Pot problems: Won't somebody please think of the Hells Angels?

Keeping kids away from pot is a small problem. Keeping gangs away from pot is a big one.

RCMP handout photo

Sometimes, it’s hard to see the plantation, for the pot. A recent report concluding that adolescent pot smoking affects intelligence got all the headlines. But a bigger issue was hiding behind smaller type: BC RCMP busted Hells Angels for growing pot to fund the importation of cocaine.

I’m dismayed to learn that the pot I smoked as a teenager has probably made me dumber. But I can’t say I’m surprised. I knew at the time that marijuana messed with my brain. That was why I smoked it.

That’s why I’m afraid we may never convince kids to stay away from the stuff. Yes, some will exercise good judgment if they’re educated properly, and avoid high-risk activities, like smoking tobacco or marijuana, drinking alcohol, speeding, engaging in unprotected sex, or doing hard drugs. Or any combination of the above.

The more we can educate the better. But some kids will gravitate toward the very same activities in spite, or indeed because of the risks.

Marijuana’s status as an illegal substance has not prevented teenagers, who are most at risk for mental damage, from using it. It certainly never stopped me. As long as the stuff can be grown quite easily at home, or in the vast expanses of the Canadian countryside, it’s not likely to stop anyone.

Most Canadians are in favour of legalization, or at least decriminalization of marijuana. Some argue that would help keep pot out of the hands of younger people, by making it available only through legal sellers, who would have to adhere to strict regulations including age limits for sale or use.

But that never stopped my friends and me when it came to tobacco or alcohol, which we only had to pilfer from our parents, or pay older kids to obtain for us. So how it would work for pot is a mystery to me.

Maybe legally available bud could be kept at lower levels of THC, making it effectively ‘bud light’ and therefore, perhaps, arguably less dangerous. But beer and cigarettes are available in relatively harmless single doses too. It doesn’t prevent anyone overusing them.

The real advantage of legalization, I’ve come to believe, isn’t that it would keep small amounts of marijuana out of the hands of kids. As the parent of a teenager, it pains me to admit we may never fully succeed in doing that.

What we just might do, though, is keep large amounts of marijuana out of the hands of criminals.

The fact is, the Hells Angels have been making inroads in B.C. for years. The biker gang and other criminal organizations grow and traffic pot as a big business, one which, because it’s illegal, must be protected with the threat of violence. Moreover, it’s an easy cash crop to exchange for cocaine, guns, and other stuff that’s a whole lot nastier than marijuana.

Of course, if marijuana was legal in Canada, there’d be a booming business in smuggling legal Canadian pot into the States, just as there was a booming business in smuggling legal Canadian whiskey into the States during prohibition. But the recent busts reveal the extent to which the Hells Angels are already doing business across borders, from B.C. to Panama.

And at least if pot was legal in Canada, the ordinary recreational consumer of marijuana wouldn’t be funding the activities of major crime networks every time they bought some weed. Instead, they’d be contributing tax dollars, some of which, surely, could be earmarked for better education and treatment for victims of drug abuse, including youth.

Think of the children, yes, of course. We do. That’s why these studies get so much attention when they come to light. But that’s the small-scale pot problem.

When it comes to marijuana legalization, won’t somebody please think of the Hells Angels?

Now there’s a pot problem, on a massive scale.

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