Canada’s continued prohibition of marijuana represents perhaps the most glaring example of our government’s near total lack of critical thinking. While legalization efforts are catching across the globe, and perhaps more importantly are proving more effective deterrents against organized crime, we continue to endorse the prohibition of marijuana seemingly without ever having asked why it is illegal in the first place.
The near constant insinuation by the Federal Tories that the legalization of marijuana, as proposed by Justin Trudeau, is intended to put drugs in the hands of children is vulgar, reprehensible and completely unfounded. But in country governed by the politics of fear it should come as no surprise.
The Tories have their backs against the wall, having appealed so much to the most fundamentalist, evangelically conservative elements of our society they couldn’t support a sensible reform of our antiquated drug laws even if it was their own idea. And so like mules they stubbornly refuse to acknowledge reality.
Marijuana is misclassified.
Marijuana may be a drug, but it is quite unlike any other drug out there. It is not habit forming, it can be used regularly and recreationally without serious physical or mental side-effects and has myriad therapeutic effects, the extent of which we have no idea simply because we’ve idiotically refused to fully examine its medicinal qualities.
Cannabis is a plant that has a million uses and can be grown throughout the world. A plant so useful, so universal, so ubiquitous is illegal to possess, cultivate or use in this, what was once a progressive, forward-thinking nation.
I can imagine the only reason marijuana continues to be illegal is because, as ubiquitous as it is, it could be cultivated by just about everyone. For that reason, people in this country may no longer need to buy a wide variety of government-subsidized medication, may refrain from gambling in government-owned casinos or buying highly-taxed government-regulated drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.
The only reason marijuana is illegal in the first place is because of racism and racist ideas that were prevalent in Canada about a hundred years ago. Anti-Asian sentiment was widespread back then and a common myth was that Asian men lusted after white women and were using drugs (at first opium, then heroin, cocaine and then marijuana) to turn newly socially and politically liberated Canadian women into sex slaves.
It’s an unfortunate reality of our political experience that progressive early feminism had to ride the coattails of socially conservative temperance movements which promoted these ideas in the yellow press. It was these temperance movements which advocated against drugs for the aforementioned reasons inasmuch as alcohol because of widespread alcoholism (a malady more associated with men at the time). Reform wound up cutting two ways, empowering women with the vote and then getting those votes to empower social conservatism.
Today our socially conservative federal government continues to uphold draconian drug laws and is pushing for stiffer sentences, despite mounting evidence marijuana’s illegality is completely and thoroughly baseless. The argument it is a ‘gateway drug,’ whatever that means, is ludicrous and absurd. You may as well say spaghetti is the gateway to pasta, or that pasta is a gateway to enjoying Italian food. Maybe remote controls are the gateways to television addiction, maybe hockey’s a gateway to high dental costs…
Where does it end?
What’s even more enigmatic is that the Tories haven’t recognized three key points:
1. Marijuana arrests are racially-skewed to begin with and clog up our judicial system and prisons. Legalization removes the institutionalized racism and clears out a lot of prison beds and courtrooms. All of this saves money and increases the respectability of our federal judicial system.
2. Legalizing marijuana takes money out of the hands of organized crime and puts it back in the hands of the government through taxation. Marijuana is in constant high demand and users are used to paying an admittedly exorbitant price for the product. Legalizing marijuana could return more money to the federal government in taxation than alcohol and tobacco combined. The loss of this revenue would be crippling for organized crime across Canada.
3. The prohibition of Cannabis and marijuana is quite simply anti-capitalist. Legalization would provide numerous new small business opportunities as they pertain to the cultivation of cannabis and the production and sale of marijuana and marijuana by-products for a potentially massive number of consumers. The government monopoly on sin would be broken.
I can imagine farmers might develop cannabis as a kind of back-up cash crop, an insurance against bad harvests, and this in turn could have the effect of reviving Canadian agricultural independence more broadly.
But of course, it is precisely for all these reasons that our corporate-owned federal government refuses to look at marijuana prohibition critically and precisely why they equate drug law reform with reckless child abuse.
* Look for Taylor Noakes’ interview with Adam Greenblatt on the privatization of medical marijuana in Canada in a few days on FTB