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Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC) 
Author: Jody Paterson, CanWest News Service 
Published: Monday, January 19, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Times Colonist
Contact: [email protected]

It is time the government admits defeat in the war on pot, and legalizes a substance that so many Canadians already use. 

I can't imagine how much money has been spent in 100 years of trying to rid the country of marijuana. But however many mega-billions it adds up to, I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it's all been for naught.

I mean, one look at the pictures of that great big barn of a marijuana operation discovered alongside the highway in Barrie, Ont. tells you everything you need to know about how the "war on drugs" is going in Canada. Not well.

I guess we could blame police, although it seems to me they've been trying their best for the better part of a century now. Or maybe the courts for being too lenient in their sentencing. Or the Summer of Love.

But I'm thinking that the real problem is us, smoking marijuana by the bushel from one end of the country to the other and then acting like it's a surprise that a hot little growth industry has sprung up to keep us supplied.

Market forces are a powerful thing, especially when the product in question brings pleasure. People like pleasure. They'll seek it even when it's illegal, which is why laws to stop drug use and prostitution have had little effect. 

And as long as there are buyers, there are always going to be sellers. That massive hydroponics operation in Barrie, not to mention the 20,000 or so grow operations in B.C., exist because there's a phenomenal demand for marijuana. 

What's to be made of that? An illegal drug that four generations of Canadians have been warned away from, at times hysterically, continues to be in such demand that an extensive and complex industry has developed to serve an immense market.

Have we gone mad? Don't we know what happens to people who smoke marijuana?

Yes, we probably do, which would explain why an estimated one million Canadians regularly break the law around marijuana possession. Because the truth is that nothing too bad happens when people smoke pot.

That's not to say that the drug is good for you. Few drugs are. But marijuana also isn't the insane-making, violence-inducing, soul-destroying substance that it has been made out to be for too many years to count, a fact that a long line of users have happily discovered for themselves.

If marijuana had been dealt with from the start as the rather interesting garden plant that it is, the cautionary tales we all heard as kids might have focused on health risks from smoke inhalation and the drug's detrimental effect on the immune system, or its poor fit with school, work and heavy equipment. Informed decisions could have been made based on the drug's actual risk factors. 

Instead, we got the reefer-madness treatment. We got the scary lectures and the frightening movies in guidance class. We got the "Just Say No" campaign as it trickled north from the U.S., and then the "gateway drug" version a few years later. When we smoked pot anyway and the sky didn't fall, we ended up concluding that we'd been lied to.

Which has brought us to the point that we're at now, where marijuana use is so common - and the laws so widely ignored - that urban farms are springing up everywhere from posh neighbourhoods and middle-class basements to abandoned breweries along one of the busiest highways in the country. And now we really do have a problem, because organized crime owns the vast industry.

What's the solution? Give up the fight. Legalize marijuana. 

Knock the illegal profit out of the business by returning pot to its humble roots as a simple plant.

Let people grow it in their yards instead of skulking downtown to see if some kid can buy it for them.

Lift the curtain of shame around Canada's bustling marijuana trade and recast it as a legal enterprise that we Canucks are obviously quite good at.

The country's marijuana industry thrives because people like the stuff. And while it's not necessarily good for them, neither is it terribly bad, particularly when compared to legal drugs such as alcohol and nicotine.

So let's quit the foolishness and move on. We've gone to pot, and there's no going back.

Related Articles & Web Site:

Canadian Cannabis Links

Grow Your Own? It's a Bummer

Lighten Up on Pot Growers, Canada's on a Roll

A 'Growing Like Weeds', Indeed!



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