Marc Emery: In Canada, cannabis regulation is the new prohibition
After 50 years of oppression by three levels of Canadian governments (1965 being the first year for a notable number of marijuana arrests in Canada) and bullying Big Brother the United States looking over its shoulder for compliance, these same oppressors are now implementing “regulations” to achieve the goals of prohibition in the era of legalization.
Make no mistake, every elected Liberal member of Parliament, including cabinet ministers, is on record supporting legalization. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directed his Minister of Justice in a public mandate to implement this goal by the end of his first term. “Legalization” is going happen, and Canada appears to be the first democracy in the world where a government was elected campaigning on a promise to legalize marijuana and is going to follow through.
But if legalization is the inevitable and unanimous policy of the governing body, why is it illegal now?
The policy of legalization is the result of the acknowledgement of the colossal failure of marijuana prohibition and the War on Drugs. In other words, marijuana prohibition is morally wrong, it is counterproductive, and it's an injustice to the entire Canadian cannabis culture, which numbers in the millions. It corrupts law enforcement, it lures tens of thousands of young people into marijuana dealing and selling each year, introducing them to the opportunities in gangs, black markets, and other prohibition incentives.
There was no useful public policy resulting from prohibition at all unless you consider the stigma that has been applied to us for 50 years. I see that as the primary policy goal of marijuana prohibition in Canada: to make members of the cannabis culture feel on the defensive; third-class citizens who can have their children, homes, possessions, bank accounts, and jobs taken away at any moment should the "system" decide to make their marijuana lifestyle an issue.
The inference is still there, even from politicians advocating legalization, that marijuana use is unhealthy, inadvisable, a moral failing, corrupting of children, it makes you stupid, it's dangerous, and that we need to have non-cannabis authorities restrict our culture for our own good and charge whopping license fees and taxes, which get passed on to the cannabis consumer.
All those stigmas are inherent in the regulations being enacted in Canada, particularly in the City of Vancouver
Beer and alcohol are dangerous, but any Canadian—with or without a criminal record—can brew beer in their home or in brew places. You can personally possess hundreds of cases of beer in your home. You can start a microbrewery or a craft beer brewery. You can drink alcoholic beverages in any one of thousands of alcohol lounges known as pubs, taverns, and restaurants. Yet the damage caused to society by alcohol—just going from our homes to the pub and back is a tremendous cause of carnage—is undeniable and so enormous in criminogenic behaviour, relationship abuse, traffic accidents, and fatalities that few people fully comprehend the pervasive damage to every aspect of life that alcohol consumption causes.
The presumption is, however, that as long as you peacefully use alcohol, you can do so without stigma or punishment.
Peaceful honest lifestyles should be legal. Canada's Liberal government was elected saying prohibition was a failure and therefore marijuana should be legal. Implicit in that complete change in direction is the clear belief that marijuana prohibition creates victims, is unjustifiable in any way, and is wrong.
So how can the Liberal government tolerate a law that is clearly immoral and unjustifiably demonizing and punishing to millions of Canadians for one day more? How can judges allow any marijuana charge to proceed in their court while the new government has clearly promised to legalize marijuana? All Crown attorneys should no longer lay any kind of marijuana charges since all of them will be adjourned or appealed once the government legalizes.
There is tremendous hypocrisy in the three levels of government allowing certain Canadians to be “legal”. If you have a federal medical exemption (MMPR), if you are one of the 25 licenced producers, if you are a Vancouver, Toronto, or Victoria dispensary, if you operate a mail-order marijuana service, or if you live in Toronto, Vancouver, or Victoria, then marijuana is pretty well legal for you. However, in rural B.C. or any part of Canada where the RCMP polices, it's not legal and it's risky.
Legalization means legal. As far as I know, no one goes to jail, court, or gets stigmatized or punished for anything legal. Yes, the poor tobacco cigarette people are demonized—ostensibly for their own good but also to make the health Nazis in the population and bureaucracy feel smug in lording their superiority over the tobacco people—but still, a pack of smokes is $10 and much less if a person rolls their own, whereas the never-had-anyone-die-from-pot-let-alone-40,000-Canadians-a-year cannabis culture currently pays $100 to $150 for a pack of 20 prohibition joints, which are no more difficult to produce than that $10 20-cigarette pack of tobacco. The tobacco people think their taxes—$7 a pack—are too high, so smuggling tax-free smokes is a huge underground market!
We have allowed the governments to tax alcohol and tobacco beyond mere PST and GST because before those 40,000 annual Canadian tobacco victims die of lung cancer or respiratory diseases, they incur a huge cost to the health-care system that is paid for by taxes, so most of us regard taxing cigarettes as a quid-pro-quo. Alcohol has an even larger footprint when you consider the broad destructive impact of widespread alcohol use, so we tolerate higher taxes on that product.
But marijuana is neither of those.
No one dies from consuming marijuana—certainly not 40,000 deaths in Canada a year!
Marijuana is not criminogenic. Alcohol is implicated in many homicides, robberies, assaults, bank robberies, car crashes, unwanted pregnancies, unprotected sex acts, and way too much bad behaviour to even mention. Marijuana is not implicated in any of that stuff!
