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June 26, 2014

Harper's Draconian Drug Policy

Scott Stockdale

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Indeed, it appears that Stephen Harper and his ideologically like-minded colleagues have changed Canada and, of course, for what the prime minister and his minions consider to be for the better.

Thus although several states in America have legalized marijuana, the Harper government is doing its best – and not without some success – to make it as difficult as possible for the overwhelming majority of Canadians – poll after poll shows 2/3 of Canadians want marijuana either decriminalized or legalized - to get their say and their way on this most fundamental of issues – far more important for instance than having the Canadian political leadership tell the truth, in front of the entire world; i.e., the senate scandal; or give serious answers to questions about government policy, which Canadians elected the Harper government to devise, implement and explain; i.e, the daily question period in the House of Commons, where the government's answers are often with regard to a completely different subject than the question that was asked of them; i.e., Conservative MP and Prime Minister Harper's parliamentary secretary Paul Calandra, answering a question about Arctic sovereignty, on behalf of the increasingly absent Prime Minister Harper, said: “I'm going to defend Santa Claus, Mr. Speaker, for your daughter and mine.”

As even Republican politicians in the US are now acknowledging the “tough on crime policy,” is only exacerbating the problem:  Americans represent about 5 percent of the world's population, yet nearly one-quarter of the entire world's inmates have been incarcerated in the United States in recent years.  In 2009, 2.3 million Americans were in prison, resulting in $60.3 billion in budget expenditures and $5.1 billion in new prison construction. As of 2009, the incarceration rate was 743 per 100,000 in the US.  In comparison, Russia had the second highest, at 577 per 100,000, Canada was 123rd in the world at 117 per 100,000, and China had 120 per 100,000. Don't worry though, Mr. Harper has plans to rectify the situation, as he continues on his ideologically-driven divine mission to Americanize Canada, which means taking all the money from the social safety net his government has saved taxpayers and spend it on correctional facilities and the highly-paid professionals who people positions within these institutions.

Moreover, Prime Minister Harper and his advisors are not stupid people:  Witness their conduct over the senate scandal, where it's looking increasingly as though none of the real players will ever face a day in court, let alone be convicted of any kind of offence, despite the fact that few, if any, reasonable people the world over believe Mr. Harper's answers. And that is, of course, when he actually answers the questions being asked, which in fact does occur occasionally, if one listens closely enough.  It follows then that Mr. Harper and his ideologically like-minded colleagues know  the “tough on crime” policies don't reduce crime; in fact, they probably also know it results in far more expense to taxpayers in terms of court, medical, and imprisonment costs – about $100,000 per year for each inmate.

However, Mr. Harper's modus operandi has left no secret that his priority is not governing for all Canadians – despite what he said on election night – but making sure he appeals to “the base” which is a core group of conservative party voters who will almost always vote conservative, right or wrong and no matter how ridiculous. John Stuart Mill said: “While conservatives are not generally stupid, stupid people are generally conservative.”

Witness the anti-marijuana campaign ads the Tories used in the recent Brandon-Souris by-election:

“Justin Trudeau's Liberals do not have a plan to create jobs, but they have a plan to legalize marijuana Their plan to legalize marijuana will make it more available to minors.”

And this some 41 years after the Le Dain commission recommended decriminalization in Canada and a commission appointed by then President Richard Nixon, recommended the same. 

Meanwhile, the states of Washington and Colorado have decriminalized marijuana possession and the Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a statement, signed by Louise Arbour – the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,  a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and the Court and of Appeal for Ontario and a former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals of the former Yugolsavia and Rwanda criticizing the Harper government's “destructive, ineffective and expensive “ war on marijuana, a drug most medial officials view as less harmful than tobacco and alcohol.

With retrogrades like Mr. Harper and his ideologically like-minded colleagues s controlling the message, it's no surprise that a recent campaign to begin the process of decriminalizing pot in B.C. has come up short. For three months this past fall, more than 4,000 volunteer canvassers of the Sensible BC campaign have been gathering signatures designed to prompt a referendum on decriminalization - in this case, meaning specifically to get B.C. police to stop charging people for simple possession.

Despite collecting 200,000 signatures, the campaign failed to achieve the necessary 10 per of voters' signatures in each of the provinces 85 ridings, within a certain time frame, in order to validate a referendum on the issue.  Sensible BC spokesperson Tammy Lea Meyer said BC law enforcement spends $10 million per year prosecuting people for simple marijuana possession and, marijuana production “is a $7 billion per year industry in B.C. That's currently in the hands of criminals.”

She added: “That's not a sensible approach to drug policy.”

While Ms. Lea Meyer obviously has a point, so does Prime Minister Harper and his ideologically like-minded colleagues because, after all, if the Harper administration were to change its policy to keep up with the rest of the developed world, it would be risking losing support at the ballot box from its crucially important “base” of conservative voters, without which the Conservative Party of Canada can't possibly get elected.

Moreover, the Harper government's vehement opposition – largely on ideological grounds - to any consideration of changing the obviously failed “war on drugs” policy – which is but one aspect of its “tough on crime” policy – has led to stifling freedom of expression, in Canada, a supposed beacon of democracy, human rights, transparency and the rule of law, in the eyes of the world.

Witness Sensible BC campaign organizer Dana Larsen's comments to the Huffington Post, regarding the above-mentioned signature gathering campaign to force the BC government to hold a referendum on decriminalizing marijuana:

“There's a lot of people who tell us they support what we're doing and they're behind us, but they don't want to sign because they're afraid they'll lose their jobs; they're afraid that they can't cross the border; they're afraid the RCMP will get the list.”

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