Sunday, April 09, 2006

Pot Politics

One thing that Canadian pro- and anti-pot advocates should be able to agree on is that anyone, young people in particular, caught with marijuana shouldn't have to carry the stigma of a criminal record for life. For God's sake, even the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) backs that position.

In an editorial, the CMA pointed out that a criminal record effectively bars young people from getting jobs and opportunities, including getting into medical school. It also called the health effects of moderate use "minimal." As well, CACP advocates decriminalization, saying prosecuting people for small amounts ties up scarce resources.

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois favour decriminalization in one form or another, but in a Press Conference last Monday, one thing was evident - that Prime Minister Harper would not be the champion of the cause. Harper said the new Conservative government will drop draft legislation by the Liberals to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Bill, which had alarmed law enforcement officials in Canada and the United States, died on the floor of the House of Commons after the Liberal Party lost elections in January. Under the bill, getting caught with about half an ounce or less of marijuana would have brought a citation akin to a traffic ticket, not a criminal record. While possession of marijuana would have remained illegal, the bill was intended to prevent young people from being saddled with a lifelong criminal record.

U.S. authorities worried the legislation would have weakened their efforts to curb marijuana exports from Canada, which has numerous marijuana farms, particularly in the lush Western province of British Columbia.

According to an interview with CBC, Alan Young, a law professor at York University and marijuana-legalization activist, cancelling the marijuana decriminalizing bill is an indication that Harper is trying to mend fences in the U.S, "Harper wants to mend fences with Bush," said Young, who has been involved in many of Canada's landmark marijuana cases. "I think it's a mistake for the country, and I regret that it's happening after so much work has been done."

Young also said he doesn't believe criminal laws will have any impact on consumption, "People don't really look to the criminal law to give them guidance as to what they do with their body. They look to their peers. They look to their own decisions as how they want to live their lives - the law has really had an insignificant effect on consumption patterns."

What is also interesting is that the McGill Department of Psychology received a $4-million grant last week to study the effects of cannabis on university students. Funded by the Conservative government, the grant is intended to demonstrate the negative consequences of smoking a J. What I'm thinking is that the Tories will be using this as ammunition why marijuana should not be legalized or decriminalized.


But to think we have people in jail for only possessing small amounts for personal use, or even medicinal use... Not only do I think that money could be put to more useful things, I also think it is just plain wrong.


At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think at the very least, people should be able to have it, with a docor's signature, for those in pain all the time.
How cruel can those Cons be ?

At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a right leaning non smoking small c conservative. Also, I do think that dope many times leads to more potent drugs. However, having said that, I agree that people should not have to carry that stigma around the rest of their lives. If they put a time limit on simple possession and then erased that after a certain number of years IF there had been no further criminal arrests for more serious drugs, then I believe that original conviction should be tossed. I have a friend who was caught for simple possesion about 20 years ago and has not really smoked dope since. We were on our way to a convention in the U.S. and they stopped him at customs and wouldn't let him across because of the original charge. I think that is wrong.

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Pedro said...

Prarie Kid - that's tragic about your buddy. And even though most hard drug user have used pot in the past, there are still a lot of people who smoked pot and didn't take it further. I don't think pot is a necessary condition to harder drug use.

There's too much of a stigma against pot users and people shouldn't have to pay for it because they did it when they were young or do it recreationally.

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we can all agree that kids/teens/most people in general smoking pot is a bad thing. It is associated with delayed brain development, lung cancer... a variety of health problems for the user. Not to mention the social effects of marijuana. Users are less likely to graduate from high school and generally have lower grades. This being the case, why wouldn't we want our laws to reflect the fact that we don't want people using this drug? It seems kind of hypocritical to say to young people that we don't want you to use marijuana, but if you do, we aren't going to do anything about it.

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Ryan Ringer said...

I think we can all agree that kids/teens/most people in general smoking pot is a bad thing.

I don't agree to that, and until you give me one credible reason why it is a bad thing, I never will.

Anti-pot prudes just need to get high and realize that it's not the end of the world to find things a bit funnier than they really are.

