“These drugs are illegal because of the harmful effect they have on users and on society. We will continue protecting the interests of families across this country,” wrote Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay’s spokesperson Paloma Aguilar in an email to Global News in 2013.
But the Tories did launch a $1.3-billion free market in medical marijuana at the end of September—phasing out an older system that relied on mostly homegrown medical marijuana, which sometimes ended up on the black market.
Under a 2000 Supreme Court of Canada ruling, about 38,000 Canadians had been licensed by Health Canada to grow their own cannabis or have it grown for them to provide relief for a range of illnesses, including HIV and multiple sclerosis.
Proponents swear by the plant’s ability to alleviate chronic pain, stimulate appetite and generally comfort patients living with long-term or terminal ailments, but many doctors—including the head of the Canadian Medical Association Dr. Chris Simpson—don’t plan to prescribe it, based on what they call a lack of rigorous medical research and the resulting health concerns.
Going to pot: Should Canada legalize marijuana?
Join the conversation with host Mike Eckford on Monday, May 26, 2014 at 7 p.m. ET as Canadians talk marijuana on the Corus radio network.
This is part of a series of special conversations on-air and online about the issues that matter to Canadians.
Listen to the live broadcast starting at 7 p.m. ET using the audio player below:
Follow along in the Corus live blog below:
If Canada were to legalize marijuana, questions remain as to what extent it would be taxed and how it would be regulated.
In a New York Times article highlighting Canada’s new medical marijuana corporate structure, writer Ian Austen pointed to different options around the world: The Netherlands allows possession and growth of small quantities and sales through licenced cafes. Spain allows growth for personal use and Portugal has decriminalized possession of all drugs in small quantities.
And while Washington State and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use with conditions—the first to regulate and allow a full industry—the drug is illegal under federal U.S. law—a contradiction that some argue sends a mixed message to potential users.
Issues to consider in a system where marijuana is legal include preventing youth use and impaired driving, health oversight and product-safety standards, cross-border smuggling and crime prevention, and accurately predicting demand and banking, since cash runs the business.
Then there’s taxing: Too low and regulatory supervision of the industry will become too expensive; too high and pot users could stay in the black market.
Join the conversation and weigh in on the marijuana legalization debate.
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