Pubdate: Fri, 09 Jul 2010
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2010 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Alex Masse


Letter writer Geoffrey Capp is right to point out that marijuana use 
can be harmful to one's mental health. Moreover, there are several 
other defensible reasons that might lead a conscientious citizen to 
oppose the use of marijuana.

It is one thing to believe that a decrease in marijuana use would be 
good for society. It is another thing entirely to believe that 
prohibition is good public policy. To take the leap in logic from the 
former to the latter is to assume (a) that prohibition is successful 
in significantly lowering the rate of marijuana use and (b) that the 
societal benefits of prohibition outweigh the costs.

The evidence for (a) is tenuous at best. According to the UN's World 
Drug Report (2007), prohibitionist Canada has far and away the 
highest rate of marijuana use in the industrialized world, with 16.8 
per cent reporting use within the past year. In the Netherlands, 
where marijuana prohibition hasn't been enforced in decades, that 
figure is 6.1 per cent.

The question of prohibition's effectiveness is hard to settle, but 
some of the costs are quite apparent.

Prohibition robs the government of a predictable stream of tax 
revenue and puts that immense profit largely into the hands of violent gangs.

Police are spending an absurd amount of time and resources enforcing 
marijuana laws. Meanwhile, they have to contend with gangs that use 
marijuana profits to carry out much more dangerous activities.

Furthermore, a number of otherwise innocent people, a 
disproportionate number of whom belong to marginalized groups, are 
strapped with a criminal record for marijuana possession. The 
consequences of that record are drastically disproportionate to the 
scale of the offence.

There is also evidence to suggest (as noted by letter writer Wayne 
Phillips) that prohibition makes marijuana more desirable and more 
accessible to youth. In effect, prohibition increases the rate of use 
among the most vulnerable. At the same time, it robs informed adults 
of the right to decide what substances they can and cannot consume. 
This is no small intrusion of state power into the private lives of citizens.

Alex Masse

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