Friday, December 07, 2007

Drugs are bad...mmmkay...

This is a bit off-topic but I was at a Liberal policy thingy (for lack of a better term) on Monday and got into an argument with a fellow participant (and blogger) about marijuana legalization. I could do a lengthy post on this but that would probably mean looking up facts and figures and, well, I don't really feel like doing that. Unless you favour a return to alcohol prohibition, there's no reason you should oppose this. People will smoke pot regardless of whether it's legal or not and at least by legalizing it, it's easier to regulate the content and who has access to it. Better to have the government as Canada's drug dealer because the government won't sell to minors or push buyers on to harder stuff (a safe assumption now that Andre Boisclair has left politics). And, it's probably better that the government be making billions off of this, rather than the criminals (although, given how money is spent in Ottawa, I guess this point is perfectly debatable). Those radical unelected pot heads in the Senate agree. So do a majority of Canadians, apparently (admittedly on a poll where the decriminalization option wasn't given). Going further, Foreign Policy had a good article on the world drug trade that pushes for legalizing pretty much everything.

So, rather than get into a huge debate on the benefits of marijuana legalization, I'm going to pose an open question. Given the jokes and ridicule it would generate, would this be a politically viable position for any of the major parties (or the NDP) to take as an election issue? Failing that, would it make sense for a party to push this forward once in the comfy confines of a majority government?



  • Given that the majority of election campaigns are run on sound bites and headlines, I doubt it. The debate likely requires one drawing out statistics, medical data, and the aforementioned prohibition comparison. The knee-jerk opposition would likely invoke the Mayerthorpe killings as a reason why drugs are "destroying society".

    I think it's a perfectly reasonable policy to bring though. I have yet to see any evidence that marijuana is more harmful to individuals/society than, say, tobacco or alcohol. The question then becomes (especially in the case of a majority gvt): Is it democratic to plan on this sort of legislation without bringing it up as policy during the election? Can it really be called "the will of the people" if the people who voted for you didn't know that was one of your policies?

    By Blogger Dunkler, at 2:47 a.m.  

  • I'm in full agreement with you.

    There are serious problems with drug laws in this, and other countries - i.e. the US. You only need to make the connection between draconian drug laws and human rights abuses (in places like Columbia and Afghanistan) to understand that we have a terrible record on rational drug policies.

    I'm in full agreement with you on legalizing pot, and I'd go even further. The problem is that we live in a culture where fear of drugs (read, plants or fungi) has been promoted and subsidized.

    The route we've been on has led to serious human rights abuses around the world, subsidies for drug and warlords (look at Afghanistan's opium crop and the Senlis Council's research), the destruction of cultures, and is completely uneconomic.

    Comedian Bill Hicks once said that making pot illegal was like saying that God made a mistake.

    Let's get past this stupidity.

    By Blogger Dr. Tux, at 3:23 a.m.  

  • I believe it would have a huge political pay off, especially for the Liberals. Consider this. Harper has been trying to create distance between himself and his social conservative base and the Bush administration ever since he became Prime Minster. If the Liberals promised to legalize marijuana, not only would Harper find himself in lock step with Campaign for Life and Real Women, but Dick Cheney, George Bush, John Walters, Fox news, the Washington Times, James Dobson, Pat Robinson and the faculty at Bob Jones University will line up behind him. The Liberals could play the nationalist card and social conservative card all at once. The thought of being able to strike a fatal blow the US war on drugs will make Canadians a little giddy. If that was not enough, on the flip side of things, a legion of rock stars, intellectuals, movie stars, and high brow magazines, such as the New Yorker and Harper’s will line up behind the Liberals. Joe Stewart, for one, would be all over this. Canada would again be "cool". Imagine a hundred thousand plus people at a pro legalization concert in Vancouver, say, in the midst of an election campaign. Seattle’s Hempfest regularly draws over a 100,000 and in terms of significance such a concert would, how should I put this?, smoke it. It would not be possible to organize anything now, but should the Liberals announce such a policy now and stave off an election for say another 6 months it may be possible. Dion would certainly not lack for name recognition anymore. Overnight he would become a household name, not just in Canada but abroad as well. Slowly but surely the Liberal proposal will kick start debate from Rio to Berlin to London to Sydney. Continuing on, such a promise would tear the Right apart. Libertarians and social conservatives would be at each other’s throats and the National, Post and great swaths of the Sun Media chain will side with the Liberals on this one! The National Post Canada’s flag ship of Canadian conservativism has repeatedly called on marijuana to be legalized and has repeatedly heaped scorn on the Conservative position. The Liberal position would be popular in Quebec. Quebecers lead the nation in marijuana consumption. It should also be noted that no part of the country, according to a Macleans poll, was more comfortable with “cool” Canada. Last but not least the Conservatives would left defending a bunch of talking points that are so discredited they are considered a form of "madness", "reefer madness". This matters. As with the SSM the moral intellectual bankruptcy of the Conservative position will erode their credibility particularly with the young and with urbanites.

