Volume 92, Issue 9

Thursday, September 17, 1998

service with a smile


Smoky laws

Marijuana, a word with so many synonyms, such as pot, weed and grass, may have just acquired another – municipal loophole.

The fight for marijuana legalization for health reasons has settled to a quiet compromise. While the battle still rages in the papers and documents of the legal system, headway is already being made by some local supporters.

London's Cannabis Compassion Centre is one of many marijuana clubs popping up around southwestern Ontario. Although pot is still illegal in Canada, these clubs are having little, if any, trouble dispensing it to patrons with notes from their doctors.

How is it that the owners of these clubs are not being arrested and stopped? The public knows they exist and where they are. And so do the police who are turning a blind eye towards them.

One viewpoint is the police should not be making deals with supposed criminals. But do the proprietors of prescription medications that help make living with multiple sclerosis and other diseases more tolerable fit the definition of a criminal? The truth is, there are a lot worse things that the police need to turn their attention towards.

In one sense the police are doing society a favour by keeping the marijuana club issue on the back-burner. The club here in London has attracted as many as 50 members and the Medical Marijuana Resource Centre in Toronto is the largest in Ontario. Imagine the costs to taxpayers to process and prosecute these people. Money and effort should be spent on more serious crimes – such as murder and theft – the ones which affect society directly.

At least the police know these establishments exist and are able to monitor their activity, often working in tandem with the owners themselves. In a sense, they are being regulated and controlled.

The situation can be likened to the regulation of alcohol. An establishment which applies for a liquor licence is responsible for checking the age of its patrons to ensure they are of legal age. These clubs are only dispensing the drug to people who can provide medical documentation to prove they can benefit from smoking marijuana. The only difference is that pot is illegal.

And back we go to the old "chicken and egg" argument. If marijuana had been a purely medical discovery, capsulated and given a chemical name rather than emerging as a street drug, the legality question would not be an issue.

Whether or not this relationship between the police and their friendly neighbourhood pot dispenser can continue in such a sociable manner has yet to be seen. But for now, police and pharmaceuticals walk the same beat.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazette.editor@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998