The roots of prohibition can be traced to the colonial empires of the past. British Empire politics and policies encouraged prohibition for nearly 500 years. On the other hand, the British Navy sailed on cannabis ("hemp") for rope, clothing and sails. It was a requirement that citizens grow the plant everywhere, in every port. This did help to spread "Indian Hemp" around the world. Hail Britannia. Cannabis prohibition appears to be just more of the same with a modern twist: profiling of the citizens. Racist roots aside, the net effect of prohibition results in wholesale records, criminal and otherwise, that are created and stored in "law" enforcement databases worldwide. A clear violation of Human Rights & Freedoms. Section 8 of our Charter states: Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that the purpose of Section 15 is to protect those groups who suffer social, political and legal disadvantage in society. Discrimination occurs where, for example, a person, because of a personal characteristic, suffers disadvantages or is denied opportunities available to other members of society. Searching the internet and phone records, for example, to detailing connections between those in the cannabis community, is illegal. Yet it happens every day. Guilt by association. Members of the cannabis culture are routinely discriminated against on a daily basis.
The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that a limit on Charter rights is acceptable if:
• the limit deals with a pressing and substantial social problem, and
• the government's response to the problem is reasonable and demonstrably justified.
Criminal court cases where deeply held spiritual beliefs are examined (on trial in relation to cannabis), the judges rulings have used the "not withstanding" clause to violate Charter Rights on a consistent basis. Jail time has been ordered to "punish" the defendants ~ as if that would change their beliefs! The governments response is neither reasonable nor justified - except under the terms of prohibition. A sincere belief in the Tree of Life can land you in prison. In no uncertain terms, this is persecution of a religious minority under Section 2 of the Charter. Very clear violations of the Charter of Rights & Freedoms.
The larger social & economic impact is even greater. We've all seen the numbers and the statistics. They seriously suck. The entire justice system is broken. Indeed the pressing and substantial social problem IS prohibition itself. A failed social policy that undermines our civilization in corrupt ways. In the words of the Senate in 2002, prohibition is "a failure of good governance". What is the way out? One approach is to jam the machine. Stand on your rights as a citizen. Simply refuse to plead guilty, drag the whole thing out for months. This serves to occupy valuable time & resources in the "justice system'. It's just not worth spending all that effort into prosecuting minor cannabis consumers. Putting them in jail only costs the taxpayers more & more year after year. Worse, the issue is never resolved. Law enforcement can't even keep cannabis out of the prisons. Prohibition contributes nothing but social & financial damage to all citizens. Taxpayers suffer under the burden whether they agree or not. Billions of tax dollars wasted. Decade after decade. Qualifies as taxation without representation. We do not consent.
Another tactic is by democratic vote. In States where a ballot initiative is (even) allowed, the citizens have overturned cannabis prohibition. Oddly enough, the sky didn't fall. Here in Canada they don't really let us vote. The last referendum was years and years ago. A national referendum was held on alcohol prohibition in 1898.... yes, 116 years ago. Guess what? Prohibition fell as a result of the citizens being sick & tired of being subject to a social policy created by politicians and vested interests. The sky didn't fall. Sound familiar? History has a tendency to repeat itself.
Work by on this subject (by other experts) notes that Washington and Colorado have already legalized cannabis. "I think it can be safely said that Washington's law is viewed as problematic. Colorado is better. I think we can do better yet. Something simple and not overly restrictive." For example:
• A preamble, with a list of Whereas':, listing the evils and failures of prohibition.
• Cannabis, in any form, formulation, product or extract, shall be legal for adults to possess, grow and to give away for free.
• Commercial sales and cultivation of cannabis shall subject to the same regulation as other retail, industrial or agricultural businesses and be subject to standard taxes only.
• Age limit (18 - 21) ie: If you can vote, cannabis is legal.
• People having past convictions for cultivation, possession or sale, shall have their criminal records expunged.
• Nothing here shall change the law on impaired driving.
• Nothing here shall be construed as superseding current medicinal "marijuana" laws.
• Add protection for parents from government agencies as to use, possession, or growing in homes with children, and for medicinal use by children.
When writing such a bill, avoid restrictive:
• Local options
• Tax earmarks
• Public consumption
• Outside vs inside grow
• Cannabis vs Hemp
• Grow quantities
• Lab testing*
Here in Canada, the recommendations of the Senate* report ©2002, the Liberal's majority vote on Resolution 112 ©2012 and the draft policy paper* tabled by the Young Liberals ©2013 will be the guiding documents for the repeal of prohibition after the next election. It is a serious political and social issue. This problem began in Parliament, it must end there. Nothing less will do. Our descendants may be stuck for 50 or 100 years with what we come up with... so it is vital that we get it right. Convoluted rules, regulations and restrictions will impact the free market innovations and products for years to come. We'll get to those in a bit.
Next article: Regulating Cannabis - Oxymoron #2