Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Liberal Plan to Decriminalize Marijuana is Conceptually Confused

Legalization is sexy and headline grabbing which is the whole point of my last post. Decriminalization is not sexy and it forces the Liberals to talk out of both sides of their mouths. 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 Chr├ętien 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. In other words, 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. Indeed, can you image how ridiculous it would have sounded if this is what Chr├ętien said? “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand. Having paid my fine I would hope the cops find the person who sold it to me in put him in jail for a very long time.” This is essentially the Liberal’s current position. The problem is that if the act of consumption is not deemed overly ruinous then the whole punitive rationale, not just part, comes crashing down. Add to the 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. 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.

Needless to day, the Liberal approach plays right into the Conservatives hands. The Conservatives will argue, checked that they already have argued, that Liberal mixed messaging has real consequences and will repeatedly reference the recent UN report on marijuana use.

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