Like many Canadians, I first bought marijuana in high school. It was easy to get. Where with alcohol I was in the unenviable position of having to deal with someone older who could say no, steal my money or, if I asked the wrong person, get into a mess of trouble. Marijuana was different.
I first tried marijuana in the early AM of April 20th, 2008. I tried it on a whim as something to do before I graduated. I enjoyed myself and not long after I decided I should buy some of my own. Now at this point I was what some economists would call: low knowledge consumer, though, in reality I was a zero knowledge consumer. I had no knowledge of Sativas and Indicas or their effects, I likely didn’t even know what was larger, a gram or an ounce. I was able to buy weed though. It was a simple process of going to a friend in my grade, asking whom I should ask, and asking. Compare that to the hassle of buying alcohol.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave his latest speech on marijuana to an economic conference, Wednesday, I heard echoes of my first purchase. Trudeau say,
Look, our approach on legalizing marijuana is not about creating a boutique industry or bringing in tax revenue, it’s based on two very simple principles:
The first one is, young people have easier access to cannabis now, in Canada, than they do in just about any other countries in the world. [Of] 29 different countries studied by the U.N., Canada was number one in terms of underage access to marijuana. And whatever you might think or studies seen about cannabis being less harmful than alcohol or even cigarettes, the fact is it is bad for the developing brain and we need to make sure that it’s harder for underage Canadians to access marijuana. And that will happen under a controlled and regulated regime.
The other piece of it is there are billions upon billions of dollars flowing into the pockets of organized crime, street gangs and gun-runners, because of the illicit marijuana trade, and if we can get that out of the criminal elements and into a more regulated fashion we will reduce the amount of criminal activity that’s profiting from those, and that has offshoots into so many other criminal activities. So those are my focuses on that.
I have no doubt that Canadians and entrepreneurs will be tremendously innovative in finding ways to create positive economic benefits from the legalization and control of marijuana, but our focus is on protecting kids and protecting our streets.
This rhetoric doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Many Canadians have experienced similar ease in getting marijuana in their youth. I didn’t know who my friend got it from, or how many hands it passed through to before it got to me. Hopefully my early experiences weren’t supporting organized crime, though we were technically all criminals under the laws of the time.
Hopefully Trudeau’s arguments will ring true with those who think marijuana legalization will bring a rush of childhood smokers. This often repeated reason, though powerfully emotional, has no basis in fact or the experiences of Canadians.