Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Will the Conservatives attack “activist judges” over marijuana possession?

Ontario’s marijuana possession laws have been struck down by Judge Borenstein. Now, be rest assured the Borenstein decision will not be the only one of its kind. For example, there is good chance BC’s possession laws will also be struck down soon enough. Senator Claude Nolin, of the 2002 senate report of marijuana fame, testified for the defense in that case. It is going to be 2003 all over again.

The Conservatives know this and, emboldened with what has happened in Britain , will time the launch of their new “anti-drug campaign” just as these decisions are taking effect. So you can also be rest assured that in addition to anti-drug campaign they going to launch a new campaign against “activist judges”.

Where does this leave the Liberals? It leaves them in a rather bad way. The Liberals have been talking out of both sides of their mouth on this issue for years. On the one hand the Liberals have long maintained that Canadians should not be saddled with a criminal record for consuming something that is, after all, less harmful than alcohol. It is this light that Chrétien famously joked about having a joint in one hand and the money to pay for the fine of having it in the other. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand.” On the other hand just as they are downplaying the affects of smoking marijuana they have stressed the importance of stiff penalties for trafficking. The Conservatives will argue that Liberal mixed messaging has real consequences and will repeatedly reference the recent UN report on marijuana use.

"We are very concerned about the damage and pain that drugs cause families and we intend to reverse the trend toward vague, ambiguous messaging that has characterized Canadian attitudes in the recent past," Clement said.

According to the United Nations office of Drugs and Crime, Clement said 16.8 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 smoke marijuana.

He said that's the highest rate of any country in the world and the figure is almost equal to the number of tobacco smokers in Canada.

However, not only do the Liberals face the prospect of having their own words force fed them again and again, the Liberal policy of decriminalization is inherently incoherent; it is political position; it is an attempt to appeal to both sides of the political divide at the same time. One can not argue for tougher penalties for trafficking, which will inevitably lead one to reference the evils of marijuana, while at the same time arguing for the elimination of possession which will inevitably lead one to reference who harmless marijuana is in the greater scheme of things. Add to mix an acknowledgment that marijuana can serve a medical purpose and you have a conceptual train wreck as a policy.

The only good thing to be said about Liberal’s decriminalization policy politically or otherwise is that it could serve as a Trojan horse. Indeed, robbed of the ability to charge traffickers with the lesser charge of possession, police may not be able to keep up with the huge number of growers coming onto the market and the whole rotten prohibition edifice may come crashing down. Marc Emery may get his wish. The producers might over grow the system. All that being said, this hardly helps the Liberals.

Should Conservatives launch such a two front campaign, strategically the only thing that will make sense for the Liberals will be to abandon decriminalization and argue in favor of legalization. Should the Liberals take this bold step there is absolutely no way the Conservatives would win the public debate. The talking points available to the Conservatives are pathetically weak and will be wiped away by the avalanche of criticism they will receive, both here and abroad. The size and scope of the SSM debate will pale in comparison. Conservatism in Canada will be ripped in half. With respect to no other issue is the fissure between social conservatives and conservative libertarians greater than with respect to marijuana. Just image the National Post and Fraser Institute and sizable chucks of the Sun media chain siding with the Liberals!

1 comment:

Bruce said...

Important clarification: Canada has the highest rate of Cannabis amond industrialized countries. However, Papua New Guinea and Micronesia Fed. State have a pot smoking rate about 70% higher than Canadians.