as well ban people.  It doesn’t ma ke any friggin’ sense.  And I think people are finally starting to realize this.”

Source: Planet S (CN SN)
Copyright: 2013 Hullabaloo Publishing Ltd.
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.planetsmag.com/
Author: Gregory Beatty

Activists Decry New Legal Marijuana Rules

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Changes to Dealer Provisions May Make It Harder for Those in Need to Get Medication

Marijuana activist Sam Mellace hopes to be the first licensed medical marijuana producer in Canada after spending the past 10 years running his “pretty much” legal operation.

The Abbotsford, B.C., resident has been producing marijuana since 2002 for himself and three other medical users, in accordance with current laws.

But starting on April 1, 2014, authorized users will not be able to grow their own pot – they will have to get it from licensed producers.

Mr.  Mellace finalized an application to Health Canada on Monday for his company, New Age Medical Solutions, and his lawyers plan to send it by courier on Tuesday.

“I just want to be able to dispense so I can finally start making some money instead of being in the hole,” he said.  But he has stiff competition.  For 13 years, Prairie Plant Systems Inc.  has been the only company producing legal marijuana and seeds on contract to Health Canada.  The company submitted an application earlier this month.

“Up to this point, we’ve been the only ones working with the rules,” said the company’s CEO, Brent Zettl.

He said this has led to “unfair competition” from amateur operations because they have no requirements about quality control.

“They can do whatever they want,” he said, adding that now everyone will be on the same page.

Mr.  Mellace said his system is advanced as well.  At his compound, with security cameras and dogs, he said, he profiles the plants and checks them regularly.

“Our main objective is to help as many people as we can and give them the best product possible,” he said.

But he admits he has not always operated strictly to the letter of the law.

Mr.  Mellace, who uses medically prescribed marijuana for chronic pain from a bad car accident about 10 years ago, does not like to smoke marijuana.  Instead, he turns his crops into a kind of butter in a process that skirts the law.  He uses the butter in cookies and even spaghetti sauce.  He has also made a cream from marijuana for arthritis.

“We follow, pretty much, the rule of law,” he said, although he added that he occasionally processes more than the legally allowed amount when making his butter.

“I would say it’s a grey area,” he said.

Jeannine Ritchot, Health Canada’s director of medical marijuana regulatory reform, said the new rules answer concerns from municipalities and fire and law enforcement officials about public health and safety.

“The purpose of that is to make sure that consumers are having access to quality-controlled marijuana,” she said.

The ministry’s marijuana is supplied to authorized users by mail and she said the government has seen this as the safest way to provide it.

“There’s been virtually no episodes of diversion as a result of this system,” she says.

The new rules, announced in June, create a system of supply and distribution by licensed producers regulated by the government ministry.  These producers will be subject to security requirements, inspections and good production practices.

The new system will run alongside the old one until April 1, 2014.  Under the old system, people prescribed medical marijuana could grow their own plants and buy seeds and marijuana from Health Canada.  Starting in April, authorized people will be able to get medical marijuana from private licensed producers only.

Instead of having to get a special license through Health Canada, patients will have to get a prescription for medical marijuana.

Mr.  Mellace worries that patients may have trouble.  “If [doctors] don’t sign prescriptions, that means there isn’t anything going out.”

Health Canada has said in a statement that it will increase the price – – currently $5 per gram – to match that of “the first established licensed producer.”

According to the most recent statistics released Dec.  31 by Health Canada, 28,115 people are authorized to possess dried marijuana in Canada.  Of those, 18,063 have licenses to produce their own marijuana for personal use while 5,283 indicated they will get marijuana or seeds from Health Canada.

Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2013 The Globe and Mail Company
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
Author: Joshua Rapp Learn

Rules Change on Olympic Marijuana Testing

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It’s been 15 years since Ross Rebagliati won snowboarding’s first Olympic gold medal at the 1998 Winter Games — and then nearly lost that medal after he tested positive for marijuana.

Since then, the drug has become an integral part of Rebagliati’s life. Next month Rebagliati will open a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Whistler, British Columbia, called “Ross’ Gold.” The Canadian has also become a public face for pot-smoking athletes around the globe.

“Anytime somebody gets in trouble for weed I’m the guy the media calls,” Rebagliati, who lives outside Whistler, told USA TODAY Sports. “I went on NBC to defend (Michael) Phelps for smoking responsibly. I told them, Hey, it’s zero calories, zero fat!’”

Now 42, Rebagliati believes that changing attitudes toward marijuana — it’s now legal for medicinal purposes in Canada and 14 U.S. states — justifies the drug’s removal from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.

Like cocaine and heroin, cannabis is banned during competition by WADA, which oversees drug testing worldwide in Olympic sports.

WADA recently amended its rules on cannabis, raising the threshold for a positive test from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 150 ng/ml. In 1998 at the Nagano Games, Rebagliati recorded a level of 17.8 ng/ml, and argued the test resulted from second-hand smoke, which he still says. Ben Nichols, a spokesperson for WADA, said the raising of the threshold is meant to catch only athletes who smoke in the days before a competition. The drug isn’t prohibited out of competition.

“Our information suggests that many cases do not involve game or event-day consumption,” Nichols said. “The new threshold level is an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not use during the days and weeks before competition.”

Raising the threshold level to 150 nanograms per milliliter means that an athlete would have to be a “pretty dedicated cannabis consumer” to test positive, according to Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Last year four athletes in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s pool tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the primary ingredient in marijuana. That’s a small percentage of the 2,776 in-competition tests the agency conducted. But one of the athletes, wrestler Stephany Lee, was kept off the Olympic team after testing positive at the Olympic trials.

