Pro­posed pot leg­is­la­tion pro­hibits and pun­ishes

The Chatham Daily News - - OPINION - JODIE EMERY — Jodie Emery is a pot ac­tivist and co­founder of Cannabis Cul­ture pot shops.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment fi­nally in­tro­duced its highly an­tic­i­pated mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion leg­is­la­tion. But this pro­posal is not le­gal­iza­tion – it is con­tin­ued crim­i­nal­iza­tion, with new harsher laws de­signed to pun­ish even more peo­ple.

Cana­di­ans want mar­i­juana to be le­gal be­cause they grew tired of see­ing fam­ily and friends ar­rested and charged, then de­nied job op­por­tu­ni­ties and travel rights. They be­came frus­trated see­ing po­lice spend their tax dol­lars ev­ery year go­ing af­ter peo­ple for pot, when they should be solv­ing se­ri­ous crimes.

Decades of stud­ies note that the multi-bil­lion-dol­lar mar­i­juana in­dus­try al­ready ex­ists in Canada de­spite decades of prohibition. Peo­ple grow it, sell it, and con­sume it in mas­sive quan­ti­ties. And they’re not gang­sters; in fact, jus­tice depart­ment court statis­tics ac­knowl­edge 95 per cent of grow­ers are other­wise lawabid­ing cit­i­zens with no con­nec­tion to or­ga­nized crime.

Some un­savoury peo­ple may be in­volved in the pot in­dus­try, but blame that on the gov­ern­ment: Their prohibition pol­icy in­creases the value of cannabis, which makes it at­trac­tive to cer­tain groups ea­ger to make money. If cof­fee were banned to­mor­row, or­ga­nized crime would get into the cof­fee bean busi­ness. Prohibition man­u­fac­tures crime.

Un­der this leg­is­la­tion, we will see con­tin­ued ar­rests for pos­ses­sion, grow­ing and sell­ing; Harsher penal­ties, rang­ing from 14 years to life for var­i­ous of­fences; no par­dons or amnesty for Cana­di­ans with crim­i­nal records; con­tin­ued dis­pen­sary raids and ar­rests; and more pro­pa­ganda. How is this “le­gal­iza­tion?” The Lib­er­als have sim­ply pro­posed de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing small amounts of per­sonal pos­ses­sion (30 grams) and plants (four), which they won’t even al­low right away. That means tens of thou­sands of cit­i­zens will con­tinue to be vic­tim­ized.

This leg­is­la­tion doesn’t re­strict ac­cess to kids ei­ther. It just crim­i­nal­izes more Cana­di­ans by en­forc­ing harsh penal­ties. Many young adults will face long prison sen­tences just for shar­ing a joint with their friends.

The leg­is­la­tion sim­ply le­gal­izes a li­censed pro­ducer oli­gop­oly. Li­censed pro­duc­ers ex­ist be­cause pa­tients, grow­ers and dis­pen­saries were ar­rested, charged and won in court; Health Canada’s med­i­cal mar­i­juana in­for­ma­tion sheet states they only al­low li­censed pro­duc­ers be­cause courts or­dered them to do so.

Li­censed pro­duc­ers are sup­posed to serve pa­tients across Canada, but they are un­able to sup­ply that de­mand. How can they pos­si­bly feed the recre­ational mar­ket? They can’t. Cana­di­ans al­ready know where to get cannabis, and they will con­tinue to ob­tain it the ways they al­ways have.

Le­gal­iza­tion was sup­posed to bring the ex­ist­ing in­dus­try into the light, but this leg­is­la­tion will keep it in the dark, and deny peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to tran­si­tion into the le­gal in­dus­try. You can’t be­come a le­gal pro­ducer if you have a crim­i­nal record. In con­trast, Oak­land, Calif. of­fered repa­ra­tions to drug war vic­tims by al­low­ing them en­try into the le­gal pot in­dus­try.

This is not le­gal­iza­tion. It’s Prohibition 2.0, and ben­e­fi­cia­ries in­clude li­censed pro­duc­ers who have man­aged to ef­fec­tively lobby — and even hire — Lib­eral mar­i­juana task force mem­bers and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. Re­ports say Anne McLel­lan’s law firm ad­vises li­censed pro­duc­ers; no won­der her task force rec­om­mended li­censed pro­duc­ers be the only le­gal grow­ers.

Mark Ware, also on the task force, was hired by Canopy Growth, founded by the Lib­er­als’ for­mer chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, Chuck Ri­fici. Many cops and politi­cians are in­volved in these firms, mak­ing money while en­cour­ag­ing law en­force­ment to ar­rest the com­pe­ti­tion.

Le­gal­iza­tion should mean the end of crim­i­nal­iza­tion — not con­tin­ued prohibition. I sup­port rea­son­able reg­u­la­tion of cannabis, but this leg­is­la­tion is not rea­son­able.

It’s pro­hib­i­tive, puni­tive and will not achieve any of its goals.

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