Montreal, June 15, 2010 • No 279


Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also is QL's English Editor.



Canadian Governments
Escalate War on Drug Users


by Bradley Doucet


          News of the disastrous fallout from the Mexican government’s version of the so-called War on Drugs has achieved wide circulation of late. Four years after Mexican President Felipe Calderon unleashed the heavy hand of the state against the drug cartels, over 22,000 people have been killed, with no end in sight. Violence and bloodshed have become the norm in border towns like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. Yet Calderon is unrepentant, claiming that his only alternative was to ignore the criminals and “allow them to take over towns and communities, and that’s not fair to Mexican people.” The unfairness of his current course of action to those literally caught in the crossfire might cause a leader with less fortitude to look a little harder for other options, but Calderon is committed to his crusade.


          Here in Canada, things are not nearly so bad. City streets are still relatively safe, at least for the time being. But the powers that be in this country have struck some recent blows of their own in the Quixotic quest to interrupt the age-old demand for certain mind-altering substances. The results might not lead to thousands of deaths, but they will lead to needless suffering and the further erosion of the basic human right to do as you please with your own body.

Compassion Club Crackdown

          On Thursday, June 3, police raided and shut down four compassion clubs on the Island of Montreal and a fifth one in Quebec City. When all was said and done, police had arrested 35 people, confiscated 59 kg of pot, a small amount of hashish, and around $10,000 in cash. I’m sure all the law-abiding residents of la belle province are sleeping more soundly since those dens of corruption have been shuttered, clearing up the problem of illegal drug use once and for all!

          The clubs were selling marijuana for ostensibly medical purposes to anyone walking in off the street with a doctor’s referral or, in some cases, with only a notarized attestation of medical need. The consumption of medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001, but as Health Canada clarified in a statement released on June 7, only individuals authorized by Health Canada itself are legally allowed to possess marijuana for medical purposes. And once individuals have received such authorization, they have only three options for legally obtaining their medicine: 1) get it from Health Canada; 2) get a license from Health Canada to produce it for themselves; or 3) get a license from Health Canada to designate someone else to produce it for them.

          As you can see, you have to go through Health Canada one way or the other. The compassion clubs were operating independently of the federal agency, and so were operating outside the law. Not that they could have operated within the law, however, say by supplying only those who “designated” them as their official producer. You see, according to the law, “holders of a production licence can produce marihuana for a maximum of two individuals who have authorizations from Health Canada to possess marihuana for medical purposes,” and also, “the maximum number of production licences (either personal-use or designated-person) at one site is four.” By my calculations, this means that even a Health Canada-approved compassion club, were such a thing to exist, would be able to serve a maximum of eight clients. If you didn’t think it was possible to legalize something while keeping it effectively prohibited, now you know better.

"As long as people are still being harassed and jailed for voluntary acts between consenting adults, we must raise our voices in protest."

Extraditing Gadfly Mark Emery

          A number of questions arise in the wake of these raids. Who was being harmed by the existence of the compassion clubs? How am I harmed by someone else’s consumption of marijuana? What difference does it make if someone takes marijuana in order to feel better in the sense of alleviating suffering, or in order to feel better in the sense of getting high? Are we still so puritanical about bodily pleasure? And why should I get to have any say at all about what you put into your body for whatever reason? Does the alchemy of representative democracy somehow transmute unjustified intervention into a righteous act by sheer force of numbers?

          Of course, asking these kinds of questions can get you in trouble. Just ask Mark Emery, Canada’s “Prince of Pot,” who was extradited to the United States last month, where he will likely serve five years in prison for crimes the Canadian government refused to prosecute. He was officially arrested for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet, but had he been less outspoken and active in his efforts to get pot legalized, he would likely still be a free man. Over the years, Emery donated millions of dollars of the proceeds of his business to fund marijuana legalization efforts worldwide. He operated in the open, declaring his income and paying his taxes. Canadian governments were annoyed, but did not charge him with any crimes here in Canada, preferring to extradite him to the United States, where penalties for drug crimes are much stiffer and courts more likely to convict.

          No, things are not so bad here in the True North, strong and free. People are not, by and large, being gunned down in the streets of our cities. Mexicans, for all their tropical beaches and Mayan ruins, have reasons to envy us. But just because things could be worse doesn’t mean they couldn’t be better. As long as people are still being harassed and jailed for voluntary acts between consenting adults, we must raise our voices in protest. And if Harper, Obama, and Calderon won’t end marijuana prohibition, let’s throw the bums out and replace them with people who have the cojones to stand up for freedom.