Don Martin: Real reefer madness was to think pot could be successfully outlawed
A man is seen smoking marijuana on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on April 20, 2010. (Pawel Dwulit / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
And so, the long era of reefer madness is ending.
A drug outlawed in 1923 without parliamentary debate or any serious public pressure will become legal to grow, buy and consume in 2018 under today’s federal legislation.
But there’s a catch, which smacks of Liberal campaign promise remorse.
This is not simply about removing police from an age-old cannabis crackdown. It’s about empowering them to aggressively act against vehicular pot impairment or any implication of youth with fiercely punitive penalties.
And while they were going all law and order in 143 pages of controlled legalization legislation, they added 79 pages of enhanced police powers to test for alcohol intoxication even when there was no hint of drinking driver suspicion.
Meanwhile, the heavy lifting on production, retail, education and law enforcement is hot-pot-tossed to the provinces, which will create a hodge-podge of varying rules across the country.
But such is the political posturing that’s necessary to provide cover for the long-overdue ending of criminalization.
The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics shows well over one million Canadians were charged for simple possession in the last 30 years.
Even making allowances for repeat offenders, that suggests millions of Canadians are burdened with criminal records for merely possessing a substance which should’ve been turned into a ticketing offence many decades ago.
The massive waste of police time and resources, estimated to be $3-billion per year, to enforce criminalized cannabis will, in theory, be put to better use in keeping stoned drivers off the road or scaring anyone inclined to sell pot to kids.
That’s why the Liberals deserve credit for acting on their promise, even if it was made when they didn’t expect they would have the majority government responsibility to deliver on it.
There are still a lot of missing pieces. The packaging, pricing, advertising and exact distribution processes are a work in progress.
But cannabis demonization, hilariously portrayed in the long-mocked Reefer Madness movie where pot drove hallucinating teenagers to commit manslaughter, rape and suicide, could never justify the last 94 years of criminalization.
The real madness was to think pot could be successfully outlawed. This bill is a huge step toward sanity being restored.