Leave the lettuce alone!

“Please tell the man I didn’t kill anyone, I’m just tryin’ to have me some fun.” — John Prine

As you read this, our federal government is pushing for House approval Bill S-10, a bill that will put in place mandatory minimum sentencing for anyone caught growing over six but under 20 marijuana plants. The bill is aimed at “curbing production and trafficking of illegal drugs” by scaring would be growers or traffickers out of breaking the law.

This is a method used in some American states, which failed to curb drug sales whatsoever, and only increased the costs of the justice system exponentially. Bill S-10 plays a starring role in the federal Conservatives “tough on crime” song and dance as part of their anti-gang strategy. Despite receiving a letter endorsed by over 500 physicians, nurses and researchers as well as a previous letter from the Church Council on Justice and Corrections, strongly opposed to Bill S-10, our government stands by their legislation.

Currently, the feds are digging our country deep into debt and are planning to cut almost $7 billion in federal spending over the next five years as a result. Somebody please tell me how implementing a drug policy that will force more prisoners into jails for longer periods of time for non-violent crimes, some as harmless as growing a few marijuana plants, makes any fiscal sense?
More prisoners + longer sentences = higher cost.

The federal Conservatives won’t even disclose how much they believe this sadistic policy will actually cost taxpayers. Even Michael Ignatieff, who I generally have little regard for, understands this: “It’s not tough on crime,” he says in a Liberal party release, “it’s dumb on crime.”

Bill S-10 is shortsighted and driven by the partisan ideology of the Conservative party rather than by logical, informed rational thought, and our government’s bullheaded desire to see the legislation pass is embarrassing.

A little full disclosure action here folks: I’m into the electric lettuce. I blaze dope. I smoke marijuana, and I’ve been doing it successfully for over ten years! I don’t believe there is one thing wrong with that, either. Many people in Canada have tried it, and far more people hit that shit regularly than the 14 per cent of us in Canada who’ll admit it.

Sure, there are a few health concerns if you’re a regular, heavy user. But that’s true of pretty much everything fun, from booze to painkillers, fast food to over exercising. Why don’t we lock up all the boozers, the pill poppers, the fast food freaks and anyone who looks more fit than average. After that, we can move onto the real weirdoes . . .

But in all seriousness, there exists affordable technology today to enjoy the benefits of marijuana, while putting your health at absolutely minimal risk. I am familiar with these machines and have talked to hundreds of people who use them both recreationally and medicinally. Anyone who plays the “health” card when citing the many evils of cannabis ought to get their heads into the year 2011 — the future is now!

The Conservatives argue that Bill S-10 will have an impact on organized crime by scaring would-be perps into renouncing crime — and finding Jesus, with any luck, along the way. This is fucking ridiculous. Criminals are going to commit crime regardless of the consequence, or else they wouldn’t be criminals.

Organized criminals maintain a healthy portfolio of illegal activities to provide for their income. Drugs account for a good percentage of that income, alongside prostitution, money laundering, extortion and other lucrative illicit activities. The reason drugs make up that high percentage — or a percentage at all — is because they are illegal. If it were not illegal to grow six pot plants in your garage, there would be no demand for organized criminals to provide that service to somebody who does not wish to take the risk of breaking the law to such a degree themselves.

I’m sure we all understand the basics of supply and demand at the university level, right? By increasing the risk inherent to supplying a demand that will go unchanged, regardless of whether Bill S-10 passes or not, it is only more profitable to take the risk and reap the rewards.

Every time a marijuana bust is announced in Manitoba, the supply drops. However, demand is not affected, because people who smoke pot still want to get pot. Busting $10,000, or $50,000 or $1 million dollars worth of dope is only going to make the available marijuana that much more dear to consumers.

Today, an ounce of marijuana in Winnipeg runs for approximately $200, give or take 20 bucks. If it were legalized, or completely decriminalized from production to consumption, that price would hit rock bottom. This is one reason that major growers in California put up big bucks to oppose the state’s recent Proposition 19, a bit to legalize marijuana that ultimately failed in November 2010.

If there were no risk in producing, distributing, selling or buying electric lettuce, or any other drugs, organized criminals would lose out big time. Isn’t this what we’re trying to do: fight organized criminals?
It is my personal opinion that people who champion legislation like Bill S-10 do so for one of two reasons. First, they mean well, but are completely ignorant to the reality on the street. Or second, that they have a vested interest in criminalizing the non-violent behaviour of citizens.
Who benefits when non-violent citizens are forced into the justice system? Those who make their livings off of the rotten fruit of our justice system benefit, that’s who. Meanwhile, society as a whole loses out.
Whether you smoke dope or you don’t, it doesn’t matter. Non-violent Canadians should not be punished for obeying the most basic tenets of capitalism. We’ll see shortly whether this legislation passes into law. If it does, it will be the gangs, the lawyers, cops and judges who have won, and the Canadian taxpayer who loses big time.

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