Gangs of organized crime run around the streets selling an illicit drug that fly off their hands faster then they can produce it. Individuals look to cash in by producing the substance themselves, adding chemicals to enhance the drug or multiply the quantities. The government is trying to reassure the public, spending millions to crack down on this drug that they are sure is the root of many of society's problems.
Crack, Cocaine, heroine, marijuana; which drug is it? Well, the substance in question is actually alcohol.
Yep that Molson Canadian you enjoy so much after a long day at work or that glass of red wine that you have every night for the antioxidants was illegal during the hey day of prohibition about 90 years ago.
So the question begs to be asked, if at one time alcohol was seen as a societal evil, is there another illicit drug out there that isn't so bad.
How about marijuana?
The debate has raged for decades about the pros and cons of decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana in Canada, but the way I look at it we already have a test scenario that played out all those decades ago in the form of prohibition.
Now I have never tried marijuana in my life, and probably never will since it doesn't really interest me much, but for me it makes sense socially and economically to decriminalize, or even legalize marijuana based on the result of prohibition.
Prohibition was a wreck from the beginning. Taking away alcohol was supposed to limit crime and abuse in the neighbourhoods and homes in Canada. Instead it helped fund organized crime and drained millions from the government coffers. All the while thirsty Canadians guzzled down the same amount of booze as before. And we aren't talking about nice regulated alcoholic beverages, we're looking at the moonshine variety that could strip paint off a fence.
In the end the government decided to abolish prohibition and regulate the sale of alcohol in stores such as the LCBO.
Now this scenario seems an awful lot like the one that surrounds marijuana today.
Supposed you want some weed. It must be hard to get right? Because its illegal. Well actually you know somebody, let's call him Joe, down the way who can get you some. So you score some marijuana from Joe even though you don't know what exactly is in it or how Joe came to get it. By next week Joe's been arressted or shot at by the gang he owes money to, and you're still recovering from an overdose of meth because Joe's dealer laced your marijuana with it. Boy, do you ever wish there was a safer way to get this stuff.
Marijuana is a recreational drug used by thousands around the nation. It is true that marijuana can have health affects, mostly when overused, but so can alcohol or tobacco and nicotine. But marijuana can be even worse when the buyers don't really know where they are getting it from or what's in it, like was the case with alcohol during prohibition.
So allow me to dream for a second. Imagine a future when, instead of organized crime, the governement supplies marijuana to those over, lets say 19 or 21, from government grow-ops and government stores. The marijuana is legal and reliable, the kids aren't getting the drug from the seedy characters in the back alley, thousands of jobs are being made and the government is laughing all the way to the bank with the billions they make from taxing the marijuana.
Now add in the fact that the prison and policing systems are spending less money and time accomadating and looking for people who have a bit of marijuana on them and you have more money which can be used to encourage responsible smoking and on health care and lowering tuition and the like.
And if you think that the money won't be enough consider that marijuana is British Columbia's 2nd largest industry, raking in $10 billion annually, ahead of the mighty foresting industry in the province. Imagine what the whole country could get eh?
I am not devaluing the potential hazards associated with this plan, like the abuse of marijuana or underage smoking, but these problems are already prevalent in Canada, both with marijuana and alcohol. I think trying to control it rather then fighting it would be a lot more effective in being successful on these fronts.
So grab a beer, the one that prohibition almost took away from you, settle down and consider a world where the weed has been freed.
For some more info and opinions on this issue follow this link to a Maclean's article from 2001 http://cannabisnews.com/news/10/thread10464.shtml.