With the greatest reluctance and with a feeling of useless inevitably, one feels the need to write about the legalization of marihuana. The Liberal government grasping and pulling that younger crowd to their breast, exhorting them to be free, less anxious, and to surround themselves with the elixir of swirling smoke and an expanded mind. Free to be impaired, medically or otherwise. No one to bother you. The big medical experiment has now become law.
We now join Uruguay as the only other country in the world where it is entirely legal., We join the 2nd smallest country in South America, a country now in “economic decline and factional struggles” since its return to democratic ideals in 1985. A country where its biggest problem now is young people leaving the country, not the young people staying home to smoke pot. But we digress.
First it should be stated that there is very little caring on this writer’s part about the pluses and minuses of marihuana use, although clearly the medical good of this drug has been highly exaggerated by the effusive pot community who will regale you with cure-all stories at a moments prompting. It is kind of like listening to alcoholics sing the medicinal effects of having a shot of whiskey before you go to bed. Could be true, but again maybe not, but one needs to consider the source.
However, if you believe the hype, believe the constant bombardment of how good the CBD component of marihuana is, then you’ll understand how the “medicinal use” of marihuana has tripled since 2016.
Meanwhile the august body of the Canadian Medical Association states that “while the CMA recognizes that some individuals suffering from terminal illness or chronic disease may obtain relief with cannabis, the CMA remains concerned about the lack of clinical research, guidance, and regulatory oversight for cannabis as a potential medical intervention”. You should also understand that medical marihuana has not undergone testing such as that used for prescription drugs.
They go on to say in their CMA policy statement that the “Canadian Medical Association has consistently opposed Health Canada’s approach which places physicians in the role of gatekeeper in authorizing access to marihuana”. In other words, they don’t want to prescribe it. They went further in an editorial saying that the legalization of marihuana was an “uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are pitched against the health of Canadians”. Given any set of other circumstances one would have thought that at the very least comments like this would give one pause before full government endorsement. Not with these Liberals.
Mike Farnworth, BC governments Minister of Public Safety in an interview with the NY Times said: ” its an octopus with many tentacles, and there are many unknowns…I don’t think that when the Federal government decided to legalize marihuana it thought through all of the implications.”
This legislation will likely go down in historic terms as one of the worst prepared, least thought out bills ever passed by Parliament; a shining example of government inadequacy on three different levels.
While it is difficult in this age to find any level of government capable of introducing legislation in any kind of timely manner; with properly thought out enforcement provisions and having anticipated the legal challenges, this legislation is a true standout in terms of lack of preparation. There is a need for not one but three levels of government, in 13 different Provinces, to coordinate and work in unison.
To add to the jurisdictional chaos is that there is significant medical, legal, political, labour, and business layers to the effects of the legislation, all who want a seat at the three level government dance. All this has been known for a couple of years of course, but clearly not enough time for any government in Canada, or any police agency to be prepared. Most government agencies, including the police need a couple of years to organize a washroom break.
The level and the extent of hypocrisy is overwhelming. Trudeau and company doing the old ‘ole’ as the bull of repercussions slide by with nary a glance. The matador untouched by the horn of the bull, untouched by the numerous and sundry issues surrounding this legislation.
So now the mad scramble is on, while on the judicial side line lawyers salivate, drooling and falling over themselves like a pride of jackals preparing and vying to establish their new found “expertise” in the criminal and labour laws. This taxpayer legal honey pot should keep legal firms in Canada busy for the next several years.
The government spokesperson for all of this is Bill Blair, the consummate chameleon, a 2nd generation cop who rose to head the Toronto Police Service, who has now had a revelation and has been chosen as the front man for the Liberals. In an interview with the National Post, he describes how he has gone from from leading the police fight, the knight in shining armour as a former chief of police, to now principles and beliefs thrown aside, he has been transformed in to the the righteous spokesperson. With the same semi-autocratic demeanour and certainty he displayed as the police chief, he is now trying to convince us that this is going to eliminate organized crime.
How are they going to do this, according to Blair and his government they feel that because the government is so good at running businesses they are going to compete with organized crime, provide a good quality product, at a good price in a pretty package, and easily accessibility.
So far they claim they are only going to add $1.00 in taxes on a gram of pot, including sales and excise tax. Now considering the new law allows one to carry up 30 gms of pot, enough for 60 joints, that will mean an additional cost of $30 in taxes for your personal stash.
If the average user of pot spends $100.00 a week according to a recent survey, they will now therefore be spending $130 a week. $120.00 extra for a month, just in taxes. The appeal of the legal dispensary may wear a little thin at those prices.
In the home of BC Bud, so far the government has only opened one store in British Columbia; in Kamloops far from the Lower Mainland, far from the most populous area of the Province.
Dispensaries in Alberta have already run out of product.
You don’t need to have an MBA to realize that if you have no products when you open a new store, you may have a problem. But government is good at this right?
So far in the policing world what seems to be garnering the most enforcement attention is the potential for increases in impaired driving. It is difficult to say whether this will be the case, as again, nobody seems to know answers to much surrounding this issue. However we already know that drug impaired driving is increasing, and now exceeds that of alcohol impaired driving (40% of Canadian drivers killed in Canada were impaired by drug, while 33% of those killed tested positive for alcohol)
But to try and win some counter points, the Liberals proclaim that besides increasing the penalties for impaired driving (which they have done) they are going further and arming the police with the ability and knowledge to detect and process impaired by drug drivers.
Their two programs are the Standard Field Sobriety Testing and the Drug Recognition Expert Program. (it should be acknowledged that this writer is a former DRE at the Instructor Level). These have been developed and been around since 1979, in particular, in the United States. The reason they came about and were developed by the Los Angelas Police Department was that there was no precise drug testing regime in existence and that has not changed.
