Article by Jodie Emery, Ottawa Citizen
It was the worst possible provincial legalization plan, but it just became official. The Liberal government of Ontario announced a state monopoly on the sale of legal non-medical cannabis, combined with a massive crackdown on the existing cannabis industry.
Legalization wasn’t supposed to be like this. Canadians increasingly supported ending cannabis criminalization after watching billions of tax dollars wasted by law enforcement going after peaceful people for pot.
Marijuana has been grown and consumed in Canada for decades without any measurable negative impact on the health and safety of society. In fact, the impact has been more positive than negative, especially for sick and suffering citizens.
Medical marijuana has been widely accepted for many years now thanks to scientific evidence and tireless advocacy of “illegal” patients, growers and dispensaries. Those gains and legalized medical access were hard-fought and won in court by people who suffered raids and arrests.
Licensed producers of medical marijuana exist because of law-breakers winning court orders declaring Health Canada must provide access, in order to protect the Charter rights of medical consumers.
Civil disobedience is the only reason cannabis law reform has happened. No government willingly increases cannabis freedoms. Law-breakers had to force change through the courts, and through protests, election campaigns, media messaging and other forms of outreach.
Canadians, especially regular marijuana users, know the vast majority of growers and suppliers are peaceful and non-violent. That’s why they support legalizing the existing pot industry and dispensaries. And Justice Department records support that perception; ninety-five percent of cannabis growing cases in court have no connection to organized crime or gangs, and the people charged were “otherwise law-abiding.”
This is what’s supposed to be legalized: the tens of thousands of providers who are currently defined as criminals by government policy. They want to be legal. They want to come into the light, but the government forces them to stay in the shadows.