There is a growing chorus of people who want to legalize marijuana, and in a way I understand their position. Law enforcement and government spends billions of dollars every year trying to track down and incarcerate casual users of the drug. It fills up our courts and prisons and further burdens the taxpayer with costs.
Calgary - April 26, 2013 - There is a growing chorus of people who want to legalize marijuana, and in a way I understand their position. Law enforcement and government spends billions of dollars every year trying to track down and incarcerate casual users of the drug. It fills up our courts and prisons and further burdens the taxpayer with costs. Makes sense to legalize, doesn't it? Well, I'm not so sure. That's why I tend to think decriminalization is the way to go. That way people who use this substance won’t have a criminal record if they’re caught with it, but there will be a small fine. Similar to what would happen if you were caught walking down the street with an open bottle of booze. I really don't think the authorities, politicians and pot users have thought this issue all the way through. Let me explain.
I wonder what health effects long term marijuana smoking has on its users? Does it cause cancer, COPD, emphysema etc? What about brain damage? I know a few people who smoke this stuff regularly and they seem baked all the time. (Update: New Support for Link Between Cannabis and Schizophrenia) Can someone stoned on pot properly drive a car? Can the police accurately do a curb-side test to check to see if someone is impaired? Is marijuana a gateway drug? I've been told by health officials it is. With all the focus on the health issues and costs associated with cigarettes, do we want to add smoking marijuana to the list? People ask why cigarettes aren't banned if they're so dangerous. Actually, that's a good question with an easy answer... taxes. Which brings me to my next point.
There is no doubt taxing marijuana could be good for government revenues. So why not legalize the stuff, jack up the prices and make a killing on weed? Makes sense, right? Well, maybe for the government, but what about the pot users themselves? Why would they want the government to get involved in their recreational activity? I know marijuana users have been begging for the government to legalize pot for years, but be careful what you wish for, because if the government gets control of your pot what do you want to bet they screw it up royally? What do you want to bet it’s poor quality? What do you want to bet prices skyrocket for your usual little dime bag of pot? What do you want to bet you turn to the guy who sells the good stuff illegally? I’ve been asking these questions of pot smokers for years and they still don’t get it. They must be smoking something.
I'm wondering if legalization in Canada may lead to a system like California, where people with “medical conditions” can access the growing number of marijuana distributors for their “medicine”. This set up has also produced a growing number of people suffering from all manner of ailments that need to be treated with a doobie or two. More sick people seem to come from legalizing this stuff. I wonder why? As for the Californiafication of pot trade in Canada... I have my doubts that our regulation loving provincial and federal governments are going to want to let the private sector dictate what type of marijuana is sold, where it's sold and how much it costs. Especially after health officials start warning of the health effects of people deeply inhaling marijuana smoke. No doubt doctors will urge government to raise taxes to try stop people from smoking marijuana. Which begs the question... Why legalize it in the first place?
Now let's see what can we learn from another smokable product available in stores today... cigarettes. As the taxes rose on cigarettes in Canada the amount of organized crime getting involved in producing and distributing cheap smokes grew. The federal and provincial governments are losing billions in tax revenue every year because of the money to be made in the illegal smoke industry. Add in the increased dollars spent on law enforcement to try to catch all the boats, vans, cars, snowmobiles and trucks hauling the illegal cigarettes across the border and the cost grows even more. Let's not forget the risk to law enforcement personnel who have to track down heavily armed and organized gangs smuggling the smokes. My former hometown of Cornwall, Ontario was terrorized in the 90’s because of the smugglers. I woke up many times to the sound of gunfire on the St. Lawrence River. The local hockey arena and the radio station I worked at got shot up as well. People wouldn't go boating at night and an entire RCMP task force has been set up to stop smuggling. Much of the units time is spent tracking down illegal smokes. What's to stop this same scenario from happening with marijuana? With pot the police might even be more busy as they spend time tracking down more illegal pot growers? You don't think the feds are going to let you grow this stuff yourself, do you? That would cut into profits. Then again how will they stop it.
So, what are we to make of the idea of legalizing pot? I may be completely wrong and this social experiment will come out swimmingly, but I really don't think the politicians, potheads and libertarians have thought the whole thing through. The unforeseen circumstances are not so unforeseen. We merely have to look at the current situation with cigarettes to see the future of marijuana. Do we really want more of the same? I say decriminalize. That way if you get caught with pot you only get a fine, the police can focus on the big time drug dealers and I don't have to look at your dopey face when I'm out in public.
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment. Follow me on Twitter at @johnrbolton1
John Bolton has been a broadcaster for 25 years, most recently in Cornwall Ontario. After living in Ontario his entire life John and his wife Sheila recently moved to Alberta where John fills in on Calgary radio discussing politics, current events and all things Alberta. He believes in personal responsibility, limited government and being able to keep more of the money he earns. If you have questions or wish to contact John, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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