Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A short history on Canadian cannabis

The Vancouver Sun started a four part series yesterday analyzing the history of cannabis prohibition in Canada. Permanently archived at Media Awareness Project, part one looks at the how marijuana came to be banned 75 years ago despite the fact that the legislators didn't even know what the herb was and only a couple of dozen people had been charged with possession of it at the time.

In the early 70s, eerily echoing our own Commission on the subject, Trudeau's government formed a group to study the plant and as in the US, that commission also recommended repealing the prohibition of possession of marijuana and the prohibition of cultivation for personal use. Both countries ignored the findings and marijuana remains illegal sending tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens to prison.

Part two, available today on the Vancouver Sun's site, (and will be archived at this bookmark at MAP), examines "whether our increasingly draconian laws have reduced the supply of, and demand for, illegal drugs." The answer is a resounding no.

Despite tougher laws, enhanced police powers and more drug seizures, cannabis use continues to escalate. According to the Canadian Addiction Survey, 44.5 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 have used marijuana. That's a whopping increase from the 28.7 per cent of those who reported trying the drug just a decade ago.

...So what is the relationship between marijuana prohibition and marijuana use? There isn't one: As a number of European studies have demonstrated, the severity of drug laws simply has no effect on the level of drug use.
The author notes the only effect the laws have had on the cannabis market is to drive production into the hands of organized criminals who can afford to take the risks of being caught. Tomorrow, the series will review the newest pending legislation in Canada that proposes to decriminalize possession while ratcheting up the penalties for production - an approach doomed to miserably fail.


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