Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Pot Laws Hurting Society

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Pot Laws Hurting Society

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Pot laws hurting society

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Jan. 7:

It's been two months since the states of Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for personal use, joining dozens of countries that have decriminalized or legalized the drug without experiencing the collapse of their societies, an increase in mental illness or a rise in the laziness index.

These states have stopped making criminals out of pot smokers because they realized it was counter-productive; it fuelled drug profits for organized crime, tied up police resources and saddled millions of young people with criminal records.

And as Free Press reporter Bruce Owen discovered in a special story published Saturday, if Canada were to change its prudish policies and tax the drug, it could be worth $2 billion for Ottawa in new revenue and an extra $600 million for Manitoba every year.

That money could fill a lot of potholes and provide cash for a wide range of other challenges, including the health, education and social-service systems.

Smoking dope may not be the healthiest life choice, particularly if it is used to excess, but the fact is marijuana has been around Canada as long as grandpa, and it's not going away. The drug is really no more dangerous -- but probably less harmful -- than other undesirable habits, such as alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate doughnuts.

Booze was also banned at one point in the past, but the authorities re-legalized it after realizing -- as Colorado and Washington have realized today -- that it was counter-productive to try to stamp out a product that the otherwise law-abiding majority of people wanted.

People today want legal and safe access to marijuana. A recent survey by Toronto's Forum Research found 65 per cent of Canadians favour either the legalization and taxation of the drug, or decriminalizing it in small amounts. Other surveys have reached the same conclusion.

But despite all the evidence that suggests the country's marijuana laws are badly outdated, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is determined to not only maintain them, but to increase penalties for dealing in the drug. …

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