Legalized pot: Let’s call the whole thing off

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This is the new politics of our era–say the opposite of what people expect, they will elect you because they think you are a fresh and contrary voice. Lie if you want to, obfuscate and misdirect. From Rob Ford to Justin Trudeau to Donald Trump to Nigel Farage…these guys seem to have re-written the liberal democracy playbook.

Trump and the late Ford have garnered much attention because of their behaviour and shoot-from-the-hip comments. What was once considered outrageous and crass has become almost common place. But Trudeau is really another species of fish. The Liberals offered legalized marijuana and large-scale infrastructure spending as cornerstones to their electoral policy—and in a normal world either initiative should have been enough to deny them a victory let alone a majority government.

The whys and the wherefores of the recent election are best left to the pundits, but legalizing recreational pot use opens a huge drum of worms for the feds. Decriminalization of simple possession might have been a better alternative. Instead poor Billy Blair, the former beleaguered Toronto police chief and newly-minted Scarborough MP, has been given the task of bringing about this legalization pipe dream.

Just trying to determine whether a driver is “impaired” after having consumed THC is a difficult matter. Government agencies are busily testing a variety of products, from saliva swabs to breathalyzers. Some 50,000 alcohol impaired driving charges are laid every year in Canada but only about 1,000 for drug impairment.

Full disclosure: I own some shares in Canopy Growth Inc. I couldn’t resist the delicious irony of a legal grow-op located in the former Hershey’s chocolate factory in Smith Falls, Ont. It’s also the best Canadian equity I own, performing much better than Blackberry, Bombardier and SNC Lavalin.

Canopy knows it’s up against a lot of independent growers who don’t want to be regulated. The corporation’s stock surged briefly after Toronto cops raided dozens of marijuana “dispensaries” that had been popping up like weeds in Hogtown–no pun intended. Immediately after the Toronto raids Canopy announced that it was selling cannabis at $5 per gram and offered same day delivery in the GTA to anyone with a prescription (under-cutting the storefront dealers by several dollars).

Regardless, I don’t think the government should become the neighbourhood pot dealer. I understand the Fed’s interest in collecting taxes and regulating the production and security. Regulation is fine for medical users, but recreational use of this herb has been around for generations in Canada without causing any lasting societal harm. As an adult activity its consequences are indeed minimal compared to the legalized scourges of alcohol and tobacco.

Cannabis aficionados long ago learned that discretion is important. And these days hardly anyone really cares if they catch a whiff of the sweet herb emanating from a backyard barbeque or wafting from the parking lot of the legion during a rock concert. By all means, let’s keep it away from children and youths, and I have no sympathy with the criminal element making huge profits from this plant.

But busting people for possession of small amounts of pot is a useless waste of taxpayers money, ties up the courts and doesn’t solve anything. And as former chief Blair has discovered, legalization is problematic. Decriminalization of this victimless crime is a better way forward.

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Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.

With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.

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  • I disagree with your writer.

    Actually its been decriminalized for quite some time. its rare cops will arrest anyone for possession of pot these days only if your an ahole and mouth off.

    without legalization we cant tax it. that why we got to legalize it .

    pot and prostitution are billion dollar industries that have been thriving underground for decades.and nobody is paying any tax??

    it can be legalized , its not easy but it is still legal in most countries around the world. Our governments biggest mistake in regards to pot is banning it in the first place .

  • Legalization with taxation is the only path forward that makes sense.
    Decriminilization is an oxymoron as criminal organizations still profit under this form of prohibition’ish style enforcement – it’s okay to smoke but just can’t grow or buy it from a store…? Where do you get it? From your neighbourhood guy, who got it from the other guy, where it was grown in a house owned by ‘john Smith’ who is the fall guy if the house gets raided as the gangs profit huge at the top; I rather see that profit go into rehab programs, infrastructure, etc.. #Legalize it like ya said ya would

  • The words “I think” should never be used in any article that wants to be taken seriously. You say the government shouldn’t become the local pot dealer what’s your alternative? And the driving argument is a load of BS, Canada has the highest rate of cannabis use you don’t think people drive high today? How would legalization effect high drivers, I only see it helping through education programs and better technology. Educate yourself before you write a bunch of non-sense.

  • Disagree totally with this guy. Decriminalizing is the worst thing anyone can do. What decriminalizing does is allow kingpins to operate at a much less risk. After all how they catch the big guys is follow the ladder they bust someone for a joint n extort info to find out where they got it then go up the ladder. With decriminalizing there is no busting people with a joint therefore zero chance the cops can find the big guys in a decriminalized scenario. Kids can still get pot easy in decriminalized system… Also we live in a “free” country so EVERYTHING should be legalized heroin,crack, meth etc. It all should be 100% LEGAL anyone who disagree’s with that should be fined because they are responsible for promoting the loss of freedom. It’s a choice and the choice should be with the people not the government to dictate what is right or wrong. The government has no right to jail or persecute anyone for anything. Which god died n made them in charge to judge what is right and wrong. Governments around the globe are criminal gangs extorting our resources.

  • A commuter was killed instantly by a wheel-off pre-rush hour in central Ottawa, Fri. Feb. 10th (RIP) ..My employer ( who practices due diligence to the max) emphasized again about circle checks, yet we have no facilities, predawn, in Canadian weather, snow, slush, salt, crap. Who supposes rigs mid-run are checked? Who’s zoomin’ who?
    Am I to believe a 20 something female neophyte is gonna crawl under her equipment 6 outta 7 days. This is the answer to our problem?
    How is a veteran supposed to have confidence in other’s ability if this is the best we can do. Beam me up Scotty.