USOC chief communications officer Patrick Sandusky declined to be interviewed for the story but released a statement that said the USOC is committed to clean competition. “Additionally, we respect WADA’s decision-making expertise and processes – they decide what is banned and what thresholds to apply and we work to ensure that U.S. athletes are appropriately educated,” the statement read.

Although marijuana isn’t viewed to have obvious performance-enhancing qualities, one of the reasons it’s on WADA’s list in the first place is because of the drug’s possible effect during competition. For example, you wouldn’t want a bobsledder driving down an icy track while impaired, said Dr. Matt Fedoruk, USADA’s science director. He adds that the the definition of performance enhancing drugs shouldn’t be limited to “making you stronger and faster and being able to jump higher. It’s how it affects some of the other parameters that are really important like pain or confidence or some of the things that are a bit more difficult to measure or define analytically.”

Athletes sanctioned by the USADA for marijuana generally receive suspensions ranging from three months to a year, depending on the athlete’s case and if there was a past violation and whether the drug was coupled with other banned substances. A three-month suspension can be deferred if an athlete completes an education program.

The International Olympic Committee originally banned drugs like marijuana and cocaine because of their illegality, and because they violate the “spirit of sport.” WADA, created in 1999, follows three criteria in establishing its list of banned substances: performance enhancement, danger to an athlete’s health and violation of the spirit of sport.

Society’s attitudes toward marijuana may have contributed to the timing of WADA’s change, St. Pierre said. He points to Colorado and Washington passing legislation last year to legalize the drug for recreational use.

“So they kind of ask the question … if we really don’t believe overtly that this is causing people to game the system by developing greater athletic skills, shouldn’t we really revisit this,” St. Pierre said.

“It’s kind of hard to imagine that cannabis should be thrown into that mixture (of banned drugs) unless it is still viewed as a moral turpitude,” he added. “Society doesn’t seem to view it anymore as a moral turpitude.”

Attitudes toward the drug vary around the world. “It’s a global prohibited list,” Fedoruk said. “One country doesn’t have the last word per se on inclusion of substances. Globally there’s been some pressure from various stakeholders to address what is the appropriate threshold that you would catch use in competition only of cannabis. I think the change was to try to reflect that more accurately.”

St. Pierre also raised the issue of the anti-inflammatory qualities associated with cannabinoids and whether they could provide some athletes an unfair advantage. Athletes such as former Dallas Cowboys center Mark Stepnoski have said that the drug has helped in recovery after strenuous training. St. Pierre says there’s more scientific research being done that supports those claims.

In the sports that fall under WADA jurisdiction, pot use still accounts for a significant number of violations. According to USADA statistics, of the 147 sanctions since 2008, 28 were from cannabis. Dr. Don Catlin, founder of the UCLA Olympic Analytic Laboratory, said cannabis violations account for a larger number internationally.

In 2003, cannabinoids accounted for 13.9% (378 of 2,716) of all adverse analytical findings (samples that found the presence of a banned substance or method), according to WADA statistics. Only anabolic agents such as testosterone and stimulants surpassed cannabinoids as banned substances found in testing. In 2011, WADA reported 445 violations for cannabis or 7.9% of 5,600 adverse test results.

One of the founders of modern day drug testing, Catlin said there was a long-running debate about marijuana during the early years of testing for banned substances.

“Some people felt it wasn’t correct to use a PED test to try and clean up the image of sport,” Catlin said. “In the end the IOC decided you should test for those kinds of drugs.”

Positive marijuana tests can have a serious impact on athletes lives. Last summer American judo athlete Nick Delpopolo was sent home from the London Olympics after testing positive. Delpopolo, who said the test was a result of eating baked goods laced with marijuana, declined comment for this story.

Lee, the wrestler, was banned for one year for her positive test last summer. It was her second doping violation. In a radio interview after her second positive, Lee said she used marijuana for medicinal purposes, but said she had stopped smoking two weeks before competition.

“It’s hard,” Lee said. “I’m home watching the opening ceremonies on TV.”

In 2003, a positive test for cannabis drove downhill mountain biker Gary Houseman out of his sport entirely. A BMX prodigy, Houseman became the first American in four years to win a stop on the UCI World Cup when he won in Grouse Mountain, British Columbia. But when he tested positive for marijuana — and faced a $2000 fine and a year suspension — Houseman retired at age 23.

“I just decided to move on,” Houseman said.

While he can’t speak for WADA’s reasoning for the change, Fedoruk says he thinks the goal is to focus on more “potent ergogenic drugs such as EPO, human growth hormone and testosterone.

“Enhancing our capabilities in doing our job better to being able to detect those is always a goal of the anti-doping movement. To the extent that perhaps resources can be reallocated because countries maybe aren’t spending as much on cannabis, I think it’s a potentially good thing.”

Rebagliati, who retired from snowboard competition in 2000, is open about his feelings on the subject.

“Everybody knew I was a pot smoker after the Olympics,” he said. “I said I smoked and I still smoke but I never denied it.”

Source: USA Today (US)
Author: Frederick Dreier, Special To USA Today
Published: July 17, 2013
Copyright: 2013 USA Today, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.usatoday.com/

Why It’s Time To Legalize Marijuana

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After decades of wasted resources, clogged courtrooms and a shift in public perception, let’s end the war on weed

Sometime this year, if it hasn’t happened already, the millionth Canadian will be arrested for marijuana possession, Dana Larsen estimates.  The indefatigable B.C.-based activist for pot legalization is thinking of marking the occasion with a special ceremony.  True, it will be impossible to know exactly who the millionth person is, but with the Conservative government’s amped-up war on drugs, it won’t be hard to find a nominee.  As Larsen notes, the war on drugs in Canada is mostly a war on marijuana, “and most of that is a war on marijuana users.”

