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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN QU: Column: What Are The Liberals Smoking?
Title:CN QU: Column: What Are The Liberals Smoking?
Published On:2012-01-17
Source:Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Fetched On:2012-01-19 06:02:15

Party Delegates Vote to Legalize Marijuana. This Will Make Drugs Seem
More Acceptable and Increase Their Use Among Youth

The main policy issue that federal Liberals dealt with at their
party's weekend convention was whether or not to legalize marijuana.
They voted overwhelmingly in favour.

A well-considered stance? Let's see what the resolution says.

- - It declares the ban has "exhausted countless billions of dollars
spent" on ineffectual enforcement. This is the familiar argument that,
because drugs remain so common in society, the war on them is a waste
of money. But the war on cancer, the war on illiteracy and the war on
terror are also falling far short of victory. Yet no one ever calls
for ending those campaigns. Those who demand ending the campaign
against marijuana on grounds of cost-effectiveness hold it to an
uniquely high standard of performance.

- - Indeed, the resolution says the prohibition of marijuana is an
outright "failure." That would be the case if the ban failed to keep
pot away from young people.

- - The Institut de la statistique du Quebec's latest survey, however,
shows that the portion of secondary-school students across the
province who had used marijuana in the previous year had fallen from
43 per cent in 2000 to 28 per cent in 2008. That's an encouraging curve.

And the trend line in Canada as a whole is no less remarkable.
Statistics Canada says the share of users aged 15 to 24 who had smoked
weed in the previous year dropped from 37 per cent in 2004 to 25 per
cent in 2010.

- - The resolution says that once a Liberal government legalizes
marijuana it will tax it. Wow: Government, not traffickers, would rake
in the billions.

Yet if government were to slap a high tax on marijuana, it would
create a market for private dealers who'd sell it for less. (Think of
the black market for cheap cigarettes.)

And if government were to keep taxes low, that could encourage consumption.

- - A Liberal government, the resolution affirms, would crack down on
illegal marijuana trafficking. The confident assumption is that if the
product became legal, gangs would have less of a market.

However, in addition to the golden opportunity that a high tax would
give them, illegal dealers would also find a ready market for superior
strains of marijuana.

Note, too, that the illegal drug industry as a whole would stay
strong: The market for cocaine, heroin, crack, crystal meth, etc.,
would remain. The idea that legalization of pot would significantly
shrink the role of gangs, and thus save taxpayers billions in
law-enforcement costs, is magical thinking.

- - Legal possession of marijuana would presumably apply to people aged
18 and up, and indeed the resolution says that the government would
ramp up anti-marijuana education programs aimed at youth. The Liberals
think this would somehow nullify the implicit message that government
would send by selling weed over the counter - that is, the message
that pot is acceptable. The record of education campaigns against
cigarettes and alcohol suggests this is more naivete.

I've written critically of drug legalization before, and I've also
supported government-supervised injection sites for hard drugs. One
reader calls me "colossally hypocritical" for holding both views at
the same time. But there's no inconsistency.

If injection sites save lives (if in case of an overdose, for example,
the on-duty nurse calls for an ambulance), it's hard for anyone who
believes life is sacred to object to such a facility. For the
government to bless the sale of drugs, however, is another thing
entirely: It can only lead to banalizing drugs and thus increasing
their use among youth. (Restricting sales to adults would only make it
more of a "forbidden fruit.")

Society needs to try to keep young people from starting out on drugs,
but that doesn't mean it can't help people who've already become
addicts. To be our "brother's keeper," we need to do both.

If the Liberals want to be a positive force, they could return to the
stance they had a decade ago. They then wanted the justice system to
cease clobbering citizens with criminal charges for possessing 15
grams or less of marijuana (and instead to simply fine them, as for
parking offences).

That's a far cry from turning the government into a glorified drug pedlar.
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