Why Canada should update its archaic drug laws

Photo courtesy of Torben Hansen (Flickr)

The Supreme Court of Canada recently invalidated sections 4 and 5 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in a unanimous decision, effectively legalizing non-conventional forms of marijuana for medicinal use. This means that those who are licensed to use medical marijuana will no longer be restricted to just smoking it. They will have the option consume marijuana cookies, brownies, lip balms, oils — the list goes as far as your imagination allows.

This decision is part of a growing trend toward decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis, and it’s about time. Canada’s law surrounding cannabis, especially of the medicinal variety, are puritanical and arbitrary, with lines drawn between certain methods of consumption for apparently no reason other than the government feeling like it.

Laws should only be in place so long as they are useful to society. But when a law becomes damaging and harmful to the citizens it is supposed to help, it becomes unjust. The cost of the “War on Cannabis” is well documented. SFU criminology professor Neil Boyd estimated in 2013 that by 2018, BC alone will spend $18.8 million per year on policing and court costs.

A World Drug Report from 2008 states that if half the marijuana in circulation were consumed by Canadians, it would garner $2.12 billion in revenue every year. Addtionally, the state of Washington, which recently legalized recreational pot, is suggested by the most recent Economic and Revenue Forecast Council estimate as of 2014 to generate $694 million in tax revenue by 2019.

For sufferers of painful chronic illnesses, cannabis products may be a helpful and even necessary respite for their distress. A UBC researcher has begun a study which will look at how marijuana can help patients with HIV/AIDS. Medicinal marijuana has also been suggested to help treat multiple sclerosis and cancer patients.

Essentially the Conservative position on marijuana is to plug their ears and insist on governing morals.

The laws that were struck down had serious consequences. Take six-year-old Liam McKnight from Ottawa: he suffers from a severe form of epilepsy and requires cannabis oil to help with his seizures. His parents have knowingly broken the law to supply him with this aid. According to federal laws, it would be legal for a seven year old to smoke a joint, but cannabis oil is considered a step too far.

Conservative health minister Rona Ambrose has said that she was “outraged” by the ruling, yet she shows no outrage for the human cost of draconian marijuana legislation. While the Supreme Court was supplied with ample medical evidence to consider when making their decision, Ambrose has chosen to ignore it. Essentially, the conservative position on marijuana isto plug their ears and insist on governing morals.

Conservatives are well aware that their strict anti-drug stance is popular. It feeds into societal anxiety which categorises recreational drug users as troublemakers who need to be purged. But in a society where other recreational drugs are openly accepted, there is no basis for this belief.

We Canadians have the liberty to choose; whether a decision is unhealthy or healthy, that decision is ours to bear. While the government does not have to encourage “unhealthy” decisions, it has no business throwing someone into jail for making them.

Behind the current position is nothing but hot air and a lack of respect for the welfare of drug users and for our enshrined freedoms as Canadians. There is no longer any rational justification for marijuana prohibition, and the federal government needs to acknowledge the human cost left in the wake of their battle against the drug. A war on drugs is a war on Canadians.