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Let’s face facts: It’s time to make marijuana legal

By Hempology | January 14, 2004

From the Times Colonist, January 14th, 2004

By Jody Paterson <>

I can’t imagine how much money has been spent in 100 years of trying to rid the country
of marijuana. But however many mega-billions it adds up to, I’m going to go out on a limb
here and suggest that it’s all been for naught.

I mean, one look at the TV footage of that great big barn of a marijuana operation discovered
alongside the highway in Barrie, One. tells you everything you need to know about how the
“war on drugs” is going in Canada. Not well.

I guess we could blame police, although it seems to me they’ve been trying to damndest for
the better part of a century now. Or maybe the courts for being too lenient in their
sentancing. Or the Summer of Love.

But I’m thinking that the real problem is us, smoking marijuana by the bushel from one
end of the country to the other and then acting like it’s a surprise that a hot little
growth industry has sprung up to keep us supplied.

Market forces are a powerful thing, especially when the product in question brings pleasure.
They’ll seek it even when it’s illegal, which is why laws to stop drug use and prostitution
have had little effect.

And as long as there are buyers, there are always going to be sellers. That massive
hydroponics operation in Barrie, not to mention the 20,000 or so grow operations here in
B.C., exists because there’s a phenomenal demand for marijuana.

What’s to be made of that? An illegal drug that four generations of Canadians have been
warned away from, at times hysterically, continues to be in such demand that an extensive
and complex industry has developed to serve an immense market.

Have we gone mad? Don’t we know what happens to people who smoke marijuana?

Yes, we probably do, which would explain why an estimated one million Canadians regularly
break the law around marijuana possession. Because the truth is that nothing too bad
happens when people smoke pot.

That’s not to say that the drug is good for you. Few drugs are. But marijuana also isn’t
the insane-making, violence-inducing, soul-destroying substance that it has been made out
to be for too many years to count, a fact that a long line of users has happily discovered
for themselves.

If marijuana had been dealt with from the start as the rather interesting garden plant that
it is, the cautionary tales we all heard as kids might have focused on health risks from
smoke inhalation and the drug’s detremental effect on the immune system, or its poor fit
with school, work and heavy equipment. Informed decisions could have been made based on the
drug’s actual risk factors.

Instead, we got the reefer madness treatment. We got the scary lectures and the frightening
movies in guidance class. We got the “Just Say No” campaign as it trickled north from the
U.S., and then the “gateway drug” version a few years later. When we smoked pot anyway and
the sky didn’t fall, we ended up concluding that we’d been lied to.

Which has brought us to the point that we’re at now, where marijuana use is so common -
and the laws so widely ignored – that urban farms are springing up everywhere from
posh neighbourhoods and middle-class basements to abandoned breweries along one of the
busiest highways in the country. And now we really do have a problem, because organized
crime owns the vast industry.

What’s the solution? Give up the fight. Legalize marijuana.

Knock the illegal profit out of the business but returning pot to its humble roots as
a simple plant.

Let people grow it in their yards instead of skulking down to Centennial Square to see if
some kid can buy it for them.

Lift the curtain of shame around Canada’s bustling marijuana trade and recast it as a
legal enterprise that we Canucks are obviously quite good at.

The country’s marijuana industry thrives bevcause people like the stuff. And while it’s
not necessarily good for them, neither is it terribly bad, particularly when compared to
legal drugs such as alcohol and nicotine.

So let’s quit the foolishness and move on. We’ve gone to pot, and there’s no going back.

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