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Should Marijuana/Cannabis Be Legalized In Canada Essay

The Legalization Of Marijuana In Canada

Marijuana, also referred to as cannabis, pot, dope, Mary Jane and many other street names, is a strong smelling plant from whose dried leaves a number of euphoriant and hallucinogenic drugs are prepared. It is the most used illicit drug in North America and is on a rise in all age groups (Canadian marijuana related statistics, 2003). So why is marijuana still illegal if it has so many positive factors? Marijuana should be legal because it is a multi-billion dollar industry, it is beneficial to medical patients and research, and it has less harmful effects when compared to Canada's other two legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Many feel marijuana should not be legalized because it is considered a "gateway drug", but in fact only 10% of people that smoked marijuana become addicted and go on to try other drugs like heroin and cocaine (The Marijuana Debate, 2003).

Marijuana was declared illegal in Canada in 1923 under the Opium and Drug Act, and since 1997, marijuana has been under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Decriminalization of Marijuana in Canada, 2003). Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Marijuana is a Schedule 2 offense, meaning "cannabis, its preparations, derivatives and similar synthetic preparations" (Greenspan, s.3). This includes cannabis resin, cannabis (marijuana) and any other cannabis related substance. Possession of marijuana is an indictable offence punishable on summary conviction (Greenspan, s.3). For a first term offence, the punishment is either a one thousand dollar fine or a sentence of six months in jail, and for a subsequent offence the punishment is either a two thousand dollar fine or a sentence of one year in jail (Greenspan, s.3). These consequences are very harsh for just possessing marijuana and they are much harsher for trafficking.

Right now in Canada, the laws on marijuana possession are unevenly enforced around the country (Robinson, p.72). In January 2003, Windsor Justice Douglas Phillips dismissed two drug charges against a sixteen-year-old boy because he felt the laws on marijuana need to be updated (Up In Smoke, 2003). Douglas thought that by throwing out this case the government would wake up and start acting on changing the laws (Up In Smoke, 2003). The House of Commons is currently working on new decriminalization laws that are supposed to be in affect by the end of the 2003 year. The penalties in the new marijuana legislation are:

"For possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana, enough for about 15 or 20 joints, the penalty would be a ticket with a fine of $150 for an adult, $100 for a youth. For possession of one gram or less of cannabis resin (hashish), a ticket with a fine of $300 for an adult, $200 for a youth. For possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana or one gram or less of cannabis resin where aggravating factors...

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Marijuana has long been the subject of many heated debates and political platforms. With lack of un-biased materials on marijuana, it quickly became victim to publications and political propaganda in the early 1900s. Richard Isralowits writes, “Publications from the period had such titles as Marijuana-Sex Crazy Drug Menace, Marijuana-The Weed of Madness, and Marijuana: Assassin of Youth”(Use of Marijuana,105). Surely in this modern age and heightened public awareness our marijuana laws, drafted in a time of extreme bias, have got to be obsolete. Although many people still have strong opinions against the legalisation of marijuana, after review of current un-biased studies and reports they will find that this is not the case. Marijuana should be legalised in Canada because of the cost, the justice system, and the health concerns.
The cost of marijuana prohibition is gigantic. Including policing, court appearances, and incarceration, the bill on taxpayers is endless and a large amount of this money is for cases of simple marijuana possession. Daniel Egan and Jeffrey A. Miron estimate that, “[L]egalizing marijuana would save...$8 billion per year in prohibition enforcement costs”(Budgetary,17). This is a huge amount of money that could make its way elsewhere into the infrastructure like drug awareness and prevention. Not to mention the priceless amount of time given back to the police forces to peruse more harmful crimes. In their report the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs finds “[A]pproximately 50,000 drug-related charges in 1999.... Overall, 54%... were for possession [of cannabis]”(Cannabis,130). As far as budget costs for any part of the judicial system go, a 54% reduction in anything would go along way. The legalisation of marijuana would also mean that these people would not be getting a criminal record ruining their lives. Many of these possession offenders are young adults caught with seemingly small amounts of cannabis and in most cases no intent on selling what little they do have. Another aspect to think about is the potential revenue gained by taxing legalised marijuana. In some provinces right now the illegal marijuana industry is still bigger then some of the most successful legal industries. Ian Mulgrew writes just how big the industry is in British Columbia: “[Stephen] Easton estimated...wholesale marijuana was worth $2.2 billion [in 2003] to the B.C. economy”(Bud Inc.,2). If this 2.2 billion of potential product was subject to even the most basic of our general commodities tax, at 12.5 percent, it would generate $275 million in taxes. A boost like this in taxes for a single province could have positive influences in the health care as well as the educational industries currently battling shrinking budgets. Not to mention country wide. Provinces rich in natural resources could soon be on the same financial level as provinces rich in marijuana production. This is only one of the many reasons marijuana should be legalised.
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