David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

The Marijuana Byelection?

Brandon Sun, November 18, 2013 - David McConkey

I am delighted to see marijuana legalization as a big issue in this byelection. I have written about the War on Drugs before; here again is my two cent’s worth.
We had clear answers from all five candidates to a recent Brandon Sun Question of the Week. There is a sharp divide. Only the Conservatives support the current marijuana law. You have to hand it to the Tories – they sure know how to lock up the fuddy-duddy vote!

Here are five thoughts:

• Reality vs. ideal

To change the marijuana law is to recognize reality. The current law imagines an ideal that cannot exist. Sometimes, we just have to accept reality.

In an ideal world, there would be no alcohol abuse. We tried to eliminate that problem by outlawing alcohol in the 1920s. Guess what? Prohibition did not work, and we ended it.

We now have “Prohibition” of marijuana, and it does not work. We have a replay of the 1920s, including widespread breaking of the law and the creation of powerful criminal gangs. Instead of burying our heads in the sand, we need to look at better approaches. We cannot institute the ideal, but surely we can do better than the disaster of today’s Prohibition. 

• Marijuana and minors

No one wants kids to use any drug inappropriately. But making marijuana illegal does not keep it out of the hands of minors. Legalizing and regulating would be better.

Where does one buy alcohol or tobacco now? From a licensed dealer; proper ID required. Where does one buy marijuana now? From an unlicensed dealer on the street corner. No ID required.

Despite the Harper Conservative ramping-up of the War on Drugs, Canadian children are the heaviest users of marijuana in the developed world. Among Canadian kids aged 11 to 15, a quarter have used pot in the last year. (Use among children is much lower in European countries with marijuana legalization or decriminalization.)

I encourage all parents to talk to their kids about marijuana. Just don’t go all Reefer Madness. Kids today can tell when adults are not being truthful about the relative dangers of different drugs.

• Law and hypocrisy

Right now, marijuana use is common throughout our society. But one of the tragedies of the War on Drugs is that drug enforcement is very uneven. Minorities especially are disproportionately jailed and endure the stigma of a criminal record.

“Be tough on crime,” is easy for us to say. But we are hypocrites unless we want the marijuana law applied equally to everyone. But we don’t want our friends or family arrested, do we? We want the law to ignore them or to give them another chance. (If you think this does not apply to your friends or family, you just might be surprised.)
• A broader discussion

We need a broader discussion of all drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter ones. Marijuana is safer than many other drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco. And we should research more of the health benefits. One medical researcher even wonders if marijuana could become the “Aspirin of the 21st century.”

The point is not to get people to use more drugs, but to realistically consider and deal with the benefits and dangers of all drugs.

I get frustrated by many media portrayals of drug use. References to marijuana are usually treated as a big joke. The problems of alcohol – probably the most dangerous drug of all – are often downplayed. And the problems of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are usually ignored altogether.

Fortunately, there is more experience all the time with legalizing / decriminalizing / regulating marijuana. This includes the states of Colorado and Washington in the U.S.

• The marijuana byelection?

This byelection is a special opportunity. This is a chance to vote differently, or perhaps vote for only one issue. No government will change. Our new MP will be there for just two years.  

And next Monday our election will be noticed. Usually completely ignored, Brandon-Souris will get attention as one of only four byelections in the country.
If you support the current War on Drugs, then get out and vote for the Conservatives. If you think we need a change, then get out and vote for one of the other four candidates.
Marijuana is an important issue in this byelection. Perhaps for the first time in Canada, marijuana could decide an election. On Nov. 25 – locally and nationally – we citizens can make our voices heard.

* * * *
See also:  

Byelection is about us, the citizens, so get out and vote

The War on Drugs

Issues for the Next Election?

Drug, Alcohol Policies Reveal Our Hypocrisy

We Can Forge a New Drug Policy

Citizen Active



David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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Some Reviewed Books:

The War on Drugs:
A Failed Experiment

War on Drugs

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The Atheist Muslim:
A Journey from Religion to Reason


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Stranger Than We Can Imagine:
An Alternative History of the 20th Century


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Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now


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Islam and the Future of Tolerance:
A Dialogue

Islam Future

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Extraordinary Canadians:
Nellie McClung

Extraordinary Canadians Nellie Mcclung

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The Greatest Show on Earth:
The Evidence for Evolution

Greatest Show on Earth

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