The numbers bear him out.  Since the Tories came to power in 2006, and slammed the door on the previous Liberal government’s muddled plans to reduce or decriminalize marijuana penalties, arrests for pot possession have jumped 41 per cent.  In those six years, police reported more than 405,000 marijuana-related arrests, roughly equivalent to the populations of Regina and Saskatoon combined.

In the statistic-driven world of policing, pot users are the low-hanging fruit, says Larsen, director of Sensible BC, a non-profit group organizing to put marijuana decriminalization on a provincial referendum ballot in 2014.  “We’re seeing crime drop across Canada.  [Police] feel they’ve got nothing better to do.  You can throw a rock and find a marijuana user,” he says over coffee in his Burnaby home.  “It’s very easy to do.”

But is it the right thing to do? Most certainly that’s the view of the federal government, which has been unshakable in its belief that pot users are criminals, and that such criminals need arresting if Canada is to be a safer place.  The message hasn’t changed though Canada’s crime rate has plummeted to its lowest level in 40 years.  “It depends on which type of crime you’re talking about,” Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said in an interview with the Globe and Mail, a typical defence of the Conservative’s omnibus crime bill, which includes new mandatory minimum sentences for some drug crimes.  “Among other things, child sexual offences, those crimes are going up.  Drug crimes are going up, and so, again, much of what the Safe Streets and Communities Act was focused on was child sexual offences and drug crimes.”

The minister is correct if one takes a cursory look at the statistics.  Two of the largest one-year increases in police-reported crimes in 2011 were a 40 per cent jump in child pornography cases ( 3,100 incidents ), and a seven per cent hike ( to 61,406 arrests ) for pot possession.  Taken together, all marijuana offences-possession, growing and trafficking-accounted for a record 78,000 arrests in 2011, or 69 per cent of all drug offences.  Simple pot possession represented 54 per cent of every drug crime that police managed to uncover.  This is more phony war than calamity, waged by a government determined to save us from a cannabis crisis of its own making.  To have the minister imply a moral equivalency between child sexual abuse and carrying a couple of joints in your jeans underscores the emotionalism clouding the issue: reason enough to look at why marijuana is illegal in the first place.

The Conservative hard line is increasingly out of step with its citizenry, and with the shifting mood in the United States, where two states-Colorado and Washington-have already legalized recreational use, where others have reduced penalties to a misdemeanour ticket and where many, like California, have such lax rules on medical marijuana that one is reminded of the “medicinal alcohol” that drugstores peddled with a wink during a previous failed experiment with prohibition.

In late May, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition added its voice to the debate with a sweeping report, “Getting to Tomorrow,” calling for the decriminalization of all currently illegal drugs, the regulation and taxation of cannabis and the expansion of treatment and harm-reduction programs.  The coalition of drug policy experts, affiliated with the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction at Simon Fraser University, calls the increasing emphasis on drug criminalization under the Conservatives an “overwhelming failure.” The high marijuana use by Canadian minors is just one unintended consequence of current drug laws, it concludes.  “Prohibition abdicated responsibility for regulating drug markets to organized crime and abandons public health measures like age restrictions and dosing controls.”

There’s growing consensus, at least outside the Conservative cabinet room, that it’s time to take a hard look at tossing out a marijuana prohibition that dates back to 1923-a Canadian law that has succeeded in criminalizing successive generations, clogging the courts, wasting taxpayer resources and enriching gangsters, while failing to dampen demand for a plant that, by objective measures, is far more benign than alcohol or tobacco.

Why is marijuana illegal?

Well, Maclean’s must take a measure of responsibility.  Back in the 1920s one of its high-profile correspondents was Emily Murphy, the Alberta magistrate, suffragette and virulent anti-drug crusader, who frequently wrote under the pen name Janey Canuck.  She wrote a lurid series of articles for the magazine that were later compiled and expanded in her 1922 book, The Black Candle – you’ll find an excerpt from this book at the end of this piece.  She raged against “Negro” drug dealers and Chinese opium peddlers “of fishy blood” out to control and debase the white race.

Much of her wrath was directed at narcotics and the plight of the addict, but she also waged a hyperbolic attack against the evils of smoking marijuana-then little-known and little-used recreationally, although the hemp plant had been a medicinal staple in teas and tinctures.  Quoting uncritically the view of the Los Angeles police chief of the day, she reported: “Persons using this narcotic smoke the dried leaves of the plant, which has the effect of driving them completely insane.  The addict loses all sense of moral responsibility.  Addicts to this drug, while under its influence, are immune to pain, and could be severely injured without having any realization of their condition.  While in this condition they become raving maniacs and are liable to kill or indulge in any form of violence to other persons using the most savage methods of cruelty without, as said before, any sense of moral responsibility.”

In 1923, a year after The Black Candle’s release, Canada became one of the first countries in the world to outlaw cannabis, giving it the same status as opium and other narcotics.  It’s impossible to know what influence Murphy’s writing had on the decision because there was no public or parliamentary debate.  As noted by a 2002 Canadian Senate committee report, “Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy”: “Early drug legislation was largely based on a moral panic, racist sentiment and a notorious absence of debate.”

The Senate report, like the royal commission on the nonmedical use of drugs chaired by Gerald LeDain in the early 1970s, concluded that the criminalization of cannabis had no scientific basis, but its use by adolescents should be discouraged.  The LeDain reports, between 1970-73, were ahead of their time-to their detriment.  Commissioners generated reams of studies on all drug use and held cross-country hearings ( even recording John Lennon’s pro-pot views during an in-camera session in Montreal ).  LeDain recommended the repeal of cannabis prohibition, stating “the costs to a significant number of individuals, the majority of whom are young people, and to society generally, of a policy of prohibition of simple possession are not justified by the potential for harm.” Even in a counterculture era of love beads and Trudeaumania the recommendations went nowhere.

