Sometimes it seems like trying to sell bibles to atheists. Big Macs to vegans. Abstinence to swingers. Truth to lies. Compassion to Conservatives. Or, in this case, a simple concept to closed minds.
Way, way back, in 2002, after everybody had more or less gotten over the Y2K scare and were counting up the money spent to avoid the disaster that never came, the Canadian Senate, of all places, delivered a detailed report outlining how a kinder, gentler, more enlightened country might go about tackling illegal drugs. It didn't call for outright legalization, but that was the clear direction it was recommending. Baby steps. Decriminalization, accommodation, enlightenment.
Decriminalization happened, more or less ... eventually. But let's be honest, decriminalizing pot turned out to be the cruel joke anyone who gave it half a thought knew it would be. It's popping a child's balloon, pocketing a dog's ball, putting itching powder in your brother's Jockeys when he has to give a big speech at school. Don't ask about that last one.
On the plus side, it managed to keep some—but by no means all—people out of jail who were stoned enough to get caught with their stash in their pockets. It let them live their lives without the stigma of a criminal bust, albeit with a heightened sense of paranoia.
But it failed to get Law'n'order out of the lives of folks who thought getting high with a joint was better than with a drink. Arrests for possession dipped but slightly. There were several reasons for that. Stoners became less discrete, knowing they'd likely only get fined for possession. Of course, in an almost Darwinian move, they were likely to have to sell a little pot to come up with the couple of hundred bucks for the fine and, as a result, get charged with trafficking. Police were less prone to turn a blind eye to simple possession. After all, it's just a traffic fine they're laying on someone, not a life-ruining criminal rap.
Decriminalization failed to move Canadian society away from the pointless, expensive and long-lost war on drugs. It didn't take the profit motive out of pot nor the quasi-organized thugs who attempted to control distribution. It didn't bring the production and distribution of pot within the realm of legal—and taxed—commerce, thus foregoing what governments like to think of a financial windfall. It didn't offer new opportunities or modalities for dealing with people who want to stop using drugs. And, of course, it set the table, along with the unconscionable marketing ploys of legal, pharmaceutical drug pushers, for the opioid crisis and fentanyl scourge playing out on the streets of, well, everywhere.
Fast forward to 2015. Canada unexpectedly elects a former snowboard instructor as Prime Minister on the strength of great hair, a smorgasbord of promises—many of which are as elusive as good hair—and the rampant hatred of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a hatred so strong it modified a large percentage of the nation's stop signs.
One of the promises not totally abandoned was legalizing cannabis. While the effort to date has been pretty much what we've come to expect from the current government, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are also senators of the Conservative persuasion, naturally, who are trying desperately to tear up the tracks and keep that light from ever emerging.
And now their efforts to derail legalization have been, not unexpectedly, joined by Stephen Harper Lite—Andrew Scheer. Unlike Justin Trudeau, Andrew didn't have good hair to help his political career along. He had a weird smile. Part sneer, rhyming with Scheer, part Son of the Joker, and way too much like Pee Wee Herman, Andrew is hung with a baby face and a grin that makes careful people instinctively check to make sure he hasn't picked their pockets.
Andrew's against legalizing pot. The sun rises in the east. Andrew's against it notwithstanding the fact he too was a pothead before selling his soul for a place at the trough.
In the finest tradition of conservatism, Andrew believes the darker aspects of peoples' lives need to be controlled, that left to our own devices we will always choose evil. The irony is lost on him. But that doesn't stop him from trying to toss a monkey wrench into the works and, like an eager, dementedly grinning, beaver, damming the flow of the river of progress.
What he fails to understand is this: legal pot is a boon to Conservatives. No, really. He should think about it. I know that's asking a lot but if he did think about it, he'd be on board. After all:
• A stoned populace is a complacent populace. A variation on the Bread and Circuses trick, there can be little doubt a hazy-eyed public will mostly fail to remember—and will care even less—that the Conservatives under the Rule of Harper managed to set back the march of progress by more than the know-nothing decade he had to screw things up.
• Legal pot is yet another opportunity for wealth transfer to well-placed Conservative friends. With demand likely to grow, supply will be transferred from small grow ops to large, commercial, TSX-listed companies. One thing we know about large, profitable corporations is they tend to be led by, and their stock owned by, people who value the status quo, their own self interest and, accordingly, vote in significant numbers Conservative. I know it's kind of hard to wrap your head around the idea of legal pot being the status quo, Andrew, but think about it.
• Notwithstanding the guerrilla "legalization" in places like Colorado, Washington, California and other states Trump hates, legal pot is yet another area of commerce where the U.S. can do what it enjoys doing most: slapping punitive tariffs on Canadian products. Not that any of that fabled B.C. bud is going to slip across the border, mind you. But maybe in the future, under NAFTA II .... naw, way too far-fetched. But it will give dickhead border guards even more specious grounds to turn Canadians around at the border.
• The simple expedient of filthy lucre. Taxes. Money that used to go into the hands of organized and disorganized crime now go into the hands of legal, organized crime, i.e., governments.
• Finally, legal pot is a bargaining chip with the chimp in the White House. With his hate of all things Mexican, even he can see legal Canadian bud places them at a disadvantage. And he does seem to relish seeing others disadvantaged.
So really, Andrew, get with the program and channel your inner stoner. You know it still lurks within.