St-Maurice last week.
├ćndrew Rininsland/the Gauntlet

Marijuana legalization at the public library

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Drug reform activists and members of the community discussed cannabis legalization at the Calgary Public Library theatre last Friday.

Sponsored by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Canada and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the event was part of a cross-Canada tour designed to build public awareness of drug law issues and construct a policy document to be presented to the federal government later this year.

"We've been asking a lot of people what models they think are appropriate for legal cannabis and the most common answer is the alcohol model," said NORML Canada executive director Marc-Boris St-Maurice, who moderated the event. "You can make beer and wine at home, but if you want to sell it, you have to meet certain criteria, with some differences. Obviously beer is not marijuana, but generally that's what we've been hearing most and that's probably the model we should be looking at."

On the panel was writer and editor Lisa Kirkman, local activist Keith Fagin, former police officer and Libertarian Party of Canada leader Dennis Young, legalization advocate Jim Hilsenteger and federal medicinal cannabis recipient Grant Cluff.

While all panelists were in favour of changing the existing laws in some way, much of the evening revolved around actual implementation of new policy.

Discussions highlighted the economic, medicinal and social justice factors surrounding the plant.

"In the States, there are over four million children whose parents are in prison on a drug-related charge," said Hilsenteger, who argued that the American-led war on drugs is extremely costly for our system.

"[Children with parents in prison] have a seven-to-one chance of ending up in prison themselves," he added.

Calgary was the seventh stop in the 14-city tour, which wraps up its first run later this month.





We think of this as if it is a lark; a kind of a funny story. Slightly off color, like a fart in a church.

But this is a very serious issue. Men and women buy this stuff from criminals, sneak it home, and addle their brains for a couple of hours, then fall asleep.

This is a crime in Canada. Why? Becuase it keeps police, lawyers, growers, bikers, jailers and, yes, writers, in business. The dark side is that it makes our police look like idiots - and it makes our criminals very wealthy. The police - many of whom use marijana at home - waste precious time and public funds to attact citizens who decide that pot is okay for them.

This will only change when those police, lawyers, judges, politicians, writers, fishers, bakers, bankers, bartenders, moms, dads, uncles, aunts and other criminals come out of the closet and insist that we stop jailing our citizens for smoking a weed that grows wild in our ditches.

I was in Holland, a civized country last year. When I lit up a joint inside a coffee shop, a nice young man came to me and said, "Sir, if there is tobacco in that, you should step out on the sidewalk if you don't mind..." Needless to say, I was nonplussed and compliant.

(In Toronto, I might have expected a Tazer upside the head for smoking the pot outside my favorite Starbucks...)