Obscurity also befell the 2002 Senate report 30 years later.  The senators recommended legalization, as well as amnesty for past convictions, adding: “We are able to categorically state that, used in moderation, cannabis in itself poses very little danger to users and to society as a whole, but specific types of use represent risks to users,” especially the “tiny minority” of adolescents who are heavy users.  Generally, though, the greater harm was not in cannabis use, the senators said, but in the after-effects of the criminal penalties.

Both reports vanished in a puff of smoke, while 90 years on Emily Murphy endures.  She is celebrated in a statue on Parliament Hill for her leading role among the Famous Five, who fought in the courts and were ultimately successful in having women recognized as “persons” under the law.  And she endures in the spirit of Canada’s marijuana laws, which continue to reflect some of her hysterical views.  Blame political cowardice, the fear of being labelled “soft on crime.” As a correspondent to the British medical journal The Lancet said of the slow pace of change for drug prohibition internationally: “bad policy is still good politics.”

Putting emotions, fears and rhetoric aside, the case for legalizing personal use of cannabis hangs on addressing two key questions.  What is the cost and social impact of marijuana prohibition? And what are the risks to public health, to social order and personal safety of unleashing on Canada a vice that has been prohibited for some 90 years?

The cost of prohibition

Estimates vary wildly on the cost impact of marijuana use and of enforcement.  Back in 2002 the Senate report pegged the annual cost of cannabis to law enforcement and the justice system at $300 million to $500 million.  The costs of enforcing criminalization, the report concluded, “are disproportionately high given the drug’s social and health consequences.”

Neil Boyd, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University, concludes in a new study financed by Sensible BC that the annual police- and court-related costs of enforcing marijuana possession in B.C.  alone is “reasonably and conservatively” estimated at $10.5 million per year.  B.C.  has the highest police-reported rate of cannabis offences of any province, and rising: 19,400 in 2011.  Of those, almost 16,600 were for possession, leading to almost 3,800 charges, double the number in 2005.  As arrests increase, Boyd estimates costs will hit $18.8 million within five years.  Added to that will be the cost of jailing people under new mandatory minimum sentences included in the Safe Streets and Communities Act.

The Conservatives’ National Anti-Drug Strategy, implemented in 2007, shifted drug strategy from Health Canada to the Justice Department.  Most of the $528 million budgeted for the strategy between 2012 and 2017 goes to enforcement, rather than treatment, public education or health promotion, the drug policy coalition report notes.  “Activities such as RCMP drug enforcement, drug interdiction and the use of the military in international drug control efforts [further] drive up policing, military and security budgets,” it says.

Canada has always taken a softer line on prosecuting drug offences than the U.S., which has recorded 45 million arrests since president Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971.  More than half of those in U.S.  federal prison are there for drug offences.  The Canadian drug incarceration rate is nowhere near as high.  But the government’s omnibus crime bill includes a suite of harder penalties.  It requires a six-month minimum sentence for those growing as few as six cannabis plants, with escalating minimums.  It also doubled the maximum penalty to 14 years for trafficking pot.  ( In Colorado, by contrast, it’s now legal for an adult to grow six plants for personal use or to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.  )

At the heart of the crime bill, in the government’s view, is public safety through criminal apprehension.  The party won successive elections with that as a key election plank, and the senior ministers for crime and justice see it as an inalterable mandate.  Nicholson rose in the Commons this March saying the government makes “no apology” for its tough-on-crime agenda, including its war on pot.  “Since we’ve come to office, we’ve introduced 30 pieces of legislation aimed at keeping our streets and communities safe,” he said.  Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, in response to the pot legalization votes in Colorado and Washington, has flatly stated: “We will not be decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana.” Back in 2010, Toews made it clear that public safety trumps concerns about increasing costs at a time of falling crime rates.  “Let’s not talk about statistics,” he told a Senate committee studying the omnibus crime bill.  “Let’s talk about danger,” he said.  “I want people to be sa! fe.”

But there are risks in prohibition, too.  The most obvious are the gang hits and gun battles that indeed impact the safety of Canadian streets, much of it fuelled by turf battles over the illegal drug trade.  Nor are criminal dealers prone to worry about contaminants in the product from dubious grow ops, or the age of their customers.

Canadian children and youth, in fact, are the heaviest users of cannabis in the developed world, according to a report released in April by UNICEF.  The agency, using a World Health Organization ( WHO ) survey of 15,000 Canadians, found 28 per cent of Canadian children ( aged 11, 13, and 15 ) tried marijuana in the past 12 months, the highest rate among 29 nations.  Fewer than 10 per cent admitted to being frequent users.  A Health Canada survey puts the average first use of pot at 15.7 years, and estimates the number of “youth” ( ages 15-24 ) who have tried pot at a lower 22 per cent-the same rate as a survey of Ontario high school student use by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

UNICEF called child marijuana use a “significant concern” for reasons including possible impacts on physical and mental health as well as school performance.  Canadian youth, it speculated, believe occasional pot use is of little risk to their health, and “less risky than regular smoking of cigarettes.” UNICEF warned, however, of significant punitive risks to pot use, including expulsion from school and arrest.  It noted 4,700 Canadians between ages 12 to 17 were charged with a cannabis offence in 2006.  “Legal sanctions against young people generally lead to even worse outcomes,” the report said, “not improvements in their lives.”

