Cheech, Chong and Trudeau. The latest “can’t miss” saviour of the federal Liberal party’s epiphany about legalizing marijuana sounded more like the discovery of pocket lint than a well considered policy decision. While assuring he had been “paying a lot of attention to the very serious studies that have come out”, Justin Trudeau unwisely added to his personal support argument for legalizing pot, “many studies have shown it’s no worse for you than cigarettes or alcohol.” Without even pursuing the gateway drug argument, the effects of marijuana consumption on personal health remain in question. While studies do exist which suggest pot has a less negatively invasive impact on health than either tobacco or alcohol, it is hardly accepted as being free of unwelcome consequences.

The Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, for example, reported the habit of deep drags by marijuana users, combined with their preference for holding in smoke as long as possible before exhaling, can lead to obstructed airways, as well as hyper-inflation of the lungs. Researchers also pointed to the absence of filters on marijuana joints leading to lung complications. Legalizing marijuana sales and consumption brings along pragmatic challenges, as the state of Washington is finding out. In Washington, where voters endorsed legalizing marijuana for personal use, organizations seeking to commercialize pot production and sales are confronted by federal law reports the Spokesman- Review. The newspaper points to a Seattle-based company which invests “in services, products and infrastructure of the marijuana industry” and which was started by experienced venture capitalists.

The company is having difficulty finding law firms, as well as accounting and payroll counterparts willing to accept the company as a client. Banks are refusing the company as a client, hence it is on it’s third bank in three years. Federal laws in the U.S. make it very difficult for businesses to accept money from drug operations. Any provincial move to legalize marijuana unilaterally without federal agreement would find itself on a collision course with national law here. Even a parliamentary vote to accommodate legalizing marijuana production and sale in a manner currently approved for tobacco and alcohol would quite probably face court challenges. A significant percentage of Canadians is either opposed to legalizing cannabis, or unsure of the value of such a move. Some would no doubt mount spirited and time-consuming opposition to any decision to legalize pot. Will marijuana eventually be produced, sold and taxed legally? It would seem so. Not as the result of any altruistic motive, or a politician’s whim or hunt for votes.

What will eventually carry the day for legalizing marijuana will be the fact that it is easily and readily available now and Canadians who consume pot show little fear of criminal law consequences, watered down as they are. Mr. Trudeau, if his argument for legalizing marijuana is to be seen as anything more than a voting fishing expedition, must engage Canadians in a meaningful and factual discussion on the question. What he’s putting forward now is making me think he’s been listening to too much music from the 60’s.

By: Roy Green

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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