There is no Breathalyzer equivalent for drug testing.
What was developed in its stead was a 12 step semi- subjective evaluation method. It has been challenged as being too subjective already in the Ontario Court of Appeal in R vs. Bingley.
Regardless of how that turns out, what they are not detailing is the extraordinary time effort that will be needed on the part of the police to conduct the tests, as long as they can even find a trained DRE officer in their policing area.(as of October 2018, according to their own government website there were 833 DRE trained officers in Canada–out of the roughly 69,000 police officers).
When confronted with the DRE numbers, Mr. Goodale quickly goes to the fact that they have 13,000 officers who are trained in SFST.
So what are those tests? Basically they are eye checks (follow the pen) where the officer is looking for Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), followed by a couple of physical tests such as walk and turn, or standing on one leg. If you fail, then you are asked to comply with the tests of a Drug Recognition Expert (again, if you can find one) which takes another hour or so, and then the DRE will demand a blood sample, usually a pin prick to the finger.
If all this sounds like an overblown, a time consuming process, it is.
That is why in the desperate search for a drug “breathalyzer” has been going on for several years, and so far German technology seems to be the front runner in Canada.
The government has just committed $161 million over the next five years to the purchase and training on the officious sounding Draeger Drug Test 5000, which is designed through a simple saliva test determine if you have THC in your system.
But, alas, there are some issues with this magical instrument.
In testing by the Journal of Analytical Toxicologists in Norway they determined that the machine “did not absolutely correctly identify DUID”. In fact there was a 14.5 % failure rate for false-positives, and a 13.5% failure rate for false negatives. The Australians who use this device felt that it was pretty good and reliable, but only in ” two thirds ” of their cases. Bring in the lawyers.
Oh yes, the device only works between 4 and 40 degrees Celsius and it takes about a half hour for the device to work, about 10 times longer than the roadside breathalyzer.
It should be added that a failure of the Draeger test is not an offence. It only leads the officer to have you submit to a DRE evaluation or demand a further blood test.
If you still are unconvinced that there will be a problem with court challenges. Consider this: the Federal government in the legislation has stated that if you have 2 to 5 nanograms of THC in your system you are impaired for three types of offences.
This too is an issue. The central question being the efficacy of measuring cannabis impairment. Expert after expert testified to the government that what constitutes impairment will differ from individual to individual. It depends on the individual and their tolerance. There is little doubt that this will all be eventually chased all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
So as one stands outside the new pot establishment in Kamloops, with its mysterious blocked out windows, as Chrysler Neons roll up with teenagers giggling and pointing to the store as they try to find parking. The bored security guard sits on the iron rail, a beacon of safety, as persons emerge holding their discreet but pretty packages just like at the Apple store, and as the persons in the line shuffle two steps closer to their Nirvana, one wonders where this is all taking us.
Are we better off now as a society with this new legislation? Are we going to be awed by the medical advancements provided by marihuana and its associated products?
Are the groups of organized crime going to wilt away into the sunset, saying sorry you are right, we can’t compete. Walk away from a $5.7 billion dollar industry? In decades of policing it was never my experience that organized crime groups walk away from money, let alone that kind of money. Evidence the fact that they often kill people for interfering in this gold rush.
Are they going to control the number of underage people using marihuana or is it going to lead to further use? In a survey done by Lighthouse for the Cannabis consumer Update it found that 50% of pot users did so on a weekly basis spending on average $100 per week.
In the age bracket of 18 to 34, 61% had used marihuana, 21% used 2 to 5 times a week, while 19% used it everyday.
Provide a more accessible product, remove the stigma of illegality and it seems to be common sense that the numbers of young pot users will have to go up.
The medical association recommends nobody use marihuana under the age of 25 due to brain development issues. The Federal government and the Provincial governments have already agreed on a range of ages who can purchase marihuana legally, all under the age of 25.
Are there people going to get rich? For sure. But not you and me, or the casual pot smoker. Brian Mulroney maybe, or those others that have invested in government approved production and distribution centres such as big pharmaceuticals. Of course the big winners will be the lawyers as they begin to clog the courts over the next several years.
But here is this writer’s prediction(s):
In ten years time, we won’t be talking about it, the fad will have worn thin.
There will be more impaired drivers on the road, and minimal enforcement of those laws as the prosecution of those offences prove too onerous.
There will be more young people suffering from mental issues associated with the use of marihuana.
They will determine that pot has some medicinal pain killing benefits, not much else.
They will also determine that pot is addictive.
The government will have more money in its coffers.
Organized crime will be discovered to be investors and have infiltrated into the “legalized” production of marihuana.
Robberies will go up at BC Liquor Branches.
The Indigenous will have opened up their own production facilities and will be able to sell it cheaper as they get to avoid excise taxes, but they will have a difficult time saying it is part of “reconciliation”.
Canada for the next several years will be known around the world, not as the welcoming country to immigrants, not as a forward thinking place to invest, or not as a haven of academic achievement. It will be known as the place where marihuana is legal now.
A police officer will challenge the courts and the policy of the RCMP based on his/her need for medical marihuana. To not allow him/her to work it will be argued is against the Charter of Rights.
Meanwhile ‘Joey” or “Emily” driving around their small hometown at 9 at night in their parents car, wanting some weekend pot, living in small town Canada, will not be able to find or buy at the dispensary. There will be a new generation of “bootleggers”.
But if “Joey” plans a few days ahead, the government retorts, he can order it online.
That is if the Post Office is not on strike.