Nor do Canada’s sanctions curb underage use.  Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands are all countries where pot use has been decriminalized, legalized or liberalized, and all have rates of child cannabis use that range from one-third to more than one-half lower than in Canada.  Why Canada’s rates are higher is a bit of a mystery.  Part of it is the ready availability from dealers with no scruples about targeting youth, and the cachet of forbidden fruit-or rather, buds.  Then there’s the storm of mixed messages we send young people.  There’s the laissez-faire attitude of many parents who used pot themselves.  Then days like the annual 4/20 celebrations every April 20, when police turn a blind eye to open pot use and sale, cloud the issue of legality.  Even the federal government vilifies cannabis on one hand, while its health ministry offers a qualified endorsement of its use as a medicine.

Mason Tvert, a key strategist in Colorado’s successful legalization vote, says criminalization has created an unregulated underground market of dealers who have no compunction about selling pot to minors.  “Whether you want marijuana to be legal or not is irrelevant.  Clearly there is a need for something to change if our goal is to keep marijuana from young people,” he says in an interview with Maclean’s during a foray into the Lower Mainland to campaign on behalf of Sensible BC’s referendum plan.

If you want to see the value of regulating a legal product, combined with proof-of-age requirements and public education campaigns, look to the falling rates of cigarette smoking among young people in both the U.S.  and Canada, Tvert says.  “We didn’t have to arrest a single adult for smoking a cigarette in order to reduce teen smoking.  So why arrest adults to prevent teens from using marijuana?”

UNICEF also recommended that child pot use can be reduced more effectively with the same kind of public information campaigns and other aggressive measures used to curtail tobacco use.  Canadian children, it noted, have the third-lowest rate of tobacco smokers among 29 nations.  Remarkably, whether you use the 28 or 22 per cent estimate, more Canadian children have at least tried pot than the number who who smoke or drink heavily.  The WHO data found just four per cent of Canadian children smoke cigarettes at least once a week, and 16 per cent said they had been drunk more than twice.  It’s noteworthy, too, that tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use by Canadian children have all declined significantly since the last WHO survey in 2002.  Perhaps we underestimate the common sense of our young people-sometimes at their peril.

There are ample reasons to discourage children from the use of intoxicants at a time of formative social, physical and emotional development.  It’s noteworthy, though, that Canada’s teens have at least chosen a safer vice in pot-apart from its illegality-than either alcohol or tobacco.  As Tvert claims, backed by ample scientific data, pot is not physically addictive ( though people can become psychologically dependent ) and it is less toxic than either tobacco or alcohol.

An unfair law, unevenly applied

It was a bleak, wet night in March when 100 people gathered in a lecture hall at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby to hear an unlikely cast of speakers make the case for marijuana legalization, an event sponsored by Sensible BC.  Among the speakers was Derek Corrigan, the city mayor, who cut his teeth as a defence lawyer.  “Over the course of my career I gained an understanding of the nature of the people who were using [cannabis] and realized this was a vast cross-section of our society,” he said.  They were everyday people, not criminals, he said.  Most smoke with impunity in their homes and social circles, but it was young people, without that insulation of social respectability, whom he most often defended.  “In criminal law we used to call it the ‘I-didn’t-respect-the-officer-enough’ offence.  If you apologized enough you were unlikely to be charged,” he said.  “I found that to be reprehensible.”

Among the other speakers was lawyer Randie Long, who used to have a lucrative sideline as an hourly-paid federal prosecutor dealing with marijuana charges.  There is a corrupting influence to the war on drugs that hits far closer to home than the cartels, the gangs and the dealers, he said.  It corrupts the police and the justice system itself.  “There’s easy money available from the feds for law enforcement”-all they need are the arrests to justify it.  “The prosecutors use stats.  The cops use stats,” he said.  “Better stats mean better money.”

It’s understandable that many believe marijuana possession is quasi-legal.  In Vancouver, it all but is.  It is the stated policy of Vancouver police to place a low priority on enforcing cannabis possession charges.  But outside Vancouver, most B.C.  municipalities are patrolled by local detachments of the federal RCMP-and there, the hunt is on.  Boyd, the criminologist, has taken a hard look at the numbers.  In 2010, for instance, there were only six charges recommended by Vancouver police where marijuana possession was the only offence.  There is a “striking difference” in enforcement in areas patrolled by the RCMP, Boyd notes in his report.  The rate of all pot possession charges laid by Vancouver police in 2010 was 30 per 100,000.  In RCMP territory, it ranged from 79 per 100,000 in Richmond and 90 per 100,000 in North Vancouver to almost 300 per 100,000 in Nelson and 588 per 100,000 in Tofino.

RCMP Supt.  Brian Cantera, head of drug enforcement in the province, explained the jump in pot possession charges in B.C.  as “better work by policing the problem.” He wrote in an email to Boyd: “Despite the views of some, most Canadians do not want this drug around, as they recognize the dangers of it.  The public does not want another substance to add to the carnage on highways and other community problems.  Policing is reflective of what the public does not want.”

Yet many polls suggest what the public does not want is a prohibition on marijuana.  Last year 68 per cent of Canadians told pollster Angus Reid that the war on drugs is a “failure.” Nationally, 57 per cent said they favour legalizing pot.  In B.C., 75 per cent supported moving toward regulation and taxation of pot.  The number of B.C.  respondents who said possessing a marijuana cigarette should lead to a criminal record: 14 per cent.

