It’s time to legalize possession of marijuana

Four Vancouver ex-mayors currently advocate the end of laws which create networks of criminal organizations that use violence and intimidation to conduct their trade. Nearly 70% of BC residents believe that our current crime control policies are ineffective. The message is clear: it’s time to legalize the possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana. Marijuana has never been a serious health concern, nor has law enforcement had any lasting impact on its availability. Recent Canadian research shows the criminalization of marijuana creates and sustains violence between criminal organizations. The potential negative health consequences of cannabis are dwarfed by the harms created by our legal efforts to control its use.

The evils associated with marijuana are the outcome of prohibitionist policies, and not the pharmacological properties of cannabis. The most dangerous thing about marijuana is being caught with it by the police. Cannabis may lead to arrest, imprisonment and exposure to violence in jail, and a criminal record for life. Ironically, the senior bureaucrat responsible for administering our drug laws – the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act – is called the “Minister of Health”. Drug control can be achieved through education and regulation. Our deadliest drug – tobacco – is consumed by only 20% Canadians, compared to 50% in 1965.

This positive change is the result of public education about the harms of smoking, restrictions on advertising, but not by using the threat of punishment on tobacco users. We should be concerned about the wasted money which is spent on prohibitionist policies that deliver the opposite of their advocates have promised. It’s our responsibility to ask political leaders to actually lead on this issue, otherwise millions more dollars will be spent on failed prohibitionist policies. John Anderson, Chair, Criminology Department, Vancouver Island University Vice President, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (Canada) Member, Stop the Violence Coalition

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