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Pedro said...

Adam, I see what you are saying. Indeed smoking pot isn't exactly like eating your veggies or drinking eight glasses of water.

BUT, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol is legal and from personal experience, I would say that smoking pot is the best for you (of course that is totally anectodal).

I wonder what could be said of underaged drinkers - lower graduation rate, etc.

If you ban pot, you should ban booze and we all know that ain't gonna happen.

At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"BUT, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol is legal and from personal experience, I would say that smoking pot is the best for you (of course that is totally anectodal)."

I think that we don't know the full effects of smoking marijuana, and I don't think that the correct method of research into it is to make it legal and see what happens. And anecdotes are not good enough!

Just because pot seems to be not as bad as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, doesn't mean that it isn't bad for you. And it doesn't mean that we should give children yet another legal option in jeopardizing their future. We already have two legal drugs, that we know are bad for people, why do we need more?

Rather than moving toward the pot isn't bad for you, with the disclaimer that this is only based on anecdotal evidence, why don't we educate children on why they shouldn't play with fire (read: drugs) and have laws that reflect that?

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Pedro said...

Adam - very interesting discussion. I have played around a lot with your logic in the past. I totally see what you are saying.

At the same time, there is a difference between legalizing and decriminalizing.

Legalizing is like saying it's okay; decriminalizing it is like saying it's just not unethical or wrong.

By decriminalizing (small amounts only - anything under 1/2 ounze ONLY) the government is saying, do what you want, but we aren't endorsing it.

By legalizing it, the government would be saying - here you go; go nuts! If pot was legalized we could buy it in the stores, etc. That wouldn't happen under decriminalization.

Having said that, I do think you raise great points and yes, you are right, anecdotes aren't enough.

Still, look at Prarie Kid's buddy's example. You must think that there is something wrong with that, don't you?

I guess what I should have made more clear in my post is that I don't think that the punishment proportionally reflects the act of smoking weed or simply having some for personal use. The punishment is too much.

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pedro: I agree, this has been interesting. I appreciate the chance to discuss this with you. I as well have played around with your logic, so this should make for interesting dialogue!

By decriminalizing (small amounts only - anything under 1/2 ounze ONLY) the government is saying, do what you want, but we aren't endorsing it."

Do you think that that is the message that will be heard by young people? I don't think that is what they will get from decriminalizing. (And thanks for the refresher on decriminalization vs legalization). Any steps taken towards less of a punishment will be seen as that.

I have also taken issue with your claim in your original post that the CMA is for the decriminalization of marijuana. I don't think that the organization that represents a good percentage of our country's doctors would advocate for that. I checked out your link to the cbc and that is quite old (2001). Here is something from 2003, it's the best I could find tonight (getting tired, and I must get back to studying while I still have the energy). They are taking a bit more of a cautious stance in this one, more like what I would expect from the CMA.

As for prairiekid's story, I'm not a law expert or anything (far from it actually), but can't a person apply for a pardon or something like that? I know it seems harsh that stuff like that happens, but I think that kids need to know there are consequences for doing drugs. In my opinion we already have too many legal/decriminalized drugs, but that's just my experience and I know that I stand in the minority on that one.

"I don't think that the punishment proportionally reflects the act of smoking weed or simply having some for personal use. The punishment is too much."

The maximum punishment that can be handed out for possession I believe is 5 years in prison, but, this sentence would NEVER be given out. Not when we have people doing far worse things than drugs and getting less than 5 in prison. I would argue that the reason the punishment looks rather harsh compared to other crimes, is because our justice system is letting criminals off with less and less of a sentence. BUT I don't think that I want to open that can of worms! I think that the possession of pot for personal use is not something that is actively enforced by police; if you do get caught with marijuana, you probably are too dumb to be a doctor anyways (don't mean to come across as harsh there, but really, how many people do you know who have smoked pot and not gotten caught. If you were caught, you probably were smoking it on the front steps of the police station!) I have been to concerts and been surrounded by people who are smoking pot. Smoking pot, in public. Does this sound to you like the punishment is too harsh for this?


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