The pot-holed path to marijuana legalization

Legalizing marijuana likely won’t eliminate the market for illicit pot anymore than lifting prohibition stopped moonshiners.

DRIVING to work the other morning, I passed the grow-op up the street from my house.

It’s about 100 metres from an elementary school and when it vents, it stinks. In fact, the interior of my car still reeked when I arrived at the office 15 minutes after driving through that cloud and it really annoyed me to think the guy who stunk up my car likely has a more lucrative income than I do and probably most of people reading this.

So now the government wants to finally legalize recreational marijuana.

After skirting the issue for so long and already legalizing it for medicinal purposes, it’s forgive me, high time. Really I don’t think it should’ve ever been illegal in the first place, but here we are.

No, I don’t use it. At least not long after that day in the late ’70s when a friend of mine and I were behind a pickup truck and waited several minutes for it to make a right turn before realizing it was parked. It was the ’70s, when Cheech and Chong were still funny, but I decided getting high really wasn’t good for me.

Truthfully, I even have a bit of an issue with the concept of medicinal marijuana. There are lots of good legitimate medical applications, such as lessening anxiety, easing pain, alleviating chemotherapy side effects and a host of other uses. I know of a number of people who use it for pain and discomfort, including one elderly woman it’s working wonders for. I’ve heard she’s even started being nice to her husband again. But I think ‘medicinal’ was just a back door to legalization – a hoop society shouldn’t have had to jump through, although maybe the process has led to some good research.

Once recreational weed is legalized, retailers and growers will find plenty more ways to cash in on a potentially lucrative market with tax dividends to government coffers.

The problem I have with legalization is the government’s cumbersome approach, embodied in a 106-page report with more than 80 regulatory recommendations for the proposed Cannabis Control Act.

“Our report presents measures to create a viable legal market, which are essential to meet the government’s objective of displacing the entrenched illicit market that exists in Canada today,” former federal Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan, who headed the report, said in a press release last week.

To dislodge that illicit market, one recommendation suggests you can grow your own, but only four plants, not more than 30 centimetres tall. I wonder how my neighbour will take it? And then there’s the recommendation to allow mail-order marijuana sales, but only to people over 18.

Undoubtedly government will squander its new tax windfall, starting with the recommendation to conduct yet another study on how marijuana impacts driving skills – because over 417,000 references pulled up by Google in 0.63 seconds don’t contain enough information – and how police can enforce driving while high.

When I was a teen, enforcement was simple. If a cop pulled you over, took a big sniff and asked, “Son, what’s wrong with your eyes?” you were done driving for the night.