Opinion Column

Caution needs to be used with legalization

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

Marijuana (File photo)

Marijuana (File photo)

I’ll be honest, I’m not whole-heartedly against the legalization of marijuana. 

 

In fact, I think there are many positives to green lighting the reefer and many arguments against are quite hypocritical. 

But the federal government does need to tread carefully and make sure that the bud’s not for everyone. 

The science behind the ills of marijuana is all over the place, in fact there are many health positive attributes to the herb and its by-products. Can it be bad for you? Absolutely. There are those who over indulge to the point of obsession and as is with any vice can effect that person’s ability to contribute to society at their best and can affect their health in the short and long term. 

But one of the biggest things legalization does is make the drug a whole lot safer. If the process of producing and selling pot is closely regulated then it takes much of the risk out of smoking it. Marijuana, like many drugs, can be laced with other chemicals and drugs to change the potency and in some cases create a dependency. By taking the street element out of the equation, the recreational drug becomes a lot safer. 

The fact is, no drug is 100 per cent safe, but we have always managed to pick and choose which substances we want to ignore the safety factor on. Look no further than tobacco and alcohol for products with big red flags on them. One of which we plaster with graphic images of cancer and emphysema and other diseases but have no plans on halting their sale. They are considered socially acceptable drugs that both do damage to the user and others. 

I look at pot in this manner. I personally do not like it, it has little effect on me, but I loathe the smell of skunk. And living in various apartments throughout my adult life, I cannot remember one of them where I was not often greeted by the smell of weed wafting down the hallway after work.

I’d much rather have a pint of Guinness at a pub with some friends than get baked on the couch watching cartoons and eating Cheetos. 

But like these other socially acceptable drugs, it can be taxed to high heaven — no pun intended. 

According to MarketWatch.com, the state of Colorado pulled in nearly $200 million in tax revenue last year on the back of $1.3 million in marijuana revenue. 

It’s already an illegal cash crop but it can be a legal one. There are several medical marijuana plants already setting up shop in Central Alberta and many uses for its byproducts. 

But there are some definite drawbacks to legalization. 

As with its cousin alcohol, there is great concern over driving while intoxicated or high and the ability to accurately test levels in a driver. This is something that has to be ironed out before Trudeau’s promise to lift its prohibition on July 1, 2018. 

As well there is no consensus as to what age should be considered legal, the federal government has suggested 18 as the proper age, while leaving the door open to the provinces to set their own age limits. 

Meanwhile, there is also little clarification over regulations for dispensaries and some of the criminal sentences, including one that mandates a 14-year prison sentence for selling to a minor. Legalization of pot should take pressure off of the legal system, not put more pressure on it. 

There are also many collectively bargained agreements and work contracts that prohibit the use of marijuana, do those become void if suddenly pot is made legal in Canada? 

Perhaps one the biggest hurdles in the way is the international stage where UN drug control treaties specifically require cannabis’s prohibition. Canada is signed on to those treaties and withdrawing from them could have bigger impacts down the road when it comes to international diplomacy. The government has not made its plans known yet on this issue. 

The Trudeau government is desperate for some good news to take the glare off of a debt-loaded budget and the shine coming off of its Sunny Ways election win. They very much are trying to make good on one of their big campaign promises, particularly for their younger supporters. 

The breaks need to be pumped, however, and make sure we as a country are prepared to deal with the repercussions of legalization.

The government cannot ram this through to meet an arbitrary deadline, they need to make sure everything has been given proper consideration first. Once the cat is out of the bag, there is not getting it back in. 



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