With the legalization of recreational marijuana approaching across the land, the debate over its merits will no doubt resurface.
The federal Conservatives remain staunchly opposed to legalization, arguing that it legitimizes cannabis use.
Ontario MP Peter Kent went as far as to compare allowing pot to be grown at home to “putting fentanyl on a shelf within reach of kids.”
Under the Liberals’ Bill C-45, which was tabled near the end of 2017, individuals will be able to grow up to four plants at a time for personal consumption.
Kent’s remark, which is an extreme version of the Tories’ arguments against legalization, is particularly absurd for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, the effects of marijuana are in no way comparable to the effects of powerful opiates like fentanyl. Immense numbers of people, particularly in Alberta and B.C., are dying from fentanyl overdoses. Yet there has never been a recorded death resulting from marijuana toxicity.
It also ignores the fact that fentanyl, which is prescribed for extreme pain, is in some cases already within the reach of children whose parents have been prescribed it.
This very real danger could easily be prevented by putting these powerful and dangerous drugs under lock and key.
A more sensible analogy would compare the effects of marijuana to alcohol, which is, of course, completely legal.
Would Kent suggest bringing back prohibition to keep alcohol away from children? Unlike opiates, alcohol can be purchased freely by any adult who isn’t under a court order that says otherwise.
Alcohol is known to cause people to behave violently. Ask any court reporter who’s covered domestic disputes how often alcohol (or illegal substances like methamphetamine and cocaine) is involved in violence.
Although it would be foolish to assume marijuana is a harmless substance, as it is known to slow people down intellectually and can sometimes cause anxiety, it’s nowhere near as dangerous as alcohol, which routinely results in violence and death.
Despite the far more significant dangers of alcohol use and abuse, prohibition was ended because people were drinking anyways. It didn’t make sense to waste police resources on a substance that is so widely used. The same applies to marijuana.
It’s not as if weed’s illegality has prevented anyone, including youth, from purchasing and using it.
At least under the Liberals’ Bill C-45, those who sell marijuana to children will be prosecuted, just like those who provide underage people with alcohol.
That’s as it should be.
But if an adult who understands the risks wants to light up, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to do so in a designated space.
Like Kent, Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner MP Glen Motz has taken this partisan fearmongering to dizzying heights.
Motz told Southern Alberta Newspapers that the prime minister wants to “force something down the throats of Canadians”, but Trudeau won a clear plurality of votes in 2015, no doubt in part due to marijuana legalization, one of the first policies he announced.
It’s not like he’s forcing anyone to smoke marijuana, only allowing adults to do so if they like without fear of prosecution.
There are many valid criticisms of the way Trudeau has approached legalization. But faulting him for keeping an election promise, like Motz, or depicting him as a drug pusher, like Kent, aren’t serious concerns.
If the Conservatives want to be taken seriously as the Official Opposition, they ought to dial back their hyperpartisan rhetoric and work with the federal government to improve the legislation, rather than opposing it on largely spurious grounds.