Opinions

 Marc Emery’s return will hopefully spark new legalization talks

 

Original photo by Cannabis Culture editor Jeremiah Vandermeer. Edits by Marta Kierkus.

Amid a cloud of celebratory marijuana smoke, renowned pot activist Marc Emery returned home to Canada on Aug. 12. This homecoming took place after Emery spent four long years locked in an American prison for selling marijuana seeds across the United States border. Before he even touched down on Canadian soil, Emery vowed political revenge against the Harper government, whose hardline stance on marijuana prohibition, according to Emery, led to his incarceration in 2010.

At this point, it’s difficult to tell whether Emery’s political ambitions of running for office are realistic, since it’s unlikely that any mainstream political party will endorse a troublemaking loudmouth with a history of well-documented drug use (Rob Ford notwithstanding). However, that’s not the main issue here.

The one real hope I have for Emery’s proposed return to politics is that he at least draws more attention to the Conservative government’s ridiculous war on weed.

Despite Canada’s worldwide reputation as a bastion of progressive thinking, Harper seems intent on soiling that image by refusing to budge on the issue of decriminalization. In fact, his government seems to be moving in the opposite direction, having installed a piece of “tough on crime” legislation in March of 2012 (Bill C-10) that hands out mandatory minimum sentences for convicted drug offenders.

Not only does this kind of legislation fly in the face of public attitudes toward pot—studies show that the majority of Canadians support legalization—but acts like Bill C-10 seem to be pushing our country toward a bloated US-style prison system. This is the same kind of system that seems intent on wasting valuable tax dollars by filling institutions with masses of non-violent offenders.

Moreover, the Conservative government seems to be completely unmoved by little things like fact and scientific research, which have shown us over the years that the legalization of marijuana holds countless medical benefits (more treatment for cancer, glaucoma, PTSD), new environmental opportunities (the growing of hemp for industrial and agricultural purposes), and a brevity of economic advantages (freeing up drug war tax dollars for other uses). Instead, they seem hung up on an after-school special mentality that dictates that all drugs are universally bad, and should be kept away from the public at all costs.

What’s truly ironic and infuriating about this situation is that even the US, whose “tough on crime” policy Harper was trying to emulate originally, has since made progressive strides toward legalization. On Nov. 6, 2012, both the Colorado Amendment 64 and Washington Initiative 502 were passed, which effectively de-criminalized marijuana possession in each respective state.

Our government, on the other hand, has gone to great lengths to demonize a recreational drug that has been scientifically proven to be no more harmful than alcohol. They have also systematically robbed us of one of the things that defines us as Canadians: the privilege to act morally superior to our American neighbours.

Again, I can’t be sure that Emery’s return to the realm of politics will herald any immediate change, since the Harper government seems to be operating under the assumption that absurd 1930s drug propaganda like Reefer Madness are still relevant in the 21st century.

Hopefully, in the meantime, the self-proclaimed Prince of Pot can raise a big enough stink on his planned 30-city speaking tour across the country, and get the people of Canada to see that pot prohibition is a policy that benefits virtually nobody.