The Question of Marijuana (To Be Marked)

15 05 2011

Justice Donald Taliano found that prohibitions against the production and possession of marijuana in a few sections of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as well as Canada’s Marijuana Medical Access Regulations to be constitutionally invalid. The government has up till July 11 to fix these or marijuana will be in effect legal to possess and produce.  It is the most recent of moves towards making pot legal in Canada. Will the government correct laws, thus stopping decriminalization? The reality is quite likely. However, as revealed in the most recent opinion poll done by Angus Reid, 53% of Canadians are for legalization. Shouldn’t the government respond to belief of the public?

But that brings into question of what continues to hold us back from legalizing this substance? Such a substance has been around for so long but only within the last hundred years has it been made illegal in most places around the world. As of late, though, there have been quite a few success stories in terms of decriminalization and legalization, for instance Portugal. However there are many reasons for this inhibition of policy in Canada, all of which are understandable.

To many, marijuana is quite controversial in usage. Quite a few gasp at the thought of this dry plant being used. It is against many religious and moral codes defined by society. There is a feeling that it is wrong to use marijuana. Notice how I have avoided called marijuana a drug and rather opted for the term substance. There is a stigma, a sort of distaste involved with an item categorized as a drug. Some may link this to the views taught throughout the 1990’s that this substance makes you insane and that it is bad for your health. Although one does get the intended high, there are other adverse effects. Abuse of the substance can lead to increased lung problems similar to those associated to tobacco smoking, and increased chances of cancer development. In addition to that, is the negative externality resulting from smoking of any substance including marijuana, is the risk second-hand smoking. Those who did not choose to smoke are being exposed and thus are susceptible to lung problems as well if the exposure becomes regular. Also those under the influence of this substance are more likely to be involved in injuries for instance the most critical one being vehicle accidents. Driving high can be quite dangerous and can put others on the road at risk. With all this in mind, those who smoke marijuana have an elevated risk of being admitted to a hospital. As a result of this, legalization would potentially put more of a burden on the healthcare system.

There is also a fear that comes with legalizing. Once done, what is to say that it would not open the window to drugs to many other people? This statement means many things. First of all, some argue that marijuana could act as a gateway drug to other more intense substances. Secondly, if we legalize marijuana, that would set a precedent for other drugs. We could potentially see a flood of demand for fixing up legislation for other illegal substances.

Earlier on in this blog, it was mentioned that marijuana can be harmful if it is abused. The key word is abused. Yes, one can argue that as a result marijuana is harmful. But the counter argument, McDonalds is also harmful when consumed in copious amounts. Does that merit making it illegal? No. The fact is using the drug is not truly harming anybody. Most studies have concluded that marijuana is not as harmful as initially thought. It is far safer to use than cigarettes and tobacco in terms of health as has proven to be effective in medical treatment, for instance reducing the bad effects of chemotherapy and treating strokes.

Having marijuana continue to be illegal has proven to be inefficient as many are not deterred. It is panning out the way prohibition did. Even thought it was illegal, people still got it and as a result there were higher crime rates in trafficking and violence due to the drug trade. Legalizing would almost destroy the black market that was created because it was illegal. Thus it would reduce drug related crimes and free up the policing and judicial systems that would normally go after those who committed these offenses. In addition to that the system would not be overwhelmed with dealing with crimes for possession and distribution. First of all, this would require no more policing. As a result our police forces can focus on other crimes and also governments can reduce police spending and allocate it to other regions. The judging of cases would also be affected. Since lawyers and judges have to be brought in, these tend to be quite expensive. In 2003 alone, 150 million was spent on court cases. The last area that would be affected is that of detention. Our jail facilities cost quite the pretty penny to detain each breaker of the law. Imagine how much would be saved if those convicted of only possession were not detained. In Canada, drug related crimes may have only made up 3%. But every percentage counts when trying to improve a system. And in terms of government spending to deal with that 3%, one will see, it is not a small number. If anything reduces crime, it’s a good thing.

Now we look upon the most obvious reason to legalize the substance. Every economist seems to drool over the prospects of what the marijuana industry could hold. It is estimated that in Canada alone the industry is as large as $20 billion per year. Thus being the largest agricultural product in the country. The first droolable prospect is taxes. The fact is upon legalization; the government can do what it does to alcohol and tobacco and attach excise taxes to marijuana. This in turn would allow more cash to go to the government and be allocated for various government services. Another tax area that would be utilized is that currently, marijuana growers and distributers are not making a traceable income. However, once legislation allows for it, it opens the window for new people to be counted in income tax, thus giving more back to government funding. This can also be a source for job creation since the population is growing and more and more may be inclined to use it. This would allow more people to go into the work force and make incomes to support themselves. As a result, the marijuana industry could potentially reduce unemployment.

With all these benefits, it seems almost foolish not to go on right ahead and make steps towards legalizing this long been thought to be naughty substance.

Quite honestly, beliefs are what hold us back from legalizing. The economic benefits of freeing up our judicial system and police force and making more tax revenue greatly outweighs the negative. Some may fear that marijuana may still be bad or immoral but the truth is the methods used are not working as the common phrase is that marijuana is easier to access for a teenager than alcohol. It may open up the door to more users, but ultimately it is a choice. Marijuana is not being forced down the throats of the unwilling, no, this is only arguing for the legalization of the substance. From there society will have to decide how it will act. In weighing the crimes caused by the drug trade and the many people jailed for possession of the substance, it makes me wonder. The true crime might actually be continuing to criminalize cannabis.




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