On Pot, Can We Keep Up With the Neighbors?

Canada and Mexico may beat U.S. to the punch on legalization.


Credit: martinalonso4895 / photo on flickr

Canada was recently ranked the freest country in the world, but newly installed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isn't about to let it rest on its maple leaves. He won the October national elections after proposing something no major American presidential nominee has ever dared to endorse: legalizing marijuana. 

His Liberal Party argued that because of the current ban, "proceeds from the illegal drug trade support organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human trafficking and hard drugs." Its platform called for legalizing, regulating and taxing cannabis. 

The Liberals probably benefited from Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's hysterical claim that "marijuana is infinitely worse" than tobacco—which, experts promptly noted, kills more Canadians than alcohol, hard drugs, guns, car wrecks and HIV combined. 

Trudeau is now in a position to change the pot law, since he commands a majority in the House of Commons as well as agreement from small parties that hold seats. Public opinion is on his side, with 56 percent of Canadians favoring legalization. The voters favored Trudeau's party despite—or because of—his admission to smoking pot as a member of Parliament. 

Our neighbor to the north, however, will have to hurry to get ahead of our neighbor to the south. On Wednesday, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that individuals have a right to grow and consume marijuana as they please, as a simple matter of liberty. 

"The responsible decision taken to experiment with the effects of this substance—whatever personal harm it might to—belongs within the autonomy of the individual, protected by their freedom to develop themselves," wrote Justice Arturo Zaldivar. 

In the United States, things are moving more slowly, but in the same direction. On Tuesday, Ohioans rejected legalization even though polls indicate most of them favor the concept. This measure would have granted exclusive production rights to 10 groups of investors, which did not go over well. Even groups like the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project could not bring themselves to endorse the plan, preferring to be neutral. 

Four states have already allowed recreational weed: Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska (in addition to the District of Columbia). How was it worked out? In Washington and Colorado, the first to do it, public support has grown as opponents realized that their fears were misplaced or exaggerated. 

Voters are likely to get the chance to decide the issue in several other states next year, including California, Massachusetts and Arizona. Vermont has a better idea. It appears poised to become the first state to legalize pot by the legislative process. 

If that happens, "the dam breaks," predicts Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "Nearly all of New England will move that way," he told me. Something similar happened a few years ago with civil unions. 

Speaking of Vermont, its junior senator, Bernie Sanders, has introduced a bill to end the federal ban on cannabis, which would leave the question entirely up to the states. He has also said that if he lived in Nevada, which will have a ballot measure next year to legalize pot, he would vote for it. The war on drugs, he believes, "has done an enormous amount of damage." 

Those are pretty bold words for a presidential candidate. But in this case, the public has raced ahead of the politicians. An October Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans support legalization—a higher share of the electorate than in Canada, and up from just 36 percent a decade ago. 

Decades of exposure to the drug have persuaded people that the dangers of allowing cannabis consumption are smaller than the harms caused by outlawing it. Those include enriching homicidal criminal gangs here and in Mexico, as well as damaging lives and wasting money arresting hapless stoners. 

Given the choice, as it happens, most people still wouldn't smoke weed. In the Netherlands, where cannabis shops are allowed, marijuana use among adults and teens is lower than it is here. 

Another harm is that prohibition deprives individuals of the liberty to decide whether the pleasures of using pot outweigh the relatively mild health risks it presents. Legalization would be a big step toward making the United States freer—you know, like some other parts of North America. 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Can we get a source for the Canada being the freest country thing ?

    1. Seriously. If an author doesn’t provide a source, Google the damn thing.…

      1. Heritage ranks Canada as #6 for whatever that’s worth.

        Though Heritage having Singapore as #2, a country not exactly known for supporting individual freedoms, makes me question their methodology.

        1. Singapore is very free if you’re a tourist, I’m not sure how their own people fare, though.

        2. heritage ranks economic freedom. The other study ranks personal freedoms. Sadly, Canada outranks the US in both.

          1. Let me know when you can buy a gun there. Or opt out of their government healthcare system, taxes and all.

          2. Many countries do. The Nordic countries come to mind for example.

            1. Meh, can buy firearms there. No where near the selection,quality and price that we have here. But suppressors are cheap and legal. Considered to be good manners and common sense from a noise pollution point of view.

  2. The responsibility for the drug war rests squarely on the shoulders of the progressives. It was their reading of the commerce clause during the new deal that gave the federal government the authority to criminalize drugs not approved of by the centralized government.

    Nixon, merely gave this power, a name – the war on drugs.
    Today, Nixon is considered a hero by the left.

    Richard Nixon, hero of the American Left…..t_partner/

    If Nixon Were Alive Today, He Would Be Far Too Liberal to Get Even the Democratic Nomination…..nomination

    1. Little do they know, that’s precisely why he was a shitheel.

    2. By “liberal” I assume you mean that in the GOP sense “espousing freedom” or the cowardly GOP sense “closet communist.” In the literate world liberal means much the same as watered-down libertarian.

    3. Nixon passed