Our View: Politicians behind on pot laws

If the voters of British Columbia had their way, marijuana would already be legal or decriminalized.

At least, that’s the results of a new Insights West poll. It showed that 67 per cent of British Columbians support ending the criminalization of cannabis. A full 38 per cent want legalization, 24 per cent want decriminalization, and 27 per cent favour only medical use. Just seven per cent want the use of pot banned completely.

The laws on pot have been out of date more or less since it was criminalized early in the 20th century. 

Let’s be clear – pot isn’t actually good for you, and smoking it definitely isn’t. Driving while stoned is dangerous, too. But our society already balances many good-vs-ill conflicts. Tobacco isn’t good for you either, nor is alcohol, but we regulate rather than ban those substances because the social cost is easier to bear when they are legal.

Prohibit a substance that many people want and you get crime, usually violent organized crime. We’ve seen that with alcohol in the past, but today, the owners of brew pubs and liquor stores fight for customers with advertising, not with bullets in the streets. We’re all better off for taking alcohol out of the hands of gangsters.

That seems to be what many West Coasters think, too. Most expect a decline in gang violence tied to the drug trade.

The same poll shows they’re sceptical of claims by Conservative politicians that legalization would lead to teens having more access to pot. I hate to break it to Health Minister Rona Ambrose, but putting marijuana behind the counter of a liquor store would likely make it harder for many teens to access, not easier. 

If the government does legalize marijuana, that doesn’t mean they should encourage its use – in fact, a strategy of taxes, education, and fact-based advertising is likely the best policy. We’ve seen smoking rates plummet, and we’ve seen drunk driving rates fall, so why not try that strategy with pot?

– M.C.

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