The Immorality of Enforcing Marijuana Laws

The police should now admit that it is immoral for them to enforce the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) as it pertains to marijuana. Laws must be justified on some moral basis in order for them to be supported by the public. Without support, our police lose the moral authority to enforce cannabis laws.

Over 70% of British Columbians support research to evaluate the regulation of cannabis (from an Angus Reid poll conducted earlier this month[1]). This measure of public opinion is consistent a similar poll conducted in the fall of 2012 which indicated that a majority of Canadians (57%) are ready to see marijuana legalized.

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The law enforcement community influences Canadian’s perceptions about the evils of marijuana, richly sprinkled with war metaphors, the portrayal of cannabis producers and smokers as deviants, and the resultant chaos should the public contemplate legally tolerant alternatives.

One of the challenges for the police is to convince those of us (especially parents) who lived through the 70s and 80s that today’s pot is “more harmful”. They frequently tell us that the active ingredient in marijuana (THC) is found in higher concentrations when grown under the tender care of hydroponic lights. There’s at least two problems with this claim.

First, the insistence that higher THC concentrations makes marijuana dangerous is like arguing that whiskey is more dangerous than beer because it contains proportionately more alcohol. Cannabis users will smoke less to enjoy the same effects – just like those of us who drink a smaller quantity of Scotch than wine but still achieve the same cognitive pleasures.

It’s a tragic irony that more Canadians have died or been injured from the enforcement of marijuana laws, than from any harms caused by the herb itself. The sporadic gun violence in Lower Mainland streets is the direct consequence of criminalizing a product which the public demands in a marketplace where the government has surrendered its controlling shares to the business of criminal organizations.

Secondly, the harms created by cannabis are the result of its legal status , not its pharmacological properties which, for most users, are relatively benign according to the research examined by our own Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs in 2002. Any negative effects associated with cannabis can be mediated, according to a recent 2011 article in the Canadian Journal of Public Health by researchers with Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction at Simon Fraser University.

The law creates opportunities for a  black market and endangers the lives of citizens and police. The law is wrong. The law itself must be seen as criminal because of its consequences and must not be enforced by the police.

To have impact on cannabis markets, Parliament must regulate the domestic cultivation of marijuana so that the incentive for organized crime evaporates, except perhaps for a black market to supply smokers south of the 49th Parallel (except in those states which have already legalized cannabis).

The morally preferable alternative to the current failure of our so called “drug war” would be for police to take a bold stand like that of RCMP Commissioner Aylesworth Bowen Perry during Prohibition in 1917.

“No instruction whatsoever has been issued by me in regard to [enforcing prohibition],” he reminded his senior officers in Alberta. Unless otherwise notified, Perry told them unequivocally, prohibition “is not to be enforced by the Mounted Police”[2].

Declaring alcohol prohibition “unenforceable”, Commissioner Perry subsequently cancelled RCMP contracts to Alberta and Saskatchewan.

It’s unlikely that the same pronouncements about the abject failure of our drug laws will be heard from senior police officers anytime soon. Their interest is in advancing their careers and prestige in a police subculture where “takedowns” and “busting grow shows” get more kudos than informed political activism within the ranks. Consequently, we must elect politicians who promise to put an end to the violence associated with the unregulated distribution of cannabis.

According to the latest Angus Reid poll on the topic, 44% of respondents will have more favourable opinions of BC politicians who support “an ethically approved research study seeking to evaluate the impacts of a taxation (i.e., legalization) and regulation strategy to control adult cannabis use”.

Politicians can give back to the police some of their moral authority by not requiring them to enforce laws which cause far more harm than good.

It’s what we the people expect from you.


[1] The question went as follows:

Preamble. Many U.S. states are reforming their marijuana laws including Washington state, which has legalized the adult use of marijuana. British Columbia has experienced major unintended consequences resulting from marijuana prohibition including the proliferation of illegal marijuana grow ops and related organized crime concerns. Researchers in B.C. are interested to conduct a research trial to assess if a strictly regulated (i.e. legal) system for adult marijuana purchases could cut profits to organized crime, raise tax revenue and better protect young people from the free availability of marijuana that exists under prohibition. The study would be ethically and federally approved, involve a pilot site in one community, require key stakeholder support and be halted if unanticipated harms emerged.

Question 1. Do you support or oppose a B.C.research trial conducted by local experts and health scientists aiming to evaluate whether the taxation (i.e., legalization) and strict regulation of adult marijuana use could reduce profits to organized crime, raise tax revenue and better protect young people from the availability of marijuana that exists under prohibition?

[2] Rich Mole, Whisky Wars of the Canadian West: Fifty Years of Battles Against the Bottle, Heritage House, 2012, p. 78.

10 thoughts on “The Immorality of Enforcing Marijuana Laws

  1. to delve further into the immorality thing pertaining to cannabis in Canada follow its legislative history from circa 1908 on. The criminalizing of cannabis was intended to manufacture a social problem in order to capitalize on it. Everything that has followed (pertaining to cannabis) has been intended to perpetuate that end.

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  2. to delve further into the immorality question pertaining to cannabis in Canada follow its legislative history from circa 1908 on. The criminalizing of cannabis was intended to manufacture a social problem in order to capitalize on it. Everything that has followed (pertaining to cannabis) has been intended to perpetuate that end.

