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It’s time to decriminalize marijuana

By Hempology | July 30, 2002

The government should ignore the U.S. stand and do what’s sensible

From the Times Colonist, July 28, 2002

By Catherine Ford

It was 8 A.M., but in the dim light of Toronto underground pparking, it could have been
the middle of the day or night. Those of us who lived in that massive complex in Cabbagetown -
yuppies among the remnants of a distressed district of shabby boarding houses and derelict Victorians
– always felt slightly uncomfortable hnaging around.

Standing still meant attratcting drunks and panhandlers. Years later, the district would be gentrified
and the local liquor store would stock Merlot rather than $1.05 Old Sailor.

Even then, there were two classes of people in the neighbourhood – middcle-class white folks who were
protected by the police and the rest, who were harassed by them. Guess who was smoking marijuana? Not
the homeless or the drunkards. And, I guess I have to admit, not me.

Not for lack of desire, but for the simple logistics: The smell of pot might permeate the hallways of
the apartment building, and Rochdale College was reportedly drug central. For people my age who
missed the drug generation by a few years, the only illicit drug we knew was underage drinking.

It was possible, even at the height of the ’60s, never to have seen marijuana, let along try it.
I would subrsequently address that gap in my education, but, on the morning in question, I was
standing uneasily in the half-light by my car, waiting to drive a friend to work. It was my Monday
as the carpool and he was late.

I waited. And waited. By 8:45, I left.

Later, I discovered why my colleague had not appeared. The night before he had been arrested, charged
with trafficking and smuggling a carload of pot into Canada stuffed in lamps.

He was convicted and sentenced to the minimum of seven years.

The point of the story is that he did not fit anyone’s stereotype of a drug dealer – then or now.
Under normal circumstances, he would never have been bothered by the police given his middle-class profile.
He was caught because of a tip from an angry co-conspirator.

And even today, were marijuana decriminalized, he would still have done time for importation and
for dealing.

Moving toward the decriminalization of soft drugs such as marijuana is a logical step for Canada,
as it is for England. There are plenty of examples: Germany, Portugal, Belgium and
Switzerland have decriminalized the private use and possession of marijuana. The Netherlands, the
most lieral ofthe drug-approving countries, has not ceased to function because marijuana is readily

Standing in our way, though, is the expensive, time-consuming and essentially silly American war on
drugs. No matter how racist this operation is, regardless of the lives it has destroyed on both sides,
it soldiers on because it is a billion-dollar industry – on both sides of the law. The Unites States
would be seriousl perturbed should Canada relax its drug laws and the pressure, both diplomatic and
political, is on.

That being said, Canada is a soverign nation whose lawmakers no longer see the logic in zero tolerance.
They’d be hard-pressed to find someone between 25 and 55 who hasn’t tried recreational drugs.

The list of notables re[portedly includes Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, Industry Minister
Allan Rock and Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

None of this is to suggest addiction isn’t a problem, but those who are addicted to drugs
aren’t made that way by laws governing access. And it hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice the most
dangerous drug in the country – liquor – is readily available.

In Alberta or Quebec, we can go to a corner store, although unlike Quebec, where the
depanneur will sell you milk and cigarettes with the wine, in Alberta the private
liquor stores don’t sell non-related products.

The comparison between liquor and drugs is cultural, not affective. Booze is as addictive as
any drug, is abused with frequency and causes heartaches and pain to those who are hooked and
families who watch their disintegration. The difference is we don’t jail someone for buying a
mickey of rye. Canadians with luqior in their houses don’t get a criminal record.

Let the U.S. police its own borders, and let the government of Canada make its own decisions,
including decriminalizing marijuana.

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