Either legalize it or leave it alone

SIX NATIONS – It’s like the Wild West out there right now when it comes to the implementation of fully legalized marijuana use in Canada.

On the horizon is a pot friendly future for not only those who have been registered and are currently being prescribed medical marijuana for a wide range of ailments, but also as a recreational alternative to booze.

But with any such a radical shift in policy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is finding the devil in the details. There is not a comprehensive plan in place even though the use of medical marijuana has actually been legal in Canada since 2002, with a prescription. But there is still no clear definition of exactly how that is going to work or any definable ground rules.

For police enforcement and the courts, dealing with pot charges is becoming lower and lower on the priority list of offences worth investigation or sentencing. Possession for personal use isn’t even being enforced these days, although driving under its influence is still a legitimate concern.

Until quite recently, the feared role of marijuana as a gateway to hard drug abuse, was the mantra of parents, politicians and police alike. This has since been proven wrong. Millions in research money was directed to the study of marijuana in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but not to find if there were any redeeming qualities within the natural chemicals that make up the humble but complex weed. No, the research was directed to finding what problems the smoking of it could cause to individuals and society at large.

Some of our older readers may remember the classic propaganda short film shown at movie theatres, drive-ins and in schools in the 1950s called Reefer Madness.

It is on these gathered assumptions and manufactured public fear throughout the last two or three generations that pot has gained such a bad reputation.

But none of this is new. There was the same level of push-back in the 1980s when Canada decided that organized crime was making too much money from “illegal” gambling and they wanted a piece of it.

It wasn’t for any kind of moral standard in either case. It was and is all about tax money. The declining tobacco industry is losing billions of dollars in taxes. By making pot legal and taxing it, these tobacco tax losses will be more than covered by the new pot industry, with a brand new and expanding revenue source. That’s the pattern — make it illegal for anyone other than themselves to grow or sell it. Using marijuana seems to be OK; it’s only a problem if Ontario and Canada get their pound of flesh along the way.

So, what’s the problem? The government already has a template on how to turn an “illegal” criminally controlled industry into a major new “legitimate” money stream.

Twenty years ago, the same questions had to be asked and answered to legitimize what was once the immoral act of illegal gambling. First step was to leave the law where it was, keeping gaming houses and “numbers running”, otherwise known as lottery’s, illegal, but adding the caveat, “except by a government regulated and licensed establishment”.

In New York in 1964, there were 8,000 arrests made and an estimated 100,000 people “working the numbers” as they used to say.

To set out the dispensary regulations, pricing, establish safe and professional grow-ops, and regulate, somehow, who can and who can’t use the product at the consumer level, should not be such a big deal, should it?

It is obvious why the government dose not want aboriginal growers and dispensaries to take root. They are already upset that can’t seem to get all the tax money they want from tobacco, imaging all the taxes they would miss if Six Nations began growing, packaging and selling pot in all those smoke huts.

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