Marc Emery: No one should be jailed or arrested for peaceful involvement with cannabis and its byproducts
Yes, Canada is the first nation to have a political party that has legalization of marijuana as a prominent policy plank in its platform that subsequently received a mandate from an election to form the government and make that policy real.
Opinion polls over the last few years have shown that Canadians favour legalization of marijuana in every province. The Liberal Party voted in its January 2012 convention to legalize marijuana, and the leader and now PM-elect embraced the policy and spoke to it routinely throughout the election campaign just concluded.
During the campaign, the Liberal leader was clear that he would move almost immediately after being elected to a legal regime of regulated and taxed marijuana distribution.
"We have to figure out what is the right model for Canada (in legalizing marijuana). We will base ourselves on best practices from around the world. What is very clear right now is Mr. Harper's current approach in making marijuana too easy for our children to access and at the same time funding street crime, organized gangs, and gun runners; that's not what Canadians need. We're going to work with the provinces to make sure that control and regulation of marijuana is done in a way that responsible and suitable,” said the Liberal leader on September 1st on CBC News.
Trudeau uses the word "legalization" commonly as to his legislative intent on marijuana.
My definition of legal is "no citizen is jailed or imprisoned or punished with criminal law for the peaceful use, cultivation or distribution of cannabis to adult citizens".
In Canada today, citizens can brew beer in their basement, or make wine in their home, or buy it or find it available in retail stores. I could not find any example of criminal law being used to prosecute citizens who make their own alcohol. "Legal" is "legal".
In fact, Trudeau reiterated that home growing for medical patients should be reinstated. "Our worries are that the the current hyper-control approach around medical marijuana that actually removes individuals having the capacity to grow their own is not going in the right direction with either respect to freedom or the kind of care that we need,” he said to an audience in October, 2013. (See how Trudeau responded below to a question from Steven Stairs in 2013.)
Cannabis is not harmful to the nation or to the individual. The cannabis culture in Canada has been persecuted and prosecuted for 45 years, with two million arrested, over a million convicted, and hundreds of thousands having spent some time in jail or prison for cannabis "offences".
I have been arrested in Canada 28 times for cannabis-related offences, and jailed on 23 separate occasions (though often involving more than one facility). My convictions for cannabis include serving a three-month sentence for passing one joint, for "promoting vaporizers, for giving a half gram of hash to an American tourist, and several for selling cannabis seeds.
I've had my magazine Cannabis Culture banned by local police forces in Canada. I've been extradited by my government to the United States for a five-year sentence for selling seeds to Americans by mail. Selling seeds by mail has become a rather common and ordinary thing these days. I have been held, jailed or imprisoned in Canada in 28 prisons or jails for cannabis, and in six different U.S. states.
I am merely the most notable Canadian cannabis prisoner-of-the-drug-war, but hundreds of thousands of Canadians have experienced the trauma of arrest, stigma, and suffering under Canada's three-generation reign of cannabis prohibition.
So as a culture and a nation, we are owed. The nation has come to a consensus. "Legal" is "legal". No one should go to jail, or be arrested for any peaceful involvement with the cannabis plant and its byproducts.
So I declared on midnight October 19, once a Liberal majority was confirmed, that "Pot is legal in all of Canada."
The new solicitor-general, likely former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, should immediately order a moratorium of all marijuana possession charges. No one should be charged with any marijuana offence starting immediately. Any Canadian so charged should direct their lawyer to ask the magistrate to either drop the charges or adjourn them in anticipation that the government is going to legalize marijuana, and we would normally see in a democracy all cannabis charges before the courts then dropped.
If legal is to have any definition, and if the safety of cannabis scientifically is to be regarded as truth, then as of today, growing, selling, and possessing marijuana is legal. We, as a nation, are awaiting the formality of what is inevitable and obvious. Any Canadian, if legal is to mean anything, should be able to grow a few plants, buy pot from sellers who offer it, and possess it without any interference from the policeman or criminal law.
Before the year is out, the government must move to pardon and expunge the criminal records of any Canadian who was convicted of any cannabis offence.
Vancouver city hall's bizarre and ridiculous regulatory regime for cannabis is filled with prohibitionist stigma and punishment that has no place in an authentically legal environment. I expect that none of the current dispensaries will voluntarily close once ordered to do so by city hall under their restrictive regime, and that police will not use force or criminal prosecution to close them. The police must recognize the election results even prior to a new solicitor-general saying so.
In his election acceptance speech last night, the prime minister–elect reminded Canadians, including the millions of cannabis consumers and devotees:
“I know that I am on stage tonight for one reason and one reason only; because you put me here: a prime minister who knows Canada is a country strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them. A prime minister who never seeks to divide Canadians, but takes every single opportunity to bring us together; who knows that if Canadians are to trust their government their government needs to trust Canadians with openness and transparency. You want a government with a vision and an agenda for this country that is positive and ambitious and hopeful—well my friends, I promise you tonight that I will lead that government. I will make that vision a reality.
“Last week I met a young mom in St. Catharines, Ontario. She practices the Muslim faith and was wearing a hijab. She made her way through the crowd and handed me her infant daughter, and as she leaned forward she said something that I will never forget. She said she's voting for us because she wants to make sure that her little girl has the right to make her own choices in life. I say this you and your fellow citizens: you have chosen a new government that believes deeply in the diversity of our country. We know in our bones that Canada was built by people from all corners of the world who worship in every way, by every culture and every language, our country's unique diversity is a blessing bestowed upon us by previous generations of Canadians who stared down prejudice and fought discrimination in all its forms. We know that our enviable inclusive society didn't happen by accident.”
Tolerance, inclusion, no prejudice, freedom of choice, no discrimination: these are the Canadians values Trudeau says he will advocate and uphold. Add that to the promise of legalization, and what do you get?
If the politics of division are a thing of the past, one of Mr. Trudeau's first official declarations should be, "The war against the cannabis culture in Canada is over." The cannabis culture has endured 45 years of government-endorsed shaming, jailing, arrests, prohibition prices, lying propaganda, and myriad punishments. Prime Minister Trudeau can end that shameful part of Canadian history and give the cannabis culture what the courts have not done since the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Trudeau can make us equal citizens with the same right to peaceful expression and association and bodily autonomy as is expected by all Canadians. The time is now, and history is to be made, and it's long, long overdue.