Despite the zeal for enforcement, most pot arrests in Canada never result in convictions.  In 2010, just 7,500 of possession charges for all types of drugs resulted in guilty verdicts-about 10 per cent of all 74,000 possession offences.  Most possession busts never make it to trial.  Of those reaching court, more than half of the charges are stayed, withdrawn or result in acquittals.  This dismal batting average begs two questions.  Is this a wise use of police resources and court time? And what criteria selected the unlucky 10 per cent with a guilty verdict? Aside from the probability it is predominantly young males, there are no national breakdowns by income or race.  All told, pot prohibition is “ineffective and costly,” the 2002 Senate report concluded.  “Users are marginalized and exposed to discrimination by police and the criminal justice system; society sees the power and wealth of organized crime enhanced as criminals benefit from prohibition; and governments see their abi! lity to prevent at-risk use diminished.”

The human cost of prohibition

Victoria resident Myles Wilkinson was thrilled to win an all-expenses-paid trip to the Super Bowl in New Orleans this February.  But when he presented himself to U.S.  Customs agents at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, he was refused entry to the U.S.  because of a marijuana possession conviction-from 1981.  “I had two grams of cannabis.  I paid a $50 fine,” he told CBC news.  He was 19.  “I can’t believe that this is happening, for something that happened 32 years ago.” But it can and it does, and the fact that Wilkinson’s Super Bowl contest was sponsored by a brewery adds a painful ironic twist.  Wilkinson’s predicament is sadly typical.  Canadians in their late teens to mid-20s are by far the most likely to be accused of drug offences, StatsCan reports.  They are also the least likely to be able to afford the several thousand dollar defence lawyers typically bill to fight a case that goes to trial.

As for the scale of pot use in Canada, look to the person on your left and the person on your right.  If neither of them have violated the law by smoking pot then it must be you, and probably one of the others, too.  About 40 per cent of Canadians 15 and older admitted in a 2011 Health Canada survey to have smoked pot in their lifetime.  Based on the number of Canadians 15 and older, that’s 10.4 million people.  Just nine per cent of survey respondents said they smoked pot in the last year, compared to 14 per cent in 2004.  Male past-year cannabis users outnumber females by two to one, and young people 15 to 24 are more than three times more likely to have smoked pot in the past year compared to those 25 and older.

The same phone survey of 10,000 Canadians found that the alcohol consumption of one-quarter of Canadians puts them at risk of such chronic or acute conditions as liver disease, cancers, injuries and overdoses.  If there is a crisis, it’s in that legal drug: alcohol.

Legalization and the risk to public safety

Canadians now have the luxury of looking to the social incubators of Washington state and Colorado to assess the potential risks of adding pot to the menu of legalized vices.  Critics have already predicted the outcome: a massive increase in pot use, carnage on the highways, a lost generation of underperforming stoners coughing up their cancerous lungs, Hells Angels becoming the Seagram’s of weed.

As commentator David Frum described it in a column this spring on the Daily Beast website: “A world of weaker families, absent parents, and shrivelling job opportunities is a world in which more Americans will seek a cheap and easy escape from their depressing reality.  Legalized marijuana, like legalized tobacco, will become a diversion for those who feel they have the least to lose.”

These are all legitimate, if often exaggerated, fears that must be addressed.

Will pot use increase? There’s little evidence internationally to suggest a surge in use, at least any more than it has as an easily obtainable illegal substance.  The 2002 Senate report concluded: “We have not legalized cannabis and we have one of the highest rates [of use] in the world.  Countries adopting a more liberal policy have, for the most part, rates of usage lower than ours, which stabilized after a short period of growth.”

The Netherlands, where marijuana is available in hundreds of adult-only coffee shops, is a case in point.  The 2012 United Nations World Drug Report, using its own sources, pegs the level of use there at just 7.7 per cent of those aged 15 to 64.  The U.S.  has the seventh-highest rate of pot smokers, 14.1 per cent, while Canada ranks eighth at 12.7 per cent.  Spain and Italy, which have decriminalized possession for all psychoactive drugs, are interesting contrasts.  Cannabis use in Italy is 14.6 per cent, while Spain, at 10.6 per cent, is lower than the U.S.  or Canada.

Is cannabis a gateway to harder drugs? Again the 2002 Senate report concluded after extensive study: “Thirty years’ experience in the Netherlands disproves this clearly, as do the liberal policies in Spain, Italy and Portugal,” the report said.  “And here in Canada, despite the growing increase in cannabis users [at the time of the report], we have not had a proportionate increase in users of hard drugs.” In fact, use of cocaine, speed, hallucinogens and ecstasy are all at lower rates than in 2004, the Health Canada survey reported in 2011.

The risks of drugged driving: This is undeniably an area of concern, but one we’ve lived with for decades.  Canadian law since 2008 allows police to conduct mandatory roadside assessments if drivers are suspected of drug impairment.  There isn’t yet a roadside breath or blood test for drugs, but police can require a blood test under medical supervision.  There were 1,900 drugged driving incidents in 2011-two per cent of all impaired driving offences in Canada.

Washington state has a standard of five nanograms per millilitre of blood of marijuana’s psychoactive chemical, THC, but there is not always a correlation between those levels and impairment.  “We aren’t going to arrest somebody unless there’s impairment,” Lt.  Rob Sharpe, of Washington’s State Patrol Impaired Driving Section, told the Seattle Times.

So far there has been not a spike in Washington in “green DUIs,” as they’re called.  One reason for this may be that many studies have shown that people react recklessly under influence of alcohol, and cautiously when stoned.  One admittedly small study at Israel’s Ben Gurion University found alcohol and THC were “equally detrimental” to driving abilities.  “After THC administration, subjects drove significantly slower than in the control condition,” the study found, “while after alcohol ingestion, subjects drove significantly faster.” A World Health Organization paper on the health effects of cannabis use says an impaired driver’s risk-taking is one of the greatest dangers, “which the available evidence suggests is reduced by cannabis intoxication, by contrast with alcohol intoxication, which consistently increases risk-taking.” Most certainly criminal sanctions for any form of impaired driving are necessary, as are education campaigns.

