Marijuana should be legal. At least, that’s what Canada’s Senate is moving toward this week after results of a panel study were revealed that advocate it. Always a leading force in liberal politics and law, Canada is taking a step that the United States has been reluctant to for decades. If Canada goes through with plans to legalize marijuana, it would be a step in the right direction. There’s no sense in continuing to criminalize a drug that is so widely used and has such low risk factors associated with its use.
According to a Reuters report, Canadian Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said in July that he was considering whether to decriminalize marijuana, and a special committee on illegal drugs in Canada’s Senate urged him to go farther. Canadian officials are also trying to organize a campaign to get U.S. government officials on the bandwagon so that selling the drug across the border isn’t as profitable for organized crime.
The committee recommended that marijuana be sold on the same basis that alcohol is, with individuals choosing on their own whether to use the drug. Scientific evidence given by the committee reported that marijuana is not a “gateway drug,” as stipulated by decriminalization opponents, but that it is, in fact, less harmful than alcohol, even on a long-term basis. The panel also reported that 20,000 people a year are arrested for possession of marijuana in Canada, compared to 734,498 arrests in the United States in 2000 alone.
Officials in the United States should acknowledge the benefits of the decriminalization of marijuana. The profit that will be reaped from being the sole proprietor for the drug is enormous. If the state grows the plant and regulates its distribution, most citizens will likely choose to purchase it, even at a higher cost, if they can avoid jail time. Also because the United States spends an average of $1.29 billion a year on the arrest and incarceration of those charged with possession and distribution of marijuana, taxpayers would most likely be in favor of any law that could help them keep that money in their own pockets.
While it’s commendable that U.S. government is trying to protect the public interest, it should seriously consider joining Canada in this measure. The policy we currently have isn’t working, as 734,498 people can tell you. It’s time for something different.