In the twenty-first century the illegal status of cannabis in Canada is ‘immoral, unjust, and intolerable’. The first drug law implemented in Canada was the Opium Act of 1908 when Deputy Minister of Labour Mackenzie King was concerned with an increase of use among Caucasians (Grayson 2008, p. 73). Opium was the Chinese migrants drug of choice. The cannabis plant achieved its criminal status when it was added to the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act in 1923. Today, the possession and trafficking of marijuana falls under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (S.C. 1996, c. 19) as a schedule II narcotic. As a first conviction, offenders face a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail or a $1000 fine, or both, when possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less. Without a doubt, the debate over cannabis illegality is neither new nor unique. With this in mind, it is recognized that many others believe the law to be one that is unjust and intolerable. I often wonder how citizens in a “free and liberal democratic society” claim such status when the people do not hold sovereignty over their own bodies? It is often argued that the use of cannabis is potentially harmful, however it is destructive to the welfare of our nation state and humanity when living organisms becomes prohibited. John Finnis’s framework on Law and Flourish Human Life can be used to argue that Canada’s cannabis law is unjust, as it does not further the common good by criminalizing personal choice and suppresses sociability and friendship by forcing users to partake in secrecy. For Finnis, “justice is about fostering the common good in a community” and concerns interactions and duties with others (Pavlich 2011, p. 37). Likewise, Pavlich would argue that the law prevents the formation of shared objectives that serve everyone. This point could be applied to any arbitrary law and be taken out of context, although this law is unique to others as it is victimless. Criminalizing the production, usage and distribution of cannabis essentially causes more harm and victims than if it were to be legal. For one, the production of the plant often involves the stealing of electricity and bypassing usage meters in order to meet the markets supply and demand while keeping their costs low and workers off the electrical grid (Dehaas, 2012). This then places higher cost onto the legal customers to pay for the lost power. Secondly, the usage of the cannabis plant has been proven to be less harmful than other legal counterparts such as alcohol and prescription painkillers (CBC, 2012). Thirdly, the vast distribution and demand for cannabis has resulted in billions of dollars in revenue for organized crime (Nelson, 2010). The current illegality of the organism appears to be one of hegemony—the way in which elites have their interests be adopted as the common interests—through successful lobbying on behalf of those who are benefitting by it’s illegality (e.g., law enforcement, prison industry, pharmaceutical companies, etc.) as it ensures job security for its ‘combatants’ and produces wealth in industries profiting off of its synthetic counterparts in modern medicine. The time to end prohibition of this plant is long overdue.
“If people let government decide which foods they eat and medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson
CBC. (March 23, 2007). Alcohol, tobacco worse than pot, ecstasy: study. CBC News, Health, http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2007/03/23/alcohol-tobacco.html (accessed on September 21, 2012)
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (S.C. 1996, c. 19)
Dehaas, J. (June 23, 2011). Grow-op electricity thefts “like a five per cent surcharge”. Macleans, News, http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2011/06/23/grow-op-electricity-thefts-like-a-five-per-cent-surcharge/ (accessed on September 21, 2012)
Grayson, K. 2008. Chasing Dragons: Security, Identity, and Illicit Drugs in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto.
Nelson, A. (April 20, 2012). How Big Is The Marijuana Market? CNBC, News, http://www.cnbc.com/id/36179677 (accessed on September 21, 2012)
Pavlich, G. 2011. Law & Society, Refined. London: Oxford University Press.