What is the health impact of pot? Expect further studies in the states where legalization has unfettered researchers.  In Canada, Gerald Thomas, an analyst with the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., and Chris Davis, an analyst with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, used Health Canada data to chart the health and social costs of cannabis, tobacco and alcohol.  Their findings: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user; alcohol-related health costs were $165 per user; cannabis-related health costs were $20 per user.  Enforcement costs added $153 per drinker and $328 for cannabis user.  In other words, 94 per cent of the cost to society of cannabis comes from keeping it illegal.

Studies on inhaling pot smoke have yielded some surprising results.  A 2006 U.S.  study, the largest of its kind, found regular and even heavy marijuana use doesn’t cause lung cancer.  The findings among users who had smoked as many as 22,000 joints over their lives, “were against our expectations” that there’d be a link to cancer, Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles told the Washington Post.  “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”

Another study compared lung function over 20 years between tobacco and marijuana smokers.  Tobacco smokers lost lung function but pot use had the opposite effect, marginally increasing capacity, said the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  Cannabinoids in marijuana smoke “have been recognized to have potential antitumour properties,” noted a 2009 study by researchers at Brown University.  A study looking at marijuana use and head and neck squamous-cell cancer found an increased risk for smokers and drinkers, while “moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk.” Certainly it is past time for serious and impartial study of the benefits and risks of medicinal marijuana, something that decriminalization would facilitate.

Pot as the lesser of two evils: Let’s dispense once and for all with the stereotype of the unmotivated stoner.  There are also unmotivated drunks, cigarette smokers and milk drinkers.  Studies have ruled out “the existence of the so-called amotivational syndrome,” the Senate report noted a decade ago.  Generations of pot smokers from the Boomers onward have somehow held it together, building families and careers.  Miraculously, the last three U.S.  presidents managed to lift themselves beyond their admitted marijuana use to seek the highest office in the land.  Once there, they forgot whence they came, and continued the war on drugs.

Consider, too, the opinion of retired Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, one of many who convinced a solid majority of voters in Washington state last November to endorse legalization.  “I strongly believe-and most people agree-that our laws should punish people who do harm to others,” he writes in the foreword to the 2009 bestseller Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? “But by banning the use of marijuana and punishing individuals who merely possess the substance, it is difficult to see what harm we are trying to prevent.  It bears repeating: from my own work and the experiences of other members of the law enforcement community, it is abundantly clear that marijuana is rarely, if ever, the cause of harmfully disruptive or violent behaviour.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that marijuana use often helps to tamp down tensions where they otherwise might exist.”

As for pot’s health impact, Stamper concurs with the thesis of the book: study after study finds pot far less toxic and addictive than booze.  “By prohibiting marijuana we are steering people toward a substance that far too many people already abuse, namely alcohol.  Can marijuana be abused? Of course,” he says.  But “it is a much safer product for social and recreational use than alcohol.”

Mason Tvert, a co-author of the Marijuana is Safer book, notes multiple studies show it is impossible to consume enough weed to overdose, yet as a teen he had to be rushed unconscious by ambulance to hospital to have his stomach pumped after drinking a near-lethal amount of alcohol.  “We know alcohol kills brain cells without a doubt,” he says.  “That’s what a hangover is, it’s like the funeral procession for your brain cells.”

Tvert, very much a showman in the early days of the legalization campaign in Colorado, hammered relentlessly on the “benign” nature of pot, compared to alcohol.  His organization sponsored a billboard featuring a bikini-clad beauty, mimicking the usual approach to peddling beer.  In this case, though, the message was: “Marijuana: No hangovers.  No violence.  No carbs!”

Tvert went so far as to call anti-legalization opponent John Hickenlooper, then mayor of Denver, “a drug dealer” because he ran a successful brew pub.  Now, Tvert notes with sweet irony, Hickenlooper is governor, tasked with implementing the regime for legalized weed.

The rewards of legalization

Stop the Violence B.C.-a coalition of public health officials, academics, current and former politicians-is trying to take the emotion out of the legalization debate by building science-based counter-arguments to enforcement.  One of its member studies concludes B.C.  would reap $500 million a year in taxation and licensing revenues from a liquor-control-board style of government regulation and sale.

While some see those numbers as unduly optimistic, both Washington and Colorado are looking at lower enforcement costs and a revenue bonanza from taxation and regulation.  An impact analysis for Colorado, with a population slightly larger than British Columbia, predicts a $12-million saving in enforcement costs in the first year, rising to $40 million “as courts and prisons adapt to fewer and fewer violators.” It predicts combined savings and new revenue of $60 million, “with a potential for this number to double after 2017.”

In the U.S., so far, the Obama administration has shown no inclination to use federal drug laws to trump the state initiatives.  Dana Larsen is banking on a similar response from Ottawa, should Sensible BC manage to get quasi-legalization passed in a September 2014 referendum.  The bar is set high.  They need to gather, over a 90-day span this fall, signatures from 10 per cent of the registered voters in every one of B.C.’s 85 electoral districts to force a referendum-just as voters rallied to kill the Harmonized Sales Tax, against the wishes of the federal government.  The vote, should it go ahead, would seek to amend the Police Act, instructing departments not to enforce cannabis possession.  It would be the first step, says Larsen, to a national repeal of prohibition.