    By Blogger Koby, at 6:56 a.m.  

  • I think it depends on the demographic you're looking to vote for you. Yep, under 30's are gonna support it. Parents in deep denial about the prospect of their kids having free and easy access to pot (even though those same kids get hammered at parties on Friday and Saturday nights) are probably not gonna support it. Yep, it makes sense to legalize it, but you're going to want to see where the backlash is coming from when you take a position on legalizing it. You might be surprised.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 8:08 a.m.  

  • I think we have to crawl before we walk. I think a better political position right now is to decriminalize it. Most people agree that no one should have a criminal record for smoking a joint. Once that happens then maybe a party can move on to having the legalize position.

    By Blogger me dere robert, at 8:43 a.m.  

  • Might screw with cross-border trade if you can drop $10 for a pack of Du Maurier Extra-High's at the gas station before the border. A little. And do you want someone smoking pot outside a bar? On the c-train platform? I have no issue with anyone toking up at home, but legalizing is something different. That's why the Senate went for decriminalization.

    By Blogger matt, at 9:00 a.m.  

  • I'm totally in agreement that both the NDP and the Liberals should have this in the platform/"Red Book"/whatever if they don't already. But in light of how many other important things need to be done in the country and how controversial it would be, I don't see the point of drawing it out enough to make it an election issue.

    By Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist, at 9:20 a.m.  

  • All consentual crimes should be legal and all blue laws should be eliminated, which they almost are. If you are too young to know what blue laws are, they are laws that are based on observing Christianity aka no Sunday shopping. This legislation is pointless in a modern, liberal, inclusive western democracy.

    The only "consentual" crimes that should still be illegal are charter violations, which would in fact not be consentual for the victims, such as promoting hate.

    All others, drugs, prostitution, shopping and selling anytime you want any day of the year, all medical proceedures, euthenasia should be legal after the age of 18, asumming those under 18 can't give consent as minors for certain acts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:48 a.m.  

  • Decriminalizing is the way to go with POT.

    The government loves when people grow and sell their own because that is more money to spend on the economy.

    B.C's POT farming is the biggest industry in the whole province.

    Billions of dollars are grown every year in B.C and that is billions of dollars for criminals to spend in the economy.

    Why would the Liberals or Dippers want to grow it, when the people in Canada are doing a good enough job?

    Not just that, but if you ask medicinal users, they would tell you that goverment grown DOPE is garbage.

    People want to smoke the killer, the primo, the skunk, not garbage.

    I have smoked pot for 15 years straight(15-29) and the weed on the street is PRIMO.

    Decrminalize it, but let the street grow their own.

    We don't need the leftist big brother to grow my smoke.

    Big brother needs to be elimianted from Canada, not increased in size.

    God Bless and smoke 10 a day to keep the doctor away.

    By Blogger Johnathon, at 10:41 a.m.  

  • TO the Calgary grit.

    This is what you said, "Better to have the government as Canada's drug dealer because the government won't sell to minors or push buyers on to harder stuff (a safe assumption now that Andre Boisclair has left politics)"

    If yu know anything about Big Brother run beer stores, you would know that THEY SELL TO MINORS EVERYDAY.

    All you need is fake I.D.

    Are you telling me that you NEVER bought booze as a minor.

    Come on champ! Grow up please.

    By Blogger Johnathon, at 10:43 a.m.  

  • Decriminalization would do nothing to get to the heart of the real problems associated with marijuana. For starters it does nothing to eliminate the organized crime element, and the grow-ops in residential areas--which when you scratch the surface with opponents of pot you find are the biggest issues. Whats more you are still punishing pot smokers for their own private, personal conduct which is still wrong (and could actually lead to an increase in enforcement). Its just as wrong to say "your going to jail for your private, personal conduct", as "we're giving you a find for your private, personal conduct" IMHO. Legalization is the only real way to go.

