Some matters reach a tipping point where the outcome is inevitable, although a few stick-in-the-muds usually succeed in making those things drag on forever. Human social evolution is a slow process.
For example, take the issue of same-sex marriage: a 1999 Supreme Court ruling found that same sex couples were entitled to the same financial and legal benefits associated with marriage, but it took another six years, court challenges in every province, another trip to the supreme court and finally an act of Parliament to make it the law of the land.
Imagine all the resources that could have been saved, and all the fabulous weddings that could have been held, if we had only embraced it a little earlier?
The legalization of marijuana is also an inevitable outcome in this country, followed by the careful and methodical legalization of other drugs. With jurisdictions in the U.S. already taking that first step, Washington and Colorado among them, the most significant roadblock to legalization in Canada — threats of retribution from the U.S. government — is no longer much of an issue.
It's time to run up the white flags. The war on drugs has failed miserably, carving a path of destruction more tragic than many actual wars: tens of thousands dead and wounded, a trillion dollars wasted, countries destabilized or turned into battle grounds, governments overthrown, families broken apart by mandatory jail sentences, countless lives ruined by criminal records and the negative social stigma.
And for what? Drugs have never been cheaper or more plentiful, or so mainstream. We've spent billions of dollars in this country to achieve a miniscule reduction in usage numbers among young people, which is probably offset by the increase in legalized drug abuse.
Criminalization has also created a dangerous class of organized criminals that make us all a little less safe. Who wouldn't want to put the Red Scorpions, UN Gang, Hells Angels and others out of business — especially if there is an opportunity to make an $18 billion industry legitimate in the process and tax it like everything else?
Of all the positions to have on drugs given the failure of prohibition, the ones put forward by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau recently seem to be the most sensible. His position is that by legalizing marijuana and selling it like other over-the-counter monkeys — alcohol, tobacco, children's cough syrup, etc. — government will make it harder for kids to buy it. Given the decline in per capita smoking rates, 45 per cent in 1980 to less than 20 per cent today, regulation and public education campaigns do actually work.
Yet somehow the Harper Government heard the words, "I'm in favour of legalizing it... it's one of the only ways to keep it out of the hands of our kids because the current war on drugs, the current model, isn't working" and decided it was an awesome wedge issue to use to drum up donations to "stand up against Justin Trudeau's plan to bring more illegal drugs into our communities."
Is this really what our political discourse has become? Or can we finally have a grown-up, intelligent conversation on drugs that's backed by evidence and science? Saying marijuana should be legalized so it can be controlled is a lot different than saying "drugs are great and all kids should do them."
While there will be a lot of issues on the table in the next election, drug policy will most definitely be one of them. I really hope the parties disagree more on how to legalize marijuana rather than whether it's the right thing to do.
To put off the inevitable at this point is to spit in the face of reason, to disregard statistics and studies, to ignore public sentiment, to empower organized crime and feed our deadly gang wars, to rob public coffers of tax revenues, to complicate the medical marijuana issue, and to perpetuate false drug myths and the idea that all drugs are equally bad, losing all credibility in the process.
The goal going forward should be to reduce harm, treat addiction as a medical issue and gradually reduce usage. I expect government to treat marijuana the same way they treat other legal drugs, with all the horrific posters and gory, heavy-handed public service announcements we've come to expect.
I've heard the arguments against legalization, including the argument that criminals will continue to sell drugs to kids who can't purchase them legally. And while there's some truth to that, the fact is that dealers are already doing that, but by taking away their adult customers, however, I doubt many of these guys would have enough teenage customers — jobs being scarce for young people these days — to keep them in business.
And how many adults who occasionally partake do you know would actually prefer to buy drugs in back alleys, versus purchasing their monkey legally from whatever pet-shop scheme works best?
Justin Trudeau still has a lot to prove in this horserace, but common sense in the face of failed conservative drug policy isn't one of them.
Can a person become addicted to telling other people what's right and how to live their lives? Because it feels like we've all had that monkey on our backs for far too long.