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Watching the Watchdog: The Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

06/15/2013 12:37 EDT | Updated 08/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Tim Knight writes the regular media column, Watching the Watchdog, for HuffPost Canada.

Still on the subject of people doing things the sometimes asinine majesty of the law says they shouldn't (see my last Monday Watchdog column "No Bad Whores, Only Bad Laws"), I move now to the subject of marijuana and the smoking thereof.

First, in the full disclosure department, allow me to lay out my credentials to comment on the hallucinogenic/psychedelic drug also known as cannabis, pot, dope, ganja, boo, dagga, bud, weed, grass, herb, joint, Juanita, Mari Jane and a hundred other fond nicknames.

Yes, I've smoked marijuana. And yes, I've inhaled it.

In fact, since I was 17, along with more than two million Canadians and 162 million people around the world I've lit up, inhaled and enjoyed marijuana. Under the influence I've said and done the customary silly, wise, foolish, intelligent, amusing, inane, sexy, delightful things that people do when stoned. On five continents and six sun-drenched islands.

And never, for one moment, have I regretted using the stuff.

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).

It's possible that these undoubted benefits explain why our joyless Conservative government spends a fortune trying to catch marijuana smokers, growers and sellers -- making 78,000 arrests in 2011 alone. And why it's about to impose tough mandatory minimum sentences on other such incorrigible evildoers when it catches them in the future.

Most at risk, of course, will be Canada's kids. UNICEF reports that more Canadian teenagers smoke marijuana than anywhere else in the western world.

Enter Maclean's magazine which claims some 2.4 million readers and is generally regarded as securely in the Red Tory conservative camp. Certainly no hangout for stoners and others of that seedy ilk.

Even so, its June 17 issue devotes nearly seven pages (around 8,000 words) under the all-caps headline WE NEED TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA NOW.

Maclean's Vancouver bureau chief, Ken MacQueen pulls no punches, calling the government's anti-marijuana statute: "...a 90-year-old law built on myths, fears and hysteria; a law that crushed the ambitions of countless thousands of young people; a law that millions violate when it suits their purpose."

MacQueen starts his story with an estimate from a local pot activist: "Sometime this year, if it hasn't happened already, the millionth Canadian will be arrested for marijuana possession."

Think the former Skydome in Toronto. A million Canadians would fill the Skydome 20 times over. Get the picture?

MacQueen goes on: "Since the Tories came to power in 2006 ... arrests for pot possession have jumped 41 per cent. In those six years, police reported more than 405,000 marijuana-related arrests, roughly equivalent to the populations of Regina and Saskatoon combined."

Most of the civilized world (excluding your average mullah, priest, rabbi etc. who prefer you get high on their God alone) seems to be heading in the exact opposite direction.

The U.S. states of Colorado and Washington just legalized possession of an ounce of marijuana while Vermont became the 17th state to decriminalize possession.

Further south, The Economistreports the Organization of American States (which admittedly has a heavy stake in the drug trade) belatedly believes the war on drugs isn't working. It envisions "a future in which cannabis will be legal in much of Europe and the Americas by 2025."

Across the pond, powerful politicians in Denmark and Switzerland are working to persuade their governments to legalize marijuana. In the Netherlands it's already effectively legal.

And back home in Canada, pollster Forum Research reports that two out of three of Canadians -- even those of us not currently locked up for marijuana offences -- favour legalizing the drug. To their credit, both opposition parties, NDP and Liberal, support decriminalization.

As I mentioned, I've smoked and inhaled the stuff myself. And yes, I've grown it too.

It's easy.

And it keeps your money out of the pockets of the Angels and the Mafiosi.

All you need to keep you and a few friends happy for a couple of years are four professional-class seeds (I recommend Barney's Pineapple Chunk) which you can buy easily in most Canadian cities and through the Internet where dozens of sites also offer detailed growing instructions.

You can grow the seeds in a closet with a 400 watt bulb, in your garden, or on your balcony. For gardens and balconies, it's a good idea to adorn the growing plant with some of those bright red plastic apples sold for Christmas decoration. They make marijuana plants look exactly like ripe tomato plants.

For most of Canada, unfortunately, it's a little late in the spring to plant seeds outside. But almost any teenager can steer you toward a friend who has a friend who knows someone who sells.

Street price at the moment averages around $200 an ounce.

But be warned. In the spirit of "Smoker Discretion is Advised", I recommend that before smoking marijuana you watch the famous 1936 movie Reefer Madness.

On second thought, it's a lot more fun if you watch it after smoking.

High Dogs Give Marijuana Facts