Planting the seeds of victory

Liberals should want to legalize marijuana, not criticize it

Canada’s marijuana laws have long been controversial in Canadian politics. Due to the stigma of being labelled “pro pot,” politicians are often reluctant to advocate for the legalization of marijuana. Yet, the legalization of marijuana could be the issue to tip the scales for the Liberal party, should they advocate entrusting government with handling Canada’s marijuana market.

Marijuana was first criminalized in Canada in 1923, but was still allowed to be used for medicinal purposes until 1932. It has been theorized that full criminalization was imposed due to the fact that it was too effective as medicine, rendering wealthy pharmaceutical companies unable to compete.

Shouldn’t this tell us something about Canada’s pot laws? If pharmaceutical companies are worried that marijuana could replace many of their high-priced prescription drugs, maybe it really is that good – medically speaking, of course.

Ontario’s courts ruled in 2000 that pot laws in this country were unconstitutional and ordered that they be reviewed to allow for the use of medicinal marijuana. Additionally, a report issued by the Canadian Senate’s Special Committee on Illegal Drugs in 2002 stated that pot should be legalized for recreational use and called for amnesty for previous small possession convictions. Opinion polls done by Angus Reid in 2007 showed that 55 per cent of adult Canadians polled were in favour of legalization for recreational use.

If the story told by polling is correct, out of an estimated 33 million Canadians, over 18 million think marijuana should be legalized. To put those numbers in other terms, that’s almost four out of every seven Canadians. With this in mind, how can it be that only three out of seven Supreme Court justices voted in favour of legalization in 2003?

To take this argument even further, just imagine the revenue the government could generate if they regulated and distributed pot. Likely, they could generate enough to solve many of the major issues facing Canada today, such as healthcare funding.
Not to mention the numerous jobs that could be taken away from the illegal drug trade and created within already existing government organizations.

For instance, Manitoba’s Liquor Control Commission could easily be adapted to handle the increased demands of government through legalization by simply adding an extra C, to read Liquor and Cannabis Control Commission.

As it stands, astronomical amounts of money are already being spent by Canadians on the purchase of a recreational substance which is no more harmful than alcohol. Why let all that revenue fall into the black market?

Our current federal government is far too “anti-drug” and “tough on crime” to ever consider putting the will of Canadians before their own punitive political agenda. To make matters worse, the only major political party who seems to have any real interest in seeing proper action taken in this matter – the NDP – will probably never be elected to power.

This leaves the Liberals, who are looking for a way to distance themselves from the Conservatives. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff should promise to legalize pot, as it would probably be the issue that tips the scale in his favour, and land him the long-sought majority government.

Many NDP voters would likely vote Liberal if they made this issue part of their campaign, while many pot-smoking Conservative supporters would likely do the same.

So I’m calling on you, Michael Ignatieff, and your Liberal Party, to put legalization on the bill in the next federal election.

It might just be what puts you in power.

Alexander Kavanagh is a University of Winnipeg student.

Published in Volume 64, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 8, 2009)

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