Simple possession records for pot should be expunged

published on April 26, 2017 by Allen Garr in Vancouver Courier

The biggest hazard facing most people who smoke pot is getting busted. It has been that way for decades. No one was more aware of that fact than our late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

As his son, the current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, revealed in an interview with Vice Media on Monday during a discussion about his plans to legalize marijuana, his younger sibling Michel was busted for possession of a couple of joints in 1998.

Last week, Simon Fraser University hosted a panel discussion “unpacking the federal task force recommendations.” It included two of the nine task force members — University of Victoria’s Dr. Susan Boyd and B.C. Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall. They were joined by Donald MacPherson, the executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Dr. M.J. Milloy with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use and Stephanie Lake with Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Kendall made the point that while their work was far reaching, they were limited in terms of what the government wanted to hear. Trudeau and the rest were far more interested in the medical implications of pot smoking particularly by young people than they were about the social justice impact of removing the prohibition.

Kendall described the heavy emphasis on youth along with a 14-year sentence for people who made pot available to people under 18 as a “shield” used by the government to assure opponents they were serious about dealing with the risks of pot smoking.

In MacPherson’s view, one shared by the other panelists, this should be “legislation in righting an historic wrong” but it appears to have fallen short.

We are all well aware now that marijuana prohibition was never initially an issue of health. The substance used by folks for millennia was now being prohibited for reasons of politics and racism. Americans wanted to keep a check on Mexican immigrants who brought their pot with them for medicinal and recreational purposes after the Mexican revolution, the same way they prohibited opium to keep Chinese immigrants in their place.

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