I am Sandra Hunter, "Mayor-juana," and I am campaigning to be the next mayor of Calgary.
Many of us know someone who experimented with marijuana decades ago, was arrested, and convicted, for "simple possession". Many of these people never applied for pardons (they may not have known that they could, or they may not have had the money to do so) and lived for years with a criminal record that has profoundly affected their lives. Some of them are grandparents, but grandparents who cannot take their grandchildren to Disneyland, because of a criminal record, for an offence that many Canadians consider trivial.
This article will focus on the legalization and taxation potential of marijuana.
Before I begin, I want to be clear that "decriminalization" means only that those found in possession of small amount of marijuana would merely be fined and would not have a criminal record. That is something that has been requested recently by the police chiefs of Canada, as the present system merely clogs our courts with trivial prosecutions.
Recently, at a major conference in Winnipeg, the chiefs of police of numerous cities, asked our federal government to change the present law and give police the authority to "ticket" people for possession of marijuana rather than charge them with a criminal offence. The chiefs of police recognize that our courts are being inappropriately clogged with trivial offences.
I support our police chiefs in this first, "baby step" towards what I consider "common sense."
"Decriminalization" only means that the end-user will receive a fine instead of a criminal record.
"Legalization" means that it is no longer a crime to handle "pot". It can be bought and sold freely as long as the government gets its "cut". Legalization" means that marijuana will be treated like alcohol or tobacco. Growers, sellers and users will be taxed.
Nationwide prohibition of alcohol in Canada lasted from 1918 to 1920. It was a temporary wartime measure. There were also municipal bans in the 19th century and provincial bans in the early 20th. Most provinces repealed provincial prohibition in the 1920s. However, alcohol remained illegal in Prince Edward Island until 1948.
Nationwide prohibition in the United States lasted from 1920 to 1933.
Although prohibition of alcohol was aimed at suppressing widespread alcoholism, it had two harmful effects. The first was that the alcohol industry was taken over by organized crime. The second was that when alcohol again became legal, organized crime turned to the production and distribution of other "products": marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
In 1937, The Marihuana Tax Act in the USA essentially made the production and distribution of marijuana illegal.
Although represented as merely a taxation measure, the regulations and paperwork surrounding its prescribing, use, and distribution made it absolutely impossible for any doctor to do so. And even though the tax collected was very small, the penalties prescribed for contravention of the act were disproportionately harsh. It has been suggested that the main drive behind this act was to reduce the production of hemp since it had recently been suggested that the fibers of hemp could be used as a cheap substitute for wood pulp in the production of paper. Vested newspaper interests (requiring newsprint) with large timber holdings may have been a driving force behind the act.
Marijuana was also demonized as a drug used by non-white races!
So marijuana came to be demonized in the same way as cocaine and heroin. Now organized crime took over and production increased and over the years so did the concentration of the products. It was much easier to transport, deliver and conceal concentrated drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Over the years a great deal of energy has been invested in "product development". Marijuana produced today comes in unlimited varieties and strengths. This has been the result of prohibition. No one would have invested the time and energy to cultivate so many strains without a market.
PROHIBITION CREATED THAT MARKET.
Prohibition has NOT brought a single benefit in the 80 years of its existence, but it HAS caused harm.
It has promoted increased production.
It funds drug criminals.
It funds corrupt governments.
It has vastly increased law enforcement costs.
It has not reduced health problems related to drugs.
It has done nothing to curb drug addiction and abuse.
It has increased the number of people involved in criminal activity.
It has also caused many otherwise law-abiding young people to have a criminal record for life.
Prohibition of marijuana has been an abysmal failure.
It is time that we looked seriously at the present restrictive federal legislation. Marijuana production in Canada is a $15 billion/year industry. It is estimated that there are 20,000 grow-ops in BC alone - 10,000 of these in the lower mainland. Legalization of marijuana would at least make it possible for the government to tax it and use the funds for a constructive social purpose.
Alcohol and gaming are both now legal and government makes a great deal of revenue from both of these.
At a time of fiscal restraint and economic uncertainty it seems foolish for any government to increase its costs of operation and ignore significant potential revenue.
The cost of present federal law has a direct impact on Calgary tax payers who pay to carry out law which uses valuable court time and probation services.
Is alcohol or gambling more ethical than marijuana? I think not.
It is time to have a marijuana dispensary next to a liquor store next to a casino - and tax them equally.