Gov­ern­ment goes for reefer mo­nop­oly mad­ness

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION - JODIE EMERY SPE­CIAL TO POST­MEDIA NET­WORK — Jodie Emery is a pot ac­tivist and co­founder of Cannabis Cul­ture pot shops.

It’s the worst pos­si­ble pro­vin­cial le­gal­iza­tion plan: On­tario’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has an­nounced a state mo­nop­oly on the sale of le­gal non­med­i­cal cannabis, com­bined with a mas­sive crack­down on the ex­ist­ing cannabis in­dus­try.

Le­gal­iza­tion wasn’t sup­posed to be like this. Cana­di­ans in­creas­ingly sup­ported end­ing cannabis crim­i­nal­iza­tion af­ter watch­ing bil­lions of tax dol­lars wasted by law en­force­ment go­ing af­ter peace­ful peo­ple for pot.

Mar­i­juana has been grown and con­sumed in Canada for decades with­out any mea­sur­able neg­a­tive im­pact on the health and safety of so­ci­ety. In fact, the im­pact has been more pos­i­tive than neg­a­tive, es­pe­cially for sick and suf­fer­ing cit­i­zens.

Li­censed producers of med­i­cal mar­i­juana ex­ist be­cause of law­break­ers win­ning court or­ders declar­ing Health Canada must pro­vide ac­cess to pro­tect the Char­ter rights of med­i­cal con­sumers.

Civil dis­obe­di­ence is the only rea­son cannabis law re­form has hap­pened. No gov­ern­ment will­ingly in­creases cannabis free­doms. Law­break­ers had to force change through the courts, protests, elec­tion cam­paigns, me­dia mes­sag­ing and other forms of out­reach.

Cana­di­ans, es­pe­cially reg­u­lar mar­i­juana users, know the vast ma­jor­ity of grow­ers and sup­pli­ers are peace­ful and non-vi­o­lent. That’s why they sup­port le­gal­iz­ing the ex­ist­ing pot in­dus­try and dis­pen­saries. And Jus­tice Depart­ment records sup­port that per­cep­tion: 95 per cent of cannabis grow­ing cases in court have no con­nec­tion to or­ga­nized crime or gangs, and the peo­ple charged were oth­er­wise law-abid­ing.

This is what’s sup­posed to be le­gal­ized: the tens of thou­sands of providers who are cur­rently de­fined as crim­i­nals by gov­ern­ment pol­icy. They want to be le­gal. They want to come into the light, but the gov­ern­ment forces them to stay in the shad­ows.

Gov­ern­ments at ev­ery level have fought against cannabis for years with law en­force­ment and pro­pa­ganda. Now that the laws are changing — thanks to ad­vo­cates and le­gal ac­tivism — th­ese same anti-pot politi­cos want fed­eral con­trol of pro­duc­tion and pro­vin­cial mo­nop­o­lies on dis­tri­bu­tion.

Even worse, th­ese gov­ern­ments have de­clared war on “il­le­gal” grow­ers and providers, deny­ing them the op­tion to tran­si­tion into le­gal­ity, while promis­ing to send of­fi­cials with guns to shut them down — for be­ing un­able to tran­si­tion into le­gal­ity.

We also know some for­mer politi­cians and cops have founded or bought into le­gal med­i­cal mar­i­juana com­pa­nies, hop­ing to cash in on le­gal recre­ational pot af­ter call­ing for and prof­it­ing from raids against in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers. It is a very rot­ten state of af­fairs.

Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Bill Blair, the for­mer un­der­cover drug narc and po­lice chief of Toronto, glee­fully an­nounced a quar­ter of a bil­lion tax dol­lars will be pro­vided for “le­gal­iza­tion law en­force­ment costs.” That’s on top of the hun­dreds of mil­lions of tax dol­lars al­ready fund­ing anti-pot polic­ing — but that’s what hap­pens when you put a po­lice of­fi­cer in charge of le­gal­iza­tion. So in­stead of le­gal­iza­tion re­duc­ing the money wasted on law en­force­ment, we’re adding to it.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the prov­ince of On­tario is go­ing to spend hun­dreds of mil­lions of tax dol­lars set­ting up a new pot bu­reau­cracy that isn’t needed or even sup­ported by tax­pay­ers and cannabis con­sumers. Why won’t On­tario le­gal­ize the cur­rent sup­pli­ers, who are al­ready meet­ing con­sumer de­mand?

Cannabis le­gal­iza­tion should mean the end of crim­i­nal­iza­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, it seems the only thing be­ing le­gal­ized is a sure-to-fail gov­ern­ment at­tempt to mo­nop­o­lize an in­dus­try that al­ready ex­ists.

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