    That being said there is something to be said for what grumpy voter said. It often astounds me how profoundly ignorant and nonsensical a large portion of our society is towards pot--even though those of us who support legalization do form a statistical majority.

    I'd love to fight the pot fight against the Conservatives/DEA/Republicans/UN but I doubt the current leadership is willing to die on that sword.

    By Blogger KC, at 11:03 a.m.  

  • I think a strong stance on legalization would play well in many ridings and with the demographic of the future. Those who would vote based on criminalizing pot smokers are a smaller and smaller fraction of the electorate. However, it might not even be necessary to push for full on legalization to score political points on this issue. Just pointing out how fundamentally flawed the Conservative approach-now they are calling for mandatory mins on growing even one plant!!-in a clear and intelligent manner would help demonstrate how out of touch with Canadian social values the Cons are. The NDP had a chance to own this issue but have been pretty weak on it lately, there is an opportunity for either party to gain support from this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:24 a.m.  

  • "And, it's probably better that the government be making billions off of this, rather than the criminals (although, given how money is spent in Ottawa, I guess this point is perfectly debatable)."

    and when the Liberals are in power, the point is moot.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:19 p.m.  

  • matt; you could still ban the smoking of pot outside bars, on c-train platforms, etc...just like is done with cigarettes.

    johnathon; Yeah, some minors would probably get their hands on it, but it wouldn't be any worse than the current situation.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:37 p.m.  

  • i gave up pot a long time ago.
    only makes one anxious
    no redeeming properties

    am i better off without it?

    no doubt.

    just look up crime stats related to it, murder, extortion, et al

    By Blogger Unknown, at 3:37 p.m.  

  • good policy plank

    "Liberals Support Lung Cancer"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:13 p.m.  

  • "any of the major parties (or the NDP)"


    I love it, that is the line of the year my friend, almost makes up for the fact that you plagerize :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:53 p.m.  

  • The only good thing to be said about Liberal’s decriminalization policy politically or otherwise is that it could serve as a Trojan horse. Robbed of the ability to charge traffickers with the lesser charge of possession, police may not be able to keep up with the huge number of growers coming onto the market and the whole rotten prohibition edifice may come crashing down. Marc Emery may get his wish. The producers might over grow the system.

    What is wrong with the position politically? Well, the Liberals have long maintained that Canadians should not be saddled with a criminal record for consuming something that is, after all, less harmful than alcohol. It is in this light that former Prime Minster Chrétien famously joked about having a joint in one hand and the money to pay for the fine of having it in the other.

    "I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand."

    At the same time as they have downplayed the affects of smoking marijuana they have stressed the importance of stiff penalties for trafficking. Taken in isolation such bipolar position has a certain superficial appeal. However, the Liberal policy of decriminalization is inherently incoherent; it is political position; it is an attempt to appeal to both sides of the political divide at the same time and it will not take too much time and effort to show how conflicted the Liberal position is. Indeed, image how ridiculous it would have sounded if this is what Chrétien said?

    "I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand. Having paid my fine, I would hope the cops find the person who sold it to me and put him in jail for a very long time."

    This is essentially the Liberal’s current position. The problem is if it not already obvious by now that if the act of consumption is not deemed overly ruinous then the whole punitive rationale for trafficking comes crashing down. Add to the mix an acknowledgment that marijuana can serve a medical purpose and the fact that the Liberal dominated senate recommended in the strongest terms that marijuana be legalized and you have a conceptual train wreck as a policy.

    All of this plays right into the Conservatives hands. The public is concerned about the growing number of grow ups and wants something done about it. The Conservatives not only promise action, but are going to blame the Liberals for the increase in grow ups. They are going to say the Liberals have long sent out mixed messages about marijuana. This they will imply, or explicitly say, has led to increased demand for the product and as a consequence an increased number of grow ups to meet the demand.

    "We are very concerned about the damage and pain that drugs cause families and we intend to reverse the trend toward vague, ambiguous messaging that has characterized Canadian attitudes in the recent past," Clement said.
    According to the United Nations office of Drugs and Crime, Clement said 16.8 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 smoke marijuana.
    He said that's the highest rate of any country in the world and the figure is almost equal to the number of tobacco smokers in Canada.

