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I spoke to Kevin Krueger recently to ask him to explain the difference between his party’s voracious criticism of gambling expansion (in particular online wagering) while in opposition and the fact it is salivating as it expands gambling like no other government in North America.
During the conversation, the Kamloops-South Thompson MLA and tourism minister compared government involvement in cyber-casinos to the failed prohibition experience of eight decades ago.
“There’s no going back,” he said of government’s foray into gambling. “It’s like alcohol. Prohibition ended up benefitting organized crime and government changed its mind.”
Based on that view, I asked, why shouldn’t marijuana — or any other illegal drug, for that matter — be legalized? It’s a fact prohibition benefits criminals and, the stricter the prohibition, the more money flows into the pockets of the underworld.
Krueger mentioned the fact the legalization issue is a federal mandate (true, though provinces can take stands and push for needed change); argued marijuana is a gateway drug (actually, alcohol is the pre-eminent gateway drug); and that he has heard reports of dealers lacing marijuana with stronger, addictive drugs to create a repeat customer base.
The last claim is hard to believe, considering the $7-billion-a-year marijuana industry hardly needs anything more than the plant to maintain customers.
And, for argument’s sake, even if it were true, that’s more reason for government to legalize, regulate and tax pot. Government did so for alcohol and I would suggest treating teens for drinking bad Budweiser and busting stills in the hills are rare events indeed for police and physicians.
Seriously, if Rich Coleman — the minister responsible for gambling in B.C. — can essentially argue B.C. can’t beat them, so it is joining them in the $100 million residents allegedly spent annually on offshore gambling websites, why wouldn’t he and the Liberals push for the same when it comes to the question of marijuana?
Why? Because this is the way it has always been. Because Canada has a prime minister who follows the failed U.S. war-on-drugs mantra in lockstep, a leader who makes embarrassing comments, such as pointing to the thousands of murders in Mexico as a reason not to legalize pot — somehow missing the fact those thousands of murders occur precisely and only because pot and other drugs remain illegal.
Opponents often argue legalization will legitimize pot-smoking. Well, why shouldn’t it be legitimized?
Is there an iota of difference between a person unwinding after work with a scotch and soda and a person unwinding after work with a joint, aside from the fact our silly society labels the latter a criminal for no apparent reason?
Opponents often charge legalization’s road to legitimization will result in more young people trying marijuana.
Baloney. Ask your average teenager to get you a case of Heineken and ask another teenager to get you a bag of weed. Guess which one will find it near impossible to deliver your goods?
That’s because legalization has dropped the price of alcohol to levels that have eliminated organized crime and the need to make your own, while regulation has made it appropriately difficult for minors to get their hands on booze.
Pot? It’s everywhere.
It’s more available illegal than it ever would be as a legal, regulated substance.
In 2002, the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs called for the legalization of marijuana, noting that prohibition of marijuana has done little to reduce its use despite vast amounts of money spent on law enforcement, that marijuana is not a gateway to harder drugs like ******* and ******, that marijuana is not generally addictive (less than 10 per cent of users become addicted) and that pot is less harmful than alcohol.
The very fact marijuana is illegal is the reason organized crime, violence and sky-high prices are part of the equation.
Add to that electrocutions and fires (caused when growers mess with hydro connections) and one has to wonder why the powers-that-be cannot see that legalization is the answer that makes the most sense.
• Chris Foulds is managing editor of Kamloops This Week, a Black Press newspaper.