Saturday, 30 April 2016

Of Smoke and Mirrors

As the government discusses the regulations for the legalization of marijuana, I wonder if this policy will make life better for those who require the drug for medicinal purposes, or will it endanger the lives of ordinary citizens. In my opinion there is a certain amount of hypocrisy in the Liberal’s statement in the throne speech that said: “the Government will introduce legislation that will… legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana.” 

Trudeau and his friend Obama, in their own words, have both used drugs, including marijuana. In a blatant political move to gain the votes of legalization proponents, Trudeau made the promise to legalize the drug. The problem is that now that they are in power, the government is finding out that to implement a promise may be a little more difficult than they thought -  hence the ambiguity from the former Toronto Police chief, and Liberal MP who said that “there was no hard and fast schedule to the legalization timetable.” 

While proponents of legalization seem to be overjoyed by the governments promises, there remains many unanswered questions as to the effect of legalize marijuana on society. While a judge in British Columbia has ruled that users of medical marijuana can grow their own weed, growers of medicinal, we have yet to see rules about industrial grow ops. All the while there are many shops growing around the country and local governments have yet to get a grip on their establishment and locations.

From a safety point of view, the public knows very little about the effects of driving under the influence of marijuana. Cases of accidents caused by drivers under the influence of the drug are growing across North America. There is more young people smoking marijuana, and some may graduate to harder drugs. Further studies may be required to determine whether marijuana is a gateway to harder drugs.

However this is not what this piece is all about. Rather I want to bring to the fore the hypocrisy of governments. Taking a page from the temperance movement which saw prohibition of alcohol in North America, many groups attacked the use of tobacco. Lawsuits, new regulations and restrictions have been used to curtail the use of smoking in public and even in private (in cars). Bars and clubs were made to build special smoking rooms, and now a new ban on menthol cigarettes is envisaged. All the while governments everywhere increased taxes on tobacco products in the guise that they were protecting citizens’ health. Alcohol and tobacco became the preferred method of raising governments’ revenues; they approved a special ‘sin tax’.

As people switch from tobacco to ‘vaping’, and the use of the ‘hookah’, once again governments saw a source of revenue and placed the new electronic cigarettes under the same rules as tobacco. However they ignored studies done in the UK that shows that vaping is 95% less harmful than tobacco smoking. In fact it helped to curtail smoking habits

The same people who opposed tobacco are now silent on the use of marijuana. No more talks of the harm caused by ‘secondary smoke’. Politicians who have been on board to ban tobacco now support the legalization of marijuana. Under the pretext that the drug will be used for medicinal purposes there now is an increase support for new growing and distribution industry. Companies like Tilray are now operating in Nanaimo- BC. There are some 300 applications for new distributors of medicinal marijuana. The truth be told it is reported to be a possible $10 billion industry. What a new source of revenues and taxation! While the federal government states that the revenues will be used for law enforcement and other platitudes, provincial governments, it seems, will be able to pocket the revenue and appropriate it to general revenues.

I am neither a proponent nor opponent of tobacco or marijuana; however I am a strong opponent of government’s hypocrisy. In my view people should decide for themselves if they want to be smokers or not. The onus should be placed on those who break the law. If it is found that marijuana falls under the same negative and dangerous influence as driving under the influence of alcohol, we should ban its use. Governments should not use the subterfuge that they are looking after the interest of citizens, when clearly ultimately it is their intent to find another source of revenue and raise taxes.
 Citizens should beware of apple pie and motherhood promises made by politicians, because in my view it is sheer hypocrisy.

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