Weed is Legal Canada... Let's talk about it
October 17th is here and weed is legal in Canada! What does this mean from the perspective of a Canadian conservative?
As of October 17th, 2018, Justin Trudeau’s promise to legalize recreational use of marijuana has finally come to pass. To many Canadians, today represents the historic end of a prohibition on a harmless little green plant. I do support the idea that government has been ineffective in deterring usage of this drug and we are better off with legalization than otherwise. However, I believe the government has many some crucial missteps with the role out of this policy in Canada. And more importantly, the disingenuous lie about marijuana usage that seems to be coming along with these changes is nothing short of dangerous.
The difficulty with Canada’s federalism is that even though the National government passed the law to legalize the drug, the provinces have the autonomy to decide exactly how that policy I implemented. For this reason, the vastness in the different policies in the various provinces makes it difficult to judge these changes as a whole. For example, the Progressive Conservative government in Ontario made private cannabis stores part of the rollout plan whereas in Nova Scotia the Liberal government decided to stick to a government-owned store that would oversee all sales of cannabis in the province
For the sake of the discussion and as an Ontario native, I want to focus solely on the policy laid out in Ontario. As someone who has an affinity for free markets and economic conservatism, I must say that I reluctantly support the Ford government’s decision to move to a private store model. This being said, as any respectable economic conservative knows, markets as powerful as they are can become dangerous. Markets can create incredible potential but also create real danger. The position of a responsible conservative is that we must be careful of what we ask of this market. Reasonable and limited regulations to steer our demands from said market is what differs conservatives from unhinged anarchist libertarians.
This being said although there have been several good regulations put in place there are some clear and obvious holes that are sure to corrupt the moral sentiment that underlies these new policies. For example, the rules that allow Ontarians to lite up where ever cigarette smoking is allowed is a careless mistake on the government’s behalf. Firstly, the premise that underlies it is the classic false equivocation of Cannabis and other drugs. More importantly, one can surely see how such a policy would allow for the possibility of the exposure of second-hand smoke to non-consenting adults and children. The problem this poses is not only the social normalization but also the fact that unlike cigarettes mamajuana is a psychoactive drug. Individuals who oppose the drug for religious reason can be unfairly exposed to the drug. To the government’s credit, this is one of the few areas of concern in the new policy. Others may include the limited restrictions on store licensees, and we are yet to see how effective the government will be in shutting down the black market (which should be the goal in all this if we hope to do some good). Only time will tell, although I have my skepticism.
The bright spot in all of this is that for its flaws the new laws allow us to do a great thing and that is to enable the government to effectively move away from a losing legal battle on cannabis and move towards fighting usage on cultural grounds. To the credit of Trudeau Liberal’s, they have been relatively strong in there cannabis education campaigns. Even more so Caroline Mulroney (Ontario’s Attorney General) and the Ford government have been clear and persistent in discouraging the use of the drug and educating on the real dangers that come with the drug. I think this is the right thing that everyone but especially conservatives ought to be doing. The failure for the government to win the war on drugs in a legal sense has been an unbelievable failure. If we are to fight this battle, we must do it culturally, and this new legislation paves the path to do just that.
Cannabis can be a dangerous drug. Despite the libertarian cries of “miracle drug”, the evidence is clear. Marijuana, when used chronically, increases the risk of hypertension, depression and, schizophrenia. On top of this, there is serious evidence to suggest that chronic marijuana usage hinders the short-term and long-term cognitive abilities of users, especially when done from a young age. Legalization know allows the government to be unequivocal in dispelling myths surrounding the drug and allowing us to fight the war on drugs in a cultural sense. The ability for Ontarians to access this in a free market system provides tremendous opportunity economically. This being said we must be cautious with what we ask the market to give us because it usually gives exactly what we ask.