It is time for a fresh perspective in Canada on how to deal with cannabis and its consumers.
Hard drugs like cocaine and heroin should continue to be illegal, but cannabis, as a “soft drug”, should be legal for medicinal and recreational purposes. Law enforcement should continue to word hard to eradicate hard drugs and punish those convicted of any crimes associated with them.
But I am going to make the case that cannabis, for medicinal and recreational use, should be legal throughout Canada because of economic and social reasons. We can model our legalization method on the Dutch and Colorado models.
In The Netherlands, where marijuana is legal, the government has placed the decision about whether or not to use cannabis in the hands of the individual. The Dutch government believes, as I do, that suppressing cannabis makes society more dangerous and makes the marijuana drug trade more difficult to control and monitor.
With all this being said, the Netherlands has strict laws limiting so-called “soft drugs” like cannabis. Driving under the influence of cannabis is treated the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. Large scale growing and trading is also forbidden. The use of “hard drugs” continues to be enforced the same as before cannabis was legalized.
Despite the public worry that such a policy would doom Dutch society, it has had a positive impact, as cannabis tax-revenues are available to fight the consequences of more heinous offences.
In Colorado marijuana has been legal since November 2012 and like the Netherlands, conditions apply. Adults over the age of 21 can only purchase a small number of plants and driving under the influence of cannabis or consuming it in public remains illegal.
Colorado has seen a boom in cannabis-related revenue since legalization. In 2014 legal marijuana was a $700 million dollar industry and is widely expected to reach $1 billion in 2016. Sales of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana generated $63 million in tax revenues and $13 million in licenses and fees. Total marijuana tax revenues are expected to rise dramatically in 2016 with the total economic impact most likely greater because of increased tourism. This information is according to the state of Colorado government and revenue services.
Canada can benefit from legalizing marijuana in two ways. Firstly, by taxing it governments can increase revenue, which in turn can allow better ways to fight poverty, improve hospitals and schools, and help people with mental health or addictions to substances like cocaine and heroin.
Secondly, it will make for safer communities. It is safer to acknowledge that people are going to use cannabis regardless of the law. By accepting that fact, Canadian lawmakers should regulate the industry to make sure cannabis isn’t laced with something lethal. They should also make it harder for minors to have access to the drug.
Another added bonus of legalizing marijuana is that it would allow police officers to focus their attention away from people who smoke pot and more so on serious drug offences and other violent crimes. Legalizing marijuana would free-up the legal system and allow for people to have their cases heard quicker, instead of having thousands of pot-smokers being arrested and taken to court on petty crimes.
The nuances and specifics can be ironed out later, but legalizing marijuana is the smart path for Canada to take.