The (Re)Criminalization of Marijuana

According to TRIP surveys, Marijuana is one of the most popular drugs at parties. In Canadian society Marijuana very accepted, often smoked outside on the streets with bravo. In 2003 Toronto police chief Julian Fantino made a public statement that police would not arrest users with less than 30 grams on them. Jean Chretien was pushing bills through that would decriminalize cannabis, but then he left office and things fell apart. That bill has yet to be passed, yet Canadian youth are under the impression that marijuana is still legal. With Stephen Harper in power, the police are not as forgiving and there has been a recent spike in pot arrests.

Marijuana remains illegal and Canada, yet youth are smoking it more boldly than ever. “You’d have a youth smoking a joint out on the street without any fear of being caught,” said Toronto police Detective Doug McCutcheon. In 2006 Canada’s main cities reported a rise between 20-50% in marijuana arrests. This spike in criminalization is starkly related to the rise of conservative politics in Canadian society. With Harper in power we’re not going to see marijuana legalized any time soon. On top of that we have folks like the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente spreading rumors that marijuana is the new crack. According to Wente, “The vast majority of the marijuana inhaled today is not the mellow weed you and I remember from our youth. It is many times more powerful. In fact, the United Nations now classifies Canadian-grown marijuana as a hard drug whose destructive power puts it in the same league as cocaine.” Herbert Schaepe, secretary to the UN International Narcotics Control Board is a stanch opponent of harm reduction and has scolded Canada many times for not cracking down on seed distribution and pot users. Blogger Cliff Almas from Calgary Alberta breaks down the myths for us:

Contrary to popular myth, greater potency is not necessarily more dangerous, due to the fact that users tend to adjust (or “self-titrate”) their dose according to potency. Thus, good quality sinsemilla is actually healthier for the lungs because it reduces the amount of smoke one needs to inhale to get high.

The stronger concentration of THC, the less we have to smoke to get high. This means lower cancer risk and healthier lungs. Ms. Wente tells us that stronger pot is hurting Toronto’s marginalized youth. I would say that increasing incarceration rates of pot users is hurting marginalized youth even more, increasing the amount of youth of colour who populate our courts system.