    In order to boaster their case the Conservatives are going to force feed the Liberals their own words. One can count on them repeatedly bringing up the Chrétien quote, and former Prime Minster Martin’s response to question about whether he ever smoked marijuana.

    "The answer is: I never smoked. I never smoked anything, but there was an earlier time, years ago, when Sheila made some brownies and they did have a strange taste"

    Of course one can find quotes such as these going all the way back to Trudeau.

    By Blogger Koby, at 6:09 p.m.  

  • It is not enough to simply look at the poll numbers, which are favorable anyway, and say it is wise to go forward with such a position or not. The marijuana issue will get people talking. There will be more said about this than on SSM and there was a hell of a lot said about SSM. What this means is that there is no hope that feeble crop of Conservative talking points will last more than a month at most before they become the source of public ridicule. As with SSM, the success of the policy from a Liberal point of view is not how the numbers break down per say as it is being afforded the opportunity to bash the Conservatives brains in whether the subject arises. The longer the issue is at the forefront the more collateral damage the Conservatives endure.

    By Blogger Koby, at 6:24 p.m.  

  • SSM is a good example, koby. There are polls going back a decade showing majority support for it and there's never been one that doesn't show it as more popular than the Conservative Party. But from the debate you'd never know that it's enjoyed majority support for as long as we've been talking about it.

    The majority who are in favour of it don't really care that much about it. Those opposed, on the other hand, care about it with a religious fervour and they won't shut up.

    By Blogger Reality Bites, at 7:45 p.m.  

  • I think that arguments for the legalization and government regulation of marijuana should be extended to all narcotics, perhaps with different regulations for different narcotics.
    Perhaps the Conservatives should propose this.
    O.K. - stop laughing.
    It is a serious law and order proposal.It would do significant damage to organized crime in this country and reduce the related violence in our cities.
    The "war on drugs" is an ineffective waste of tax dollars and a serious drain on our law enforcement, judicial and correctional systems.
    Good conservative stuff.

    Should we assume that vested interests that want to preserve the status quo are influencing some or all of our political parties ?

    There would be some fine discussions over what to do with the new tax money.

    There is a brief history of our experience with prohibition

    By Blogger doug newton, at 10:07 p.m.  

  • I, on balance, support legalization (I think people should be allowed to put crack in their captain crunch if they want), but I am not sure I buy the "this will be just like alcohol prohibition" argument. For one, I think there is a certain way in which prohibition worked.

    Prohibition, undoubtedly, failed to stop people from drinking. However, by making bootlegging an attractive option for the limited number of people willing to be gangsters you ensured that a lot of the resources of organized crime would be put into that enterprise.

    Given limited manpower, that also meant comparatively less resources going into drug peddling (remember that drug use was a far far worse problem in the 1920's than it is now).

    If legalized, illegal grow-ops will go belly-up quite quickly. You will probably get a short-term reduction in pot use as well. However, what are large organizations like the Hell's Angels going to do? They need revenue streams, after all. Increasingly they will traffic in other drugs, which will be increasingly available on the streets. It may not be immediate - it took the mob a few years to switch over.

    That is why, if you are going to go the path of legalization, you should actually legalize everything (decriminalization, on the other hand, is a half-step that, by limiting supply, keeps grow ops in business).

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 8:30 a.m.  

  • I remain hopeful that one day a political figure will take the tack, "I don't give a f**k about drug addicts -- they did it to themselves -- but this is a waste of money, a great source of revenue for organized crime, and a misuse of police resources."

    I think that that approach would avoid ridicule, and I think that it would strike a chord with a majority of Canadians.

    But perhaps it makes too much sense for it to be adopted.

    By Blogger Ben (The Tiger in Exile), at 9:37 a.m.  

  • In your mind, put the word "Hippie" next to a picture of Dion. Does that seem as ridiculous to you as it does to me?

    Then how can the conservatives use it against him?

    It's inherently liberal, it's taking a controversial yet well reasoned stand on an issue (which deflates the "he's not a leader" crap they've been peddling), and it's setting the agenda of the debate.

    Sounds like a great idea.

    Here's the problem. We have yet to see Dion impose an opinion on his caucus, and I'm sure there are some incumbents who would rather campaign in an election where this wasn't an issue. If he can bring those people onside, I'd say do it.

    It's a big risk, undoubtedly, but how much does he have to lose?

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 2:25 p.m.  