Would the federal government go to war with a province to protect a 90-year-old law built on myths, fears and hysteria; a law that crushed the ambitions of countless thousands of young people; a law that millions violate when it suits their purpose? Likely, but it would be one hell of a fight.  After the legalization vote was decided in Washington last November, the Seattle Police Department posted a humourous online guide to pot use, entitled Marijwhatnow? Yes, it said, those over 21 can carry an ounce of pot.  No, you can’t smoke it in public.  Will Seattle police help federal investigations of marijuana use in the state? Not a chance.  There was, between the lines, a palpable relief that they no longer had to play bad cops to a bad law.  Marijwhatnow? ended with a clip from Lord of the Rings.  Gandalf and Bilbo are smoking a pipe.  “Gandalf, my friend,” says Bilbo, “this will be a night to remember.”

Perhaps one day Canadians will be as lucky.

Source: Maclean’s Magazine (Canada)
Copyright: 2013 Maclean Hunter Publishing Ltd.
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.macleans.ca/
Author: Ken MacQueen

Pot Potential

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Maybe marijuana isn’t all that bad.  A story titled “Marijuana waste helps turn pot-eating pigs into tasty pork roast” caught the attention last Tuesday, as it described how a five-acre farm north of Seattle has discovered how using weed waste into pig food could potentially revolutionize the hog industry and increase per pig profits.

The article went on to point out pigs who were supplemented with the “herbal remedy” ended up 20 to 30 pounds heavier than other pigs in the same litter, in turn creating more revenue for its owners.

Just as with the perceived positive impact of pot-smoking in the pork processing industry, if other countries and industries got on board with a law allowing grass-smoking, perhaps the pot puffing people would potentially create other particular positives for the general population ( I hope you enjoyed the alliteration ): – First off, there would be no one happier than the Cheetos’ cheetah.

After all these years of ( attempting to ) keeping his recreational activities hidden, Chester the Cheetah will finally be able to achieve his lifelong dream of being pictured on a chips bag holding a finely-wrapped toque rather than a cheesy snack.

And, just like modern-day athletes ‘coming out of the closet’ motivates their peers to do the same, Chester ‘emerging from the smoke’ may motivate cartoon-mates to follow.

It would explain why the Pillsbury Dough Boy continues to laugh every time a finger is wedged in to his belly ( when any normal being would have likely snapped like Tiger Woods’ ex by now ).  Toucan Sam’s exploits and continuous flight attempts resulting in him soaring straight in to a tree would suddenly make sense ( don’t puff and pilot ).  After various featured Wheaties’ box athletes have tested positive for some kind of drug or steroid, it would only seem fitting the wheatie character followed suit ( perhaps there’s more to being a champion than simply one’s breakfast ).  And Tony, c’mon, those Frosted Flakes are good, but ar! e they really that Grrrrrrrrreat!? ( guess it depends on who yo! ur dealer is ).  – Any business stalking food could forget about the ‘poor economy’.  Grocery stores could expect evening hordes of half-hazed, red-eyed residents slowly filing into their store with zombie-like precision and intelligence with only three thoughts on the mind: cookies, chips and pizzas.

There would be an unequivocal growth in restaurant delivery sales, as well as requests for take-out menus ( a few puffs and things apparently start disappearing, too ).  On the negative, there would be a sudden inflation in wage expectancy for restaurant telephone operator controllers as they’d have to decipher through calls that included periods of silence, giggling, and orders that comprised not of the actual name of the food wanted but rather orders by description such as, “I’ll take this one” ( as the caller points to the menu in their home, temporarily oblivious to the fact the person they are calling can’t see what they’re looking at ), or “I had it the last time…it was that g! ood one”, or “Anything with lots of cheese on it” followed by a followup phone call request of, “Can I get extra cheese on that”.  On the positive, restaurant owners will no longer have issue with wrong orders; customers will either a ) call back giggling hysterically at the humorous prank pulled on them or b ) take the wrong order as a philosophical epiphany ( “I really did want lasagna instead of ribs.  How did they know?” ).  Delivery boys would also see a huge spike in tips ( although they would likely come in the form of hugs and compliments about how nice their uniform is ).  -The NHL could see a huge spike in revenue.

The “Crime Commissioner” Brendan Shanahan would see his job become irrelevant as dirty hits would become self-eliminated by now-perenially-positive players, and fights would reach an all-time low ( with the only altercations being spurred on by a debate of which Bob Marley song is the all-time greatest ).  Scoring would return to its golden years like in the pre-90′! s as either a ) goaltenders become complacent midway through the game wh! ile internally debating why they should stop the puck while no one else on their team is or b ) the keepers become distracted by the nacho tray sitting on the lap of a fan in the first row.  Meanwhile, all special teams play would be eliminated as the men in stripes would allow players 30 seconds to talk and hug it out rather than make anyone sit on their own in the penalty box.  -While making late-night arrests, lawmakers would no longer have to argue with citizens or worry about anyone resisting cuffs.

Training for officers will also change, as they would no longer be taught how to tackle, restrain or pursue culprits.

That training time would instead be used to ensure all recruits earn a minor in philosophy to instead cause criminals to fall in to submission through confusion or mental distraction.  Meanwhile, the COPS television show would face an all-time viewership drop as available footage of chases and violence plummets ( although show producers would likely bring the show back to relevance after revamping its storyline to resemble that of a ‘Beavis and Butthead’ script and renaming it “The Great Cornholio!” ).  Well that was fun! I’m sure this could continue on, but we’re out of space, so be sure to keep a smile on your face for the week and I’ll be sure to keep a soberly-induced smirk on mine as well.

Source: Neepawa Press, The (CN MB)
Copyright: 2013 Glacier Community Media
Contact: [email protected]
Website: http://www.neepawapress.com/
Author: Kaiten Critchlow

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