Marijuana: Four decades, no change

It is difficult for Canadians to talk openly about drugs without hurting our chances of getting jobs or getting over the border in the future. Frankly, I am not sure I ought to be writing this. But open dialogue is a prerequisite of healthy democracy. Let us talk about pot.

In a 2007 United Nations’ study, Canada ranked first in the industrialized world when it came to rates of marijuana use. Numerous Canadian, government-funded federal studies, dating as far back as the 1972 LeDain commission, have indicated that the most beneficial method of dealing with marijuana in Canada is to legalize or decriminalize personal use. All parties that have been in power, over the course of and after these reports, have swept the studies and their recommendations under the rug.

A 2002 report from the Senate special committee on illegal drugs weighed the benefits of decriminalization and legalization in light of international obligations and other nations’ drug policies. Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, chair of the committee at the time, said: “Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue.” The report made clear that legalization would disempower criminal organizations.

The 2010 Health Canada canadian alcohol and drug use monitoring survey found that a quarter of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 had used marijuana in the last year. The number for Canadians who have used cannabis at some time in their lives is 41.5 per cent.

Comparatively, 24.2 per cent of eligible Canadians voted for the Conservative Party of Canada in the last federal election. Conservatives claim a strong mandate. Seventeen per cent more Canadians have used marijuana than voted for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Laws need moral force. If the current laws regarding marijuana lack moral force, then they ought to be updated to reflect the will of our society.

Given that support is already there — assuming most folks will not vote themselves into criminality — the legalization of marijuana is contingent upon people standing up to say “I am an adult Canadian, what that means is up to me.” Nearly 40 years of stagnation around this issue indicates we are afraid to honestly assert our identities as citizens of this great country.

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