  • gauntlet:

    First you say -
    "(which deflates the "he's not a leader" crap they've been peddling)"

    and in the next breath you say - "We have yet to see Dion impose an opinion on his caucus"

    Sooooo... exactly how is Dion showing leadership in caucus?

    Maybe, just maybe the CPC is right, this professorial transplant really is out of place as LPC leader?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:48 p.m.  

  • SSM is a good example, koby. There are polls going back a decade showing majority support for it and there's never been one that doesn't show it as more popular than the Conservative Party. But from the debate you'd never know that it's enjoyed majority support for as long as we've been talking about it.

    Since you tried to claim this in an earlier thread, I'll repost my response.

    That's not even close to being accurate. Polls mostly showed a majority against SSM (or a three-way split between marriage/civil union/nothing), right up until SSM passed in June 2005. They took a dramatic swing in favour once C-38 was finally enacted, however.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 6:34 p.m.  

  • If we could put all the partisan rhetoric aside (can we?...hmmm...I sort of doubt it, unfortunately), it might be possible to evaluate policy on its inherent merits rather than its strategic or tactical value for or against one party or the other.

    Perhaps this can't be the forum for such considerations, as it is blatantly named "CalgaryGrit". But I think Canadians generally are tuning out the partisanship and are looking for pragmatic, non-idealistic, workable solutions to real problems, and the first group of politicians that provide this will get a lot of meaningful support.

    I've said it before, I'll say it again; the real problem with our democratic system in Canada is not necessarily our structure, or our processes, the problem lies in the overarching powers of the PARTY system, especially the concentration of power in the PMO. No other advamced liberal democracy hobbles its processes or stifles discussion as much as Canada does.

    Now, to the point at hand: Is decriminalization/legalization of marijuana and other "soft" drugs good policy? I would say it is, just because prohibition isn't working and is costing us millions, if not billions, in squandered resources (money, police attention). You will NEVER be able to stifle supply as long as there is demand (that's how the market works, right CONS?), so address the reasons people do drugs in the first place (i.e. why do they want to alter "reality"?) if you're serious about the drug "problem".

    In the Neatherlands, soft drug use is tolerated, but the authorities are really tough on "hard" drugs, which generally negates the whole "gateway drug" argument against marijuana.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:57 p.m.  

  • I think it should be legalized, enjoying the same as wine and liquor.

    Yes, I think it would be worthwhile to pick up as a campaign/election issue for a party. It would require more in-depth attention from the media and public than we usually see given, but I think people would pay attention, though.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 9:57 p.m.  

  • The Gubmint could gain some respect if they showed leadership and legalized pot at $120 per pack of skinny joints on all corner store shelves.

    Now before all you puritans gasp and go for my throat, just remember, it would destroy Emery.[ the hemp king.] He’s no friend of mine, but he and his type are special to many of you out there, because you can’t pick up a pack of joints at the corner store.

    Odd, but true. If pot had been legal ten years ago, Emery would not be a millionaire today and we would have been able to afford better health care. Legal pot sales would have made us a mint in taxes.

    What about the poor kids,… they whimper.
    Kids are now buying from pedophiles in dark alleys. You wanna stick with that?
    Kids are being poisoned with spiked stuff. One teenager just died that way here on Vancouver Island yesterday.[ date when I first made this comment]. Should we stay with that routine? Spiked means another hooked customer. Gangs expanding business.

    Kids are not in the habit of dropping $120 for hobby entertainment. Kids are frugal. If they do buy a pack. It will likely last the whole summer long. The next $120 will likely go for things of better value. [ skateboard…hockey stuff ]

    How do you get rid of grow-ops and the shotguns and handguns at grow-ops, rental unit fires and mold damage, Pitt-Bulls as anti-RCMP weapons, Hydro-Power theft, profits to gangs and lessen shootings between gangs and reduce the outlaw attraction buzz that attracts kids to pot in some casese?

    By putting packs of skinny joints on store shelves everywhere , in the same way governments put the deadlier drug alcohol on store shelves everywhere.
    Time to collect the taxes and use some of it to unhook kids who are headed for the sewer. . . .eh? = TG

    By Blogger TonyGuitar, at 2:54 a.m.  

  • Sure I have cravings and some times are worse than others but I haven’t given in to the urges. With a reason, a good plan for lowering your intake of the real stuff, support and the willpower to say no to the incredible urges it can be done......

    By Anonymous smoke plus smoking blend, at 4:32 a.m.  

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