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Is Weed a Gateway to Other Legal Drugs in Canada?

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A day before the voting for the U.S. Presidential election took place, Bill Maher tweeted the following, "I know everyone's feeling stressed about the election -- I suggest some deep breathing exercises -- breathe in...hold the smoke..breathe out." A day after the election, millions of citizens in the United States realized that they would soon be able to legally follow Maher's advice.

While Obama's victory stole the show on November 6, other important victories occurred as well, namely that "Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use." These states joined a slew of others who have already legalized medical marijuana, and will likely push for full legalization in the future.

In Canada, though we are not quite at legalization yet, the trend has been similar. At the Liberal Party of Canada's last Biennial Convention, 77 per cent of delegates voted in favour of adding the legalization of marijuana to the party's official platform. As such, it appears as though the next time the party puts together a platform (before the next election) the legalization of marijuana will likely be on the list.

One of the major reasons for the Liberal Party's embrace of legalization is their need for votes. Relegated to third party status, they need some redeeming issues to take hold of, and it appears as though the legalization of marijuana will be one of them. In a recent survey conducted by Toronto's Forum Research, 65 per cent of Canadians indicated that they support either the legalization and taxation of marijuana (33 per cent) or the decimalization of the substance (32 per cent).

This news is welcoming, as the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana has become a nonpartisan solution so blatantly obvious that only misguided moral opposition remains. And while there is still some way to go before marijuana is legalized in Canada, this eventual feat should be a gateway for the legalization of other currently prohibited substances.

Think of a reason to legalize marijuana, and it will almost surely be applicable to other stronger drugs as well. In fact, the positive results which can be achieved through legalization are sometimes especially effective with stronger drugs.

Let's start by examining drug use itself. In numerous areas where marijuana has become legalized, its use has stayed around the same, or slightly declined. In Portugal though, where all drugs are decriminalized, the use of hard drugs has decreased by nearly 50 per cent.

However, perhaps more importantly, by legalizing drugs, the purity of the drug itself can be guaranteed. British Columbia's chief medical officer Dr. Perry Kendall has stated that "Ironically, Canada's 'controlled substances,' are among the country's least-controlled commodities. To evade the scrutiny of law enforcement, narcotics are often prepared in concealed, unhygienic conditions with almost no incentive for quality control." Laced drugs can often cause death, and as such, regulation is absolutely necessary.

In addition to safety, the reduction of criminal costs has become a relied upon argument for the legalization of marijuana. By legalizing marijuana, the justice system will be relieved of a considerable strain, namely millions of dollars spent on cases which involve minor and meaningless charges like possession of minor amounts of marijuana. This also frees up law enforcement to divert their resources to areas with greater needs. With hard drugs, the same is true. Currently, billions are spent annualy on enforcing the current drug laws. With Harper's mandatory minimums, this will only increase.

Drug possession and use is a current crime which can afford to be made legal because it is a personal act which requires rehabilitation and treatment as opposed to punishment. This argument has been made in favour of marijuana legalization, however, addictions to harder drugs are often far more serious and deadly. As it currently stands, untreated substance abuse costs Canada $40 billion a year. Rehabilitation has been largely successful in quashing addictions implying that it can save money as well as lives.

Yet above all else, criminal organizations currently have a monopoly on the sale of drugs. Prohibiting the sale and use of drugs has not caused either to end, but only guaranteed that dangerous illegal enterprises will have full control of both. By legalizing all drugs, the government will be able to regulate production, quality, and distribution. This means that the sale of drugs can be taxed, providing Canadians as a whole with benefits solely from those who use drugs. The global illegal drug market is estimated to have a value of well over $350 billion, and as a major player in this market, legalization in Canada can be expected to bring in millions.

It will also deal a serious blow to criminal organizations, many of which depend upon the sale of drugs to exist. Though marijuana is one drug sold by these organizations, harder drugs like meth and heroin make up the bulk of their revenue as they are more profitable. Gang wars do not break out because of marijuana; they break out because of crack.

If the legalization of marijuana can be accepted by the Canadian populace, the legalization of all drugs should be as well. Taboos, fear, and moral opposition should not prevent the government from taking the rational scientific steps necessary to solving the drug crisis.

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