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  3. Alison, thank you for sharing your personal experience. I hear what you’ve said from many others: that cannabis has far fewer side-effects than traditional medicine. I wish our society had a more open mind, but I do see momentum in that direction. It’s not the citizens of Canada which are holding us back, it’s the dinosaurs in Ottawa 

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  4. I agree that prohibition does not work and yes would qualify for it if I could find a Doctor willing to prescribe it to me or at the very least sign the paperwork. I have type 2 diabetes, Crippling arthritis and suffer from anxiety, P.T.S.D. Yes I’ve had a tough life and I make no appologies for it. I’ve watched alcohol destroy lives( my Mothers) and in turn the violence that sprung from this affected me deeply. However in that same token I’ve seen people come together smoke weed and never raise a finger to harm any one else, myself included and despite all my trials and tribulations am not addicted to weed or alcohol ( weed has a small chance of addiction, way less than alcohol) however I go even a few hours without caffine or nicotine and it’s D-Day all over again…which are legal. I have been prescribed various drugs for my arthritis and have had a very negative reaction , my diabetes go’s haywire and puts me at risk for diabetic shock, mood swings(pity my husband) and my body just gets too used to them very fast…they don’t work,my pain comes back at double the strength and sleeping is reduced to tossing and turning as I try to get comfortable and in the end all I get are a couple of cat naps, the pain is just to intense. Weed, sleep like a baby for at least 6 hours and I don’t snap at the kids “cause I didn’t get sleep…happy family. As to the mental health issues it evens out my moods and allows my brain to slow down from running circles. I won’t mention all the drugs I was prescribed for my mental health issue’s. At one point I was so zombiefied my husband had to take care of everything, not good with little one’s at home. Weed I’m functional no pink elephants or jitters or the ability to fall asleep while walking ( yes it happened on my way up the stairs). Here’s one more thing…obviously I have a connection to get this, when I lived in another province I had an interesting conversation with one gentleman I “knew” I asked his opinion on legalization , ” if it ever became legal, I’d be outta business, so I don’t ever want it legal…I make too much money through the governments stupidity.” I asked about jail ” Jail? I’m taken care of so’s MY family, jail time means nothing to me.” So tough drug laws do nothing …really some one else will just take my place.”
    Food for thought.

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  5. I think your story is one of many told by people who might otherwise live in chronic pain but cannabis has alleviated many of their symptoms. To withhold marijuana from being used by sick people is just one more of the crimes which I feel the government perpetuates on Canadians

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  6. I’ve been smoking marijuana off & on for 46 years (I’m 69). The 1st person I ever saw smoke a joint was Bill Cosby, at a party at the Tyler School of Fine Arts, Temple University, Philadelphia in 1962. Bill was an aspiring comic hired to tell jokes at the party. The next semester he & I were in the same American History class. In 1985 I interviewed American Poet Allen Ginsberg who had just
    been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. About halfway thru the interview, he asked me if I had any good smoke. I did & we shared a joint of dynamite homegrown and went on to a vastly more interesting interview. Barack Obama acknowledges being a toker in his High School days at Punahou HS in Honolulu. The list of highly intelligent, successful & influential people who toke(d) goes on and on. None of the various B/S claims against it hold any water at all. I’ve had a modestly successful career as a University Lecturer, journalist and novelist. On the other hand, I rarely drink – once or twice a month at most, never more than 2 drinks – I just don’t really like the stuff. I think it’s a disgrace that alcohol, which causes domestic violence, liver disease & drunk driving is legal, while my innocent recreational substance of choice makes me a criminal in most jurisdictions.

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    • Luke, you ‘ve lead an interesting life! The way we regulate alcohol and tobacco, and the controls we apply to the far less dangerous cannabis derivatives, is a glaring contradictions which invites cynicism, both to the laws and politicians who continue to support them.

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  7. Yes it is nuts the way things are. I use cannabis oil for my COPD. I’m on my 4th month of 250mg every 6hrs. I make my own oil from buds only. Nothing else works.NOTHING. In december I was on 3 puffer things and they were not doing it anymore. My brainwave worked & it kept me from having to go on oxygen. I feel great & like I am healing. When I started using it for my stomach cancer instead of taking the “treatment”, I could feel it healing me then & it is really impossible to describe. It doesn’t hurt anyone.It only helps…It would be sown everywhere if I had my way.

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  8. That marijuana (cannabis) has medical benefits beyond what allopathic medicine can provide (in many cases), is beyond doubt. I personally know 5 people who have used the refined resins of sedative indica strains to put their cancers in remission when mainstream oncology had no hope. Think about that — and there are lots more who are using Cannabis Extract Oil (sometimes called Rick Simpson Oil) and getting the same results — and not just for cancer. This movement is now all around the world — to deny it is to bury your head in the sand; to deny it to desperate people is criminal since nobody has EVER died from cannabis use.

    In Ottawa we presently have a bunch of petty ideologues at the political level and equally petty bureaucrats who mindlessly march to the orders of their political masters. In time their utter contempt for Canadians will be known and then their cloaks of anonymity will fall … they will be shown for the contemptuous puppets that they are. This scenario has played out in the past countless times. It is nothing new.

    To put non-violent people in jail for using an herb that is FAR less harmful than tobacco and alcohol is insane. Much fast food is more dangerous — and that is proven. It is expensive and ruins families and lives. To keep it illegal is to support the drug cartels. Do not let any self-serving narrow-minded politician tell you any different. Cannabis prohibition IS the problem — it creates the crime as alcohol prohibition did 80 years ago — will we ever learn!

    Lastly — I do not even use the stuff, but the penalty my fellow humans are paying for prohibition is cruel and unusual punishment and costing society and I far too much.

    STOP THIS NONSENSE NOW!!!

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    • Thanks for your thoughts Mark. I don’t use cannabis either, but I’ve met many people who do for legitimate medical reasons. The same laws have made criminals of them, even those who hold a license to possess it because many have to seek out a non-authorized source, or their paperwork is incomplete in one form or another.

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