If Health Canada spent as much time and money on researching medical marijuana and creating a properly run system as they have on court battles against patients, then we'd all be a lot better off. But unless you've just taken a big bong-hit, I wouldn't hold your breath.
The seized marijuana all came from designated growers who were licensed to grow for up to two patients each under the old system. These are the same home gardens which Health Canada ordered to be shut down, claiming that they are all mold-ridden, unsafe and unhealthy. Yet at the same time, it's allowed for these growers to sell their product to the newly licensed producers, who can then flip it to patients at a profit? How does any of this make sense?
Some say that the proliferation of home cultivation licenses has also helped to drop prices, but I don't think this has had a major impact. The amount of cannabis being produced by all licensed patients is not that significant when compared to the total level of underground production in Canada. It's shrinking U.S. demand that is driving prices down here.
I want to point out that not a single one of the new licensed producers has ever come out publicly in support of patients' rights to grow their own. And certainly none of these multi-million dollar operations has donated so much as one cent towards this ongoing legal challenge. Why would they? They stand to reap greater profits if patients are forbidden to compete by growing cheaply for themselves.
Kerrisdale residents Ray and Nichola Hall know too well the tragic outcomes of easily accessible illicit drugs. Both their sons, now in their mid 30s, were addicted to heroin and other drugs. They were raised in one of Vancouver's most-exclusive neighbourhoods, proving that the drug trade and addiction have no boundaries.
Imagine the federal government decided one day that a doctor-prescribed medication you're using is now illegal. Imagine the government then sent you a notice demanding that you write a letter to them, declaring you have destroyed all your illegal medication. And if you don't, the government says they will pass your confidential medical information -- and that of everyone else using this drug who doesn't write a letter -- to the police. Improbable as it seems, this is exactly what's happening to more than 37,000 Canadians right now. And apparently the Harper government considers this acceptable, because the medication in question is marijuana.
In a notice posted on their website this week, Health Canada shows why they cannot be trusted to act in the best interest of Canadians who need cannabis-based medicines.
With dozens of different companies providing medical cannabis, each with different labels and packaging, it will be impossible for an officer to tell if the cannabis in question is really from a licensed producer. I predict widespread proliferation of fake prescription bottles with fake labels and fake contact information. I predict that police will quickly become frustrated in trying to figure out who is valid and who is not.
The Tories can't even mention Justin Trudeau and his plan to legalize pot without resorting to a plea to 'think of the children!' They'll tell you pot can fry a developing brain, spoil an academic career or even turn your son or daughter into an addict. But prohibition isn't keeping pot away from teens. It is ruining young lives across the continent. As it so often with misguided legislation, it's the disadvantaged who suffer most.
Right now the RCMP lay about 60,000 charges annually for marijuana possession across Canada, while they let about four times as many people found with pot off with a warning. When the police talk about tickets for possession, they're not talking about reducing the number of charges, they're talking about finding a more efficient way to punish the hundreds of thousands of people they're currently letting go.
I'm not at all suggesting that the transition required for legalizing marijuana will be an easy road after all too many cheesy twists can cause high cholesterol. I would however like to say that my favorite quote from Mr.Trudeau on this topic is this: "I do not see this as a slippery slope... I see this as an issue of Legislators slowly catching up to where public opinion and public behavior actually is."
We've written a law, called the Sensible Policing Act, which has already been approved by Elections BC. This law will make a first step towards legalization, by stopping arrests for marijuana possession, and focusing police resources on fighting real crime. This campaign does not rely on the whims of politicians. We can do this ourselves, with people power. But it isn't easy to get on the ballot so that we can have a marijuana referendum. We will need to collect over half a million signatures, from registered voters all across B.C., just like they did to stop the HST.
The RCMP have been focusing more on small-time marijuana arrests since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister. RCMP arrests for marijuana possession are up 40% across Canada, and have more than doubled in B.C. Also increasing in frequency are the raids and harassment of bong shops. This trend will continue, unless we put a stop to it. We need one of these store owners to stand up to the police, to go to court and challenge the foundation of this unconstitutional law.
Yes, I've smoked marijuana. And yes, I've inhaled it. Marijuana lessens pain (I have a bad back). It's an anti-depressant (the freelance writing, filmmaking and communications training business are in terminal decline). And it increases both sexual enjoyment and staying power (no need to explain).
Although we can all agree that marijuana prohibition has failed, there is not full agreement on how exactly to legalize and regulate it. We still have to answer some important questions. Should people be allowed to grow their own marijuana? If so, how much? Should marijuana be sold in stores? What kinds of taxes should there be? Should there be taxes on medical marijuana products? What about extracts and foods? What is the best age limit? Before we can put a legalized system in place, we need to have the answers to these kinds of questions.
Did you know that B.C. can decriminalize marijuana? Indeed, any Canadian province could decriminalize marijuana possession at any time. Provinces have all kinds of legal options when it comes to dealing with possession of marijuana. We know what the RCMP's preferred option is: more arrests and more charges for marijuana possession. The RCMP have increased marijuana possession charges across Canada by about 30 per cent since Harper came to power. In B.C. the increase has been the greatest: there was a 211 per cent increase in pot possession charges between 2005 and 2011.