The four former B.C. attorneys-general who spoke out this week for marijuana legalization, likening the current policy to U.S. Prohibition, have a point. Prohibition didn’t deter drinking and was a boon to organized crime. Sounds very much like the war on marijuana.
Attorneys-general occupy a privileged dual position – leaders in partisan politics while also being responsible for giving objective legal advice, and protecting the integrity of the legal system. If Geoff Plant, Graeme Bowbrick, Ujjal Dosanjh (also a B.C. premier) and Colin Gabelmann, who collectively prosecuted marijuana users for 15 years, don’t perceive a benefit, is there a benefit?
“We are fully aware that British Columbia lost its war against the marijuana industry many years ago,” they said in an open letter to Premier Christy Clark. It would have been better, of course, to have spoken out when they were in power. Still, with the federal government creating a mandatory-minimum sentence of six months in jail for anyone who grows five marijuana plants or more, their letter is timely. “These misguided prosecutions will further strain an already clogged system, without reducing cannabis prohibition-related violence or rates of cannabis use.”
Whether legalization (or “taxation and regulation,” as they call it) or decriminalization or some other approach is the best option, it is clear that the old model for combatting marijuana use is irrevocably broken. Why is Canada stuck on it?