Grit pot policy praised

Don’t fear the reefer. That’s the message to the Conservative government from a group that fights to legalize pot.

OTTAWA — Don’t fear the reefer. That’s the message to the Conservative government from a group that fights to legalize pot.

The Beyond Prohibition Foundation says weed could be a real cash crop for Canada.

“We’re talking about $400 million (that) is spent every year arresting just about 50,000 (people) — plus or minus a few thousand people, depending on the year — and that’s just for possession,” said Jacob Hunter, the Vancouver-based group’s policy director.

“It goes up to 80,000 when you factor in trafficking and production. So we’re talking about $400 million in savings on the possession side and then about $2 billion in revenue, assuming a whole number of variables.

Delegates at the Liberal convention on the weekend backed a resolution from the party’s youth wing calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

However, the resolution is not binding and there’s no guarantee the party will ever actually campaign on legalizing pot, even though interim leader Bob Rae endorsed the position in principle.

The idea has no chance of ever becoming law under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which has taken a hard line on drug use.

The Fraser Institute, a conservative research group, did its own study in 2004 on potential revenues arising from legal marijuana and, like Hunter’s group, came up with a $2-billion-a-year estimate.

Statistics Canada says roughly half of the 108,600 police-reported drug crimes in Canada in 2010 were for possession of marijuana.

The agency notes that the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has pegged the cost of illegal drug use — which includes expenses for police, courts and correctional services — at about $2 billion each year.

A glance across the Atlantic offers an interesting case study in decriminalizing pot.

Portugal decriminalized simple possession of all drugs in 2001. A study published 10 years later in the British Journal of Criminology found fewer teens using drugs, fewer cases of HIV and AIDS and more drugs seized by police from big traffickers.

However, it’s worth noting that Portugal already had one of the lowest drug-use rates in the European Union before it decriminalized possession.

Still, Hunter argues legalizing marijuana would actually cut down on crime in Canada.

He adds it would also take organized crime out of the picture and allow the government to sell weed in a controlled environment.

But what about long lineups clogging the border as American pot-lovers rush to Canada for a legal toke?

That was former American ambassador Paul Cellucci’s great concern when Paul Martin’s Liberal government drafted legislation calling for modest fines for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

Hunter doubts the Americans would do anything drastic.

“I don’t think the U.S. would do anything other than huff and puff,” he said.

More than a dozen states have already decriminalized the drug.

Last year, Connecticut became the 13th state to do so. The Hartford Courant newspaper reported the state could save $885,000 every year in court costs and attorney salaries, and make as much as $1.4 million in fines and fees.

However, marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law. In Canada, the drug has been illegal since 1923.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

House prices in Alberta are going up in many communities, reports the ATB. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Alberta’s house prices are on the rise: ATB

Supply has been low, relative to demand

The interchange at Highway 2 and McKenzie Road at the south end of Gasoline Alley is being redesigned with two roundabouts. Construction is expected to begin this month and finish in October. (Graphic from Red Deer County)
Roudabouts coming to McKenzie Road overpass at Gasoline Alley

Project expected to improve traffic flow at busy intersections

A federal strategy to preserve threatened trout could conflict with provincial coal leases in the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. (Contributed photo by Jeff Lund).
Federal regulations could save Alberta’s bull trout by shutting down mining plans, says biologist

Ottawa’s new strategy identifies a 30-metre protected area along rivers and streams

A prairie fire in the Burnt Lake district. (Photo by Bert Fors via Red Deer Archives)
Michael Dawe: Fires of spring 1931 in central Alberta

Central Alberta has just come through a relatively warm and dry winter… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Opinion: Boris Johnson is to blame for what’s happening in Ireland

Twenty-three years of peace in Northern Ireland, after a sectarian war that… Continue reading

Canada's Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, fom left, celebrate after winning women's gold medal match against Brazil's team at the Beach Volley Worldtour Major Series, in Vienna, Austria on August 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ronald Zak
Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch (24) gets fouled by Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu throws to a New York Yankees batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Ryu sharp into 7th, Semien homers as Blue Jays top Yanks 7-3

Ryu sharp into 7th, Semien homers as Blue Jays top Yanks 7-3

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau (13) scores the game winning goal on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender David Rittich (33) in overtime NHL action in Toronto on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Gaudreau scores in overtime, Flames beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Gaudreau scores in overtime, Flames beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Jim Bullock, Vicki Pappas and Randy Waples off to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Jim Bullock, Vicki Pappas and Randy Waples off to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Canada's Evelyne Viens celebrates scoring against Wales during the women's international friendly soccer match at Leckwith Stadium, Wales, Friday April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nick Potts/PA via AP
Canada capitalizes on England mistakes to win women’s soccer friendly 2-0

Canada capitalizes on England mistakes to win women’s soccer friendly 2-0

Most Read