Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 20, 2003
Yes, decriminalize marijuana
Step away from the fear and look at the health an medical benefits
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Decriminalization of marijuana possession in Canada seems inevitable.
In December, a House of Commons committee recommended decriminalization for possession of amounts of pot less than 30grams, and last September a Senate committee studying the issue came out in favour of outright legalization.
This month, an Ontario judge threw out marijuana possession charges against a young offender, citing a legal loophole he said effectively invalidates Canada's drug laws in cases involving 30 grams of marijuana or less.
The federal government quickly filed an appeal, presumably a pro forma response while the government decides how to proceed with decriminalization.
In mid-December Justice Minister Martin Cauchon suggested that Ottawa might "move ahead quickly" in early 2003 to decriminalize marijuana use.
That plan has many of my fellow Christians and fellow conservatives exercised - I think mistakenly.
I view decriminalization of marijuana possession as a sensible and positive development, and I'm inclined to go along with the Senate's advocacy of legalization.
I'm not a pot user and never have been, save for a bit of furtive experimentation on two or three occasions as a teenager some 35 years ago.
However, I am unconvinced that pot use is essentially more harmful than alcohol or tobacco use, and possibly less so, although I don't advocate the use of any of these drugs.
Decriminalization of marijuana possession would end the cruel injustice of people getting criminal records or even going to jail for the recreational use of a relatively innocuous substance, as well as the prodigal waste of law enforcement and criminal justice resources pursuing and prosecuting pot users.
Legalizing marijuana, and introducing a regulation, distribution, and taxation regime modelled on existing liquor laws, would eliminate the criminal element from the supply side, create another revenue stream for government, and further reduce demand on law enforcement and the courts.
I also find it difficult to understand how any humane and compassionate person could advocate denying victims of horrible diseases like multiple sclerosis and cancer the measure of relief many say they derive from marijuana.
As medications go, pot has relatively few harmful side effects, and the risk-benefit ratio is arguably a lot better than with vast numbers of legal prescription pharmaceuticals, as a perusal of the Physician's Desk Reference will confirm.
Nova Scotia's premier John Hamm, who is a medical doctor, commented last month that that medical marijuana should not be regulated any differently than other pain-killing drugs.
Hamm also favours decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot.
Another benefit of decriminalizing/legalizing marijuana has nothing to do with pot-smoking, to wit: a diminishment of the stigma attached to hemp agriculture, which is a potential gold mine for farmers and boon to consumers.
Hemp culture has actually been legal in Canada since 1998, but paranoia over "reefer madness" and consequent tight government control has inhibited widespread cultivation.
In rational terms these restrictions are ridiculous, even in a continued context of marijuana criminalization, because while varieties of hemp cultivated for oils and textile fibres are indeed close relatives of Cannabis sativa plants grown for the illegal marijuana trade, they contain only minuscule quantities of the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound that provides pot's psychoactive kick.
HC constitutes less than one per cent of commercial hemp's weight, too little provide narcotic effects, compared with four per cent to seven per cent for marijuana cannabis.
On the other hand, hemp is a nutritional powerhouse, an excellent source of protein and many vitamin and mineral nutrients.
It is also a superb source of Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), in an almost-optimal ratio.
Dietary EFA intake dropped drastically over the last century, as people ate more and more processed, denatured foods, and less oily cold water fish like sardines, herring, trout, and salmon, which are the best sources of Omega-3 EFAs.
Dietary EFA deficiency is a suspected risk factor and a wide spectrum of ailments, including cardiovascular illness, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, depression, and bipolar (manic depressive) disorder.
EFA-rich hemp food products include hempseed nuts, and hempseed nut butter (resembles peanut butter, but is a lot better for you), hemp oil (can be used for salad or cooking oil), and hemp flour.
Hemp oil is also an excellent skin-care and cosmetic products ingredient, and is available in soaps, shampoos, skin lotions, lip balms, and conditioners, and is beneficial to skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis.
Not only that, the hemp plant's fibre can be used to make rope and cloth fabrics, and the stalk can be processed into paper products.
By any rational measure, continuing to restrict propagation of this wonderful plant out of unfounded concern about its association with its controversial THC-producing cousin is counterproductive.
A sensible, reasoned address of the various issues related to hemp and marijuana is long overdue in this country.