A teenager, adult, male, female, anyone you love who is hanging out with a "pot crowd" is way safer than that same person hanging out with drinkers, tobacco smokers, and for that matter skateboarders, cheerleaders, football players, prescription-drug users, hockey players, snowboarders, gasoline huffers, and pretty well every other clique you could belong to. Cheerleading in U.S. high schools results in over 10,000 hospital admissions each school year in the United States. There are tens of thousands of skateboarders in North America suffering through an skateboard injury at any one time.
Marijuana is not something that requires regulation. It doesn’t kill anyone. It is not dangerous to the individual or society. It should be no more regulated than coffee, a completely legal substance that causes ulcers, hypertension, anxiety, and addiction. Growing marijuana is a wonderful, life affirming experience. Marijuana that is legal will plummet in price, as millions of hectares of farms across Canada will begin growing it outdoors. Marijuana that is legal will no longer attract young people and adults into the black market. We do not need to fear 16 or 17 year olds smoking marijuana if they get it. Pray that’s all they experiment with; every other substance or popular activity that youth are exposed to is much more dangerous.
Legal marijuana won’t need security. Legal marijuana is subject to PST and GST, any other tax would be punitive and prejudicial and immoral. There is virtually no social cost to legalization unlike that of prohibition—the policy of right now—which is incalculably damaging to civil rights, privacy, the price of consumption, dignity, national and local police budgets, families, assets, livelihoods, and our reputation as individuals who use a substance the government has demonized and punished for 50 years,
Yet government officials in Vancouver want to:
- Ban cannabis edibles from marijuana shops;
- Wipe out cannabis culture lounges;
- Severely restrict the number of cannabis shops;
- Apply ridiculous and unmerited restrictions to essentially put 90 percent of the current dispensaries out of business, despite that the marijuana consumer market is made up of intelligent, thinking adults who know what they want and who they want to get it from.
City officials hold marijuana use in disdain and are trying to discourage it, so their rules reflect the unfathomable priorities of a government bureaucracy, whereas the marketplace is always correct; that's why we often see a coffee shop on each corner of an intersection. If it weren’t profitable, and therefore serving the immediate consumer population, they wouldn’t be there. People like choices, variety, and brand names.
Imagine if the City of Vancouver rules for marijuana stores were applied to Starbucks, a more reasonable extrapolation since coffee is legal but implicated in a variety of health ailments as mentioned earlier. No Starbucks could be less than 300 metres from any other Starbucks (or coffee shop, say). No Starbucks could sell edibles because they are way too full of sugar and trans-fats. No Starbucks could be within 300 metres of a playground, school, community centre, or any place where children may frequent. All baristas must be free of a criminal record and police must have a list of everyone who works at Starbucks. Security must be tight at every Starbucks. No Starbucks will be allowed in the Downtown Eastside, Chinatown, or the Granville entertainment district. A license for a single Starbucks location is $30,000, unless it is communally owned, in which case it is only $1,000.
You get it.
Virtually every model of “legalization” is proposed by so-called experts, who are usually former or current oppressors from government or policing in some U.S. state or Canadian province, or members of some local health authority. They spout their vision of "legalization in a public health model", a ghastly social-engineering dystopia beloved by most public health officials in Canada. These people have the ear of government and come from the point of view that there's something wrong with marijuana so it has to be controlled—who gets it, how much we pay, who can grow it, who can sell it, where and how it can be sold (no advertising allowed; no iconic cannabis leaves on the door, window, or signage), and how it will be subjected to a punitive premium tax in addition to PST and GST.
All these regulations are a prohibitionist fantasy of how members of cannabis culture can be both exploited and still punished for a peaceful, honest lifestyle choice. Legal but not legal.
Marijuana is one of the safest substances on the planet, yet when authorities talk about growing cannabis by these “licensed” producers, it's like plutonium is being fissioned. The fantastic extent to which unnecessary "security" is "required" is bizarre and cruelly expensive; it is a gratuitous government edict with the cost passed on to the cannabis consumers. The DEA wears hazmat suits in grow rooms along with their weapons ready when raiding peaceful gardeners! The government that has been our enemy for generations is still comprised of the same haters of our culture now, only now they get to inflict punishment in those local and patriarchal ways that new PM Trudeau specifically said were a thing of the past!
In all the editorials and articles by the establishment’s gatekeepers that have flooded the newspapers lately about how “regulation” should look, virtually none are by any of the millions of consumers of cannabis in Canada. It's like we are children who are having their rules given to them by parents who know better. But that's patriarchy, or rather with 50 percent of the cabinet women, including the Minister of Justice and Health, that's hierarchy, where essentially the haters who have always been in power are going to decide on the future of the cannabis culture and how it will be in their interpretation of “legal”
For 50 years, the Canadian electorate and government enthusiastically had the institutions of this country (police, courts, schools, employers, prisons, children's aid, child custody, asset forfeiture, et cetera) hunting us down and hurting us for a policy that everyone now admits was really, really bad and wrong.
So, enough of the rules from our oppressors. You have no moral authority. We are in the right. We have been treated unjustly for 50 years. We will not tolerate and obey your rules when you haven’t even stopped arresting us, you haven’t apologized for 50 years of abusive aggression against the millions of us in the Canadian cannabis culture you wronged, you don’t understand us, and you don’t even “get” us.
Stop telling us how to live; we know how to live with our plant.