Article by Jeremy Kemeny, Hamilton Spectator
Everyone smoking recreational marijuana right now is a criminal.
That is according to Canadian law and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who — planning to legalize this summer — has encouraged authorities to enforce these rules.
There are a lot of criminals. In 2016, an estimated 4.9 million Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 years old spent money on pot, which translates into $5.7 billion according to a new Statistics Canada report. And 94 per cent of that, the agency said, was consumed illegally. Your child, sibling or parent might be guilty. You probably have a cousin that’s guilty. Some of your friends are likely guilty. That’s millions of Canadians guilty of possession of cannabis.
What happens after legalization? One day pot smokers are sitting on their couch, watching Futurama reruns and eating too much snack mix illegally. The next day, they can buy marijuana from a government approved shop and watch cartoons as a free, law abiding citizen. Here in Ontario, the pot will come directly from one of 40 government operated dispensaries. This is a preposterous situation and one that could have been avoided.
Marijuana should have been decriminalized years ago … and it almost was.
In May 2003, Outremont MP Martin Cauchon sponsored Bill C-38 — not to be confused with the C-38 of Feb. 2005, The Civil Marriage Act. The earlier C-38 was a decriminalization bill, specifically intended to contravene the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act passed by the same government seven years earlier. The majority Liberals were on board with this idea. Then prime minister Jean Chrétien joked in an interview with the Globe and Mail, “perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand.”
I remember this failed bill. I remember, even though I may have been stoned on the couch of my friend’s student house, playing Mario Cart on Nintendo 64 while it was being read. The summer months of 2003 were glory days for stoners. No one knew if marijuana was going to be legal or illegal so everyone that smoked did so indiscriminately.
But, of course, that high was short lived. In November of 2003 Chrétien prorogued parliament to avoid the Auditor General’s report on the sponsorship scandal. The next year the Liberals, shamed from the corrupt advertising program, were reduced to a minority government. In 2006, the 13-year-old regime fell, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were elected and the decriminalization bill was never passed.