It’s time to legalize

Par Dylan Jones le 15 août 2013

            The legalization of marijuana is our generation’s answer to the prohibition of alcohol.  Although the true rate of marijuana use among North American adults varies depending on who’s asking, it is generally accepted that a substantial portion of the population uses, has used or will use marijuana at some point.  A good indicator of this is the recent decisions by the Washington and Colorado electorates to legalize marijuana in those states.  Marijuana is also legal in Portugal, Uruguay and the Netherlands.  Despite its high usage, legislators around the world and here in Canada have clung to the notion that marijuana should remain illegal.  Their position is outdated and must change.  

            The criminalization of marijuana has done little to slow  its widespread usage and has made billionaires out of those who sell it underground.  This business has wreaked havoc across the globe with countries like Mexico hardest hit by never-ending drug wars.  Perhaps the fact that these wars typically go on in less developed countries, far from our own backyards explains the fact that our legislators refuse to budge on this issue.

            However, criminalization of marijuana has a major negative effect on the home front.  It has ensured that underage users, some of whom will inevitably choose to experiment at an early age, will have direct contact with drug dealers before their 18th birthdays.  Due to criminalization, all of the many users of marijuana regularly consume a drug that is unregulated and unchecked, the modern-day equivalent of drinking moonshine.  

            Making matters worse, being caught in possession of marijuana in Canada can lead to a criminal record that will prevent travel to the US and have an impact on future job prospects.  Ironically, someone caught and convicted for smoking a joint will be ineligible to enter a country in which the past three presidents, including Barack Obama, have all admitted marijuana use. 

            Supporters of criminalization argue that despite any positives of legalization, its main downfall is that it will inevitably increase use of a harmful drug.  This seems like a logical conclusion.  However, the example of Portugal does not support this supposed truth.  Portugal legalized marijuana and all other drugs over ten years ago.  Studies have shown that this did not increase usage or abuse of any drug.  In fact, reducing the stigma attached to drugs and drug abuse made treatment more available and realistic for those who needed it.   Although too early to tell, it will be interesting to see what results of similar studies will yield south of the border.  

                        Considering its widespread use, there are too many examples of lives held hostage by marijuana arrests and prosecutions in Canada.  The user who gets caught is stigmatized, despite the fact that large portions of the population from all walks of life continue to commit the same “crime.”  It is to be hoped that the newly re-opened debate is indicative of a shift in Canada’s arcane position on marijuana, away from prohibition and towards responsible legalization and regulation.           


Dylan Jones is a defence attorney with the firm of Boro, Polnicky, Lighter


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