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The future of getting high
The Sensible BC campaign is underway to try to force a referendum on the decriminalization of marijuana. So let's keep that conversation going, eh?
Recently, the federal government announced stringent new regulations for the growing of medical marijuana, which will take effect next spring.
At present, the practice seems surprisingly loosey-goosey, considering that it involves the cultivation of contraband — the demon reefer. Anyone in Canada who can obtain a license to grow medical marijuana — to help with their panic attacks, say — can grow it anywhere they want. And no one needs to know; not the cops, not municipal bylaw officers, not your mother. Only Health Canada knows, and your secrets are safe with them. And the government distributes it, through pharmacies.
Well, that's all changing. You will now have to seek proper municipal zoning for your licensed grow op. So Gerry Warner, Denise Pallesen, Angus Davis, et al, will be publicly debating the merits of your grow op.
It has been suggested that municipalities should only consider allowing medical marijuana grow operations on industrially zoned property, so you will need a business license, etc.
And since now everyone will know about your grow op (as well as those panic attacks which you control with your grow op's product), you will now have to properly secure your grow-op, with fences and such, so that every Tom, Dick and Barry doesn't come sneaking by late at night with an empty plastic bag to fill up. And the government will no longer distribute it. So if I, for example, wanted to renew my prescription to deal with my panic attacks, and I didn't have my own grow op, I'd have to write to you, and get you to send it to me through the mail. And of course, the eyes of The Man will be watching.
And so on ...
Now, pot activists seem to be generally enraged by these pending new rules. The heavy hand of the government, a pawn of the U.S.; a giant step backward; etc.
But I feel differently. I feel it is a tentative step towards ultimate decriminalization, legalization, and government control and regulation of the product, much like alcohol is controlled and regulated. I can picture it, 10 years from now, when the system has gone beyond just medical marijuana. If you want to smoke marijuana, you can go to a licensed dealer at a secure location, show required identification like you do at the liquor store, pay the regulated price (including a hefty, hefty tax) for a product tested and produced to certain standards. Thus, jurisdictions like British Columbia will finally be able to reap the enormous benefits of this immense cash crop. And remember, just across the border, Washington State has legalized (small) amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Here we have an instant export market for B.C. marijuana — the best in the world, right? What are we waiting for? Revenues will be sky high!
As for illegal grow ops such as exist today, they would still be highly illegal. And why would you buy pot from the black market when you can go to the licensed dealer? Illegal grow ops will go out of business, thus the criminal element of the marijuana trade will be neutralized.
So there, the future is unfolding. We can't expect governments not to get involved, even though the feds are making the municipalities do all the dirty work. This is the framework of the model that Canada is developing for our marijuana industry.
Meanwhile, speaking of models, the South American country of Uruguay is poised to become the first nation in the world to legalize and regulate the production, sale and consumption of marijuana. Here's a partial look at that proposed model (information taken from cnn.com):
• Households may grow up to six plants and harvest a maximum of 480 grams of weed per year, or "membership clubs" will be created, between 15 and 45 people, who can grow up to 99 marijuana plants;
• These growing operations must be licensed by the government, and the pot will be sold to the public through pharmacies, which also will be licensed to do so;
• Those who grow or sell marijuana outside of these government-licensed options will be subject to prosecution and could face prison terms of 20 months to 10 years;
• A registry would be created of all marijuana buyers that would be designed to ensure that those who buy marijuana are at least 18 years old and residents of Uruguay (designed to prevent marijuana tourism to Uruguay);
• The health system will provide educational programs about the risks of drug use at all levels of schooling.
• Any direct or indirect advertising for marijuana in any media would be prohibited.
Whether or not you agree with Canada's new medical marijuana regulations, you can see the framework being laid for a model such as Uruguay's. We shall revisit this column in 10 years, and see how it all turns out.
Barry Coulter is the Editor of the
Cranbrook Daily Townsman