Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jun 2003
Source: Red Deer Express (CN AB)
Copyright: 2003 Red Deer Express
Author: Ted Hermary


I am writing in response to statements by Insp. Peter Calvert
regarding the Bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of
marijuana (Express May 29).

Like so many other opponents of the Bill, Insp. Calvert suggests that
this gives the "dangerous message" that using marijuana "is okay".

Perhaps it's just me, but the threat of a $400 fine - plus the
just-say-no" public education" campaign that is part of the
legislation - does not exactly sound like "it's okay".

The obvious message of the Bill is that smoking marijuana is not okay,
but possessing small amounts does not justify being branded as a
criminal. Possession will still be illegal, just not automatically a

Insp. Calvert also compares decriminalizing possession of small
amounts of marijuana to minor theft.

This is not a valid analogy. Theft clearly does harm to another person
(depriving them of property); smoking marijuana, in itself, does not.

This brings us to the latest scare tactic for opposing the Bill:
Decriminalization will lead to hordes of people "smoking up" and climbing
behind the wheel of an automobile, and then somebody will get hurt.

The police will be powerless to stem the tide, because, as Insp.
Calvert explains, there is no reliable instrument for detecting
marijuana impairment, on par with the alcohol breathalyzer test.

Marijuana does impair coordination and reaction time, but this is
basically a scare tactic.

For one thing, there is no reason to think that there will be a
greater number of undetectable marijuana-impaired drivers on the road
after the passage of the Bill than there is at present.

At any rate, evidence from Holland indicates that marijuana use
remained stable or slightly declined during decades of outright (if
unofficial) legalization in that country.

For another, there are numerous other driving impairments for which
there is also no reliable instrument of detection and which arguably
pose a far greater risk to public safety.

The use of legal drugs ("medications"), stress, a lack of sleep, and
the use of cell phones come readily to mind.

In other words, if one were truly concerned with public safety,
crusading against marijuana impairment would hardly seem a logical

A similar point could be made regarding occupational safety - a theme
I expect to enter the debate over the Bill any day now.

In my view, Insp. Calvert's comments further demonstrate how there are
no good reasons opposing the Bill.

It's one of the few sensible things the Chretien Liberals have done.

Ted Hermary

Red Deer
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