(This column was published in the North Shore News on Sept. 18, 2002)


Dopey senators should leave pot alone

 By Leo Knight

THE Senate committee report recommending the legalization of marijuana possession is bizarre, to say the least.


It is marked by what appears to be misinformation, lack of analytical thought and a distinct parochial viewpoint.


Let me begin by saying I couldn't give a fiddler's whatever if dope heads smoke their brains out on the steps of the Peace Tower. The more, the merrier. The senators would, of course, have to tiptoe carefully around the assorted tokers, nodded off after binging on some B.C. Bud.


The dope lobby portrays the law enforcement community as anti-dope demagogues who can't wait to put someone in jail for the mere possession of a joint. They talk about all those Canadians who have a criminal record for just getting a little high. Then they push out the invalid who says marijuana helps his cancer or AIDS. Well this is all simply not true.


And those titans of patronage in the red chamber of Parliament swallow it all: hook, line and sinker.


But, lo, they tempered their actions by saying they'd limit the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana), content and no one under the age of 16 would be allowed to purchase the drug. Surely that's logical, n'est ce pas?


The aim of the potheads is to get stoned, mellow, ripped, blasted, rocked, f****d up. The likelihood of them accepting a product they need more of, to achieve a lesser effect, is something akin to Saddam Hussein inviting Dubya over for a martini.


The age of consent for a minor person to buy cigarettes is 18 years old, the same as spirits, beer and wine. Does this mean that inhaling a mind and conscious-altering substance deep into lungs and holding it until the smoker goes bug-eyed and nearly spews his Twinkies in a choking fit, is somehow healthier or safer for kids?


The dope dudes say that legalization will do amazing things. Like what, put the Hells Angels out of business? Eliminate the threat of extortion on the Chinese community in this city? This naivete would be funny if it weren't such a dangerous position to take.


I'm not saying marijuana is dangerous, probably no more so than a shot of scotch or a decent Cohiba. But it is a commodity. Good marijuana, such as the very potent B.C. Bud, is a valuable commodity. It is in the value of the commodity where organized crime finds the attraction.


Look at it a different way. Let's say the government said that all scotch would be illegal except Black and White or Cutty Sark. Would not a scotch drinker turn to another source to get a Lagavulin, Glenmorangie or Tallisker?


For the Senate to conclude they could legalize marijuana in a form with a lower THC content is profoundly stupid. The reason THC is as high as it is in a product like B.C. Bud is that is what the users want. Producers over the past 30 years have been tinkering with the genetics of the plant to give the users exactly that.


Furthermore, the United States will never follow our lead in this. At least, not in our lifetime. The marketplace across the border is the real target anyway. The grow-ops in the Lower Mainland, said by drug cops to exceed 20,000, produce enough B.C. Bud to keep the entire country in a catatonic state in perpetuity. The lion's share of the production crop of British Columbia's most prolific industry goes south. And that won't change one little bit.


So, even if the government follows the Senate report, what difference will it make in the practices of the Hells Angels or the Vietnamese gangsters, who control the slice of the market the bikers don't?


Nada. None. Zip. Zero.


Organized crime uses their illicit commodities to trade in their black market. B.C. Bud gets traded for cash, cocaine, guns and explosives. So do the terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida. And so it goes for the 50 other such organizations with a significant presence in this country.


The relationships between the various organized crime and terrorist groups have always existed. They have become more prevalent in the past decade as pragmatism has managed to override their own xenophobia.


This was the case before Sept. 11 and is perhaps more true today. In their 1995 book, Global Mafia, authors Antonio Nicasio and Lee Lamothe quote a former American Foreign Service officer. "Look at the Columbian cartels; within their own country they try to make their activities acceptable as part of an anti-American movement. Imagine, now, that they trade a shipment of cocaine for a nuclear weapon. When nuclear terrorism crosses paths with narco-profits the whole shape of the field changes."


Substitute Islamic fundamentalists for Columbian cartels in that quote, then understand the flow of heroin, from the poppy fields of Asia to the streets of the Downtown Eastside, is right through the Middle East and you begin to see the reality of the post-Sept. 11 world.


We do not and cannot live in a vacuum. The simple possession of marijuana in this country rarely, if ever, brings a criminal charge in Canada. At worst, a police officer might seize the offending substance.


I realize the Senate has nothing to do for their annual six-figure income. But is it really necessary for them, in this day and age, to acquiesce to the dope-head lobby? Surely there is something else more important they could study? Like finding a way to make themselves relevant perhaps.


If we assume there is a problem with the status quo, and I do not make that assumption, the Senate recommendation for change is not the answer. Not by a long shot.






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