On marijuana

by Aaron Wherry

Six of the eight NDP leadership candidates respond to a survey on drug policy. All six seem to support some kind of decriminalization around marijuana and three (Niki Ashton, Peggy Nash and Romeo Saganash) seem open to pursuing a regulatory approach. Here is how Mr. Saganash explains his position.

A proposition in California suggested that it is time to look at full legalization, regulation and taxation. Medical authorities have recently made the same recommendation. This deserves serious study. Marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol, and unlike alcohol, it is non-addictive. The criminalization of marijuana creates ties to other crime, just as prohibition did with alcohol. Criminalization creates an enormous cost for the justice system, the penal system, and for society as a whole when we incarcerate tens of thousands of our young people. In the interim, decriminalization is the least we can do toward reducing the harm inflicted by our current legislation.




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On marijuana

  1. I was with him until this part “when we incarcerate tens of thousands of our young people”.

    The liquor industry was the biggest lobby against the California proposition.

    • Huh? I’m not sure I get the connection.

      Are you disputing the fact that the current prohibition makes criminals out of a lot of young people? What does that have to do with the California liqour lobby?

      • I think his point was, yes, you get a criminal record.  But practially NOBODY actually goes to jail in this country for marijuana possession.  I’m in favour of full legalization and taxation of pot, but come on, talk to a cop or a judge or a criminal defence lawyer.  We are not locking people up for possessing a couple of joints, and have not been for some time now.  We’re fining, giving supsended sentences, giving discharges, giving diversion, etc. etc. 

        • Correct me if I am wrong but don’t these people still then have a criminal record and isn’t that part of the problem?

          Also, under Vic “Baby Daddy” Toews’ legislation wouldn’t these people now be going to jail?

          • I absolutely agree, in most of those cases, you get a criminal record (I don’t believe you do under diversion, I can’t remember what the deal is with an unconditional discharge).  That’s a problem, and as I noted, I’m in favour of full legalization.

            But having a criminal record is different from going to jail.

            I thought Toews’ changes weren’t in the simple possession area per se, but rather in the area of cultivation, which comes under trafficking, which has always been treated by the law as a more serious offence.  The so-called 5-6 plants thing.  Again, as I’m in favour of legalization, of course I opppose that measure as well. 

            I agree with you that on the face of it, under Toews’ change there, presumably more people would be going to jail for marijuana-related offences.

            In any event, re the original post, I still maintain that “tens of thousands of young people going to jail” is hyperbole, exaggeration and just doesn’t square with the facts.

            Another thing — even with Toews’ changes, let’s face reality here — the cops are not going to be spending time and resources looking for people growing 6-12 plants in their closets.  They’ll still be going after significant, industrial-scale grow ops, as they are today.  I of course wish that they weren’t spending any time or resources on any of this, period.

        • Fair enough, but that wasn’t my confusion. Also, that notion is not actually true. Lots of people get sent to jail every day for pot offenses, and thanks to the new “Let’s fight decreasing crime” bill will increase the numbers. Mandatory minimum sentencing means that judges can no longer use, er, their judgement on cases. But regardless, I get that point. 

          My confusion was about how the California liquor lobby’s opposition to Californian legalization has anything to do with Canadian laws on pot. 

    • Those are both interesting points, but is the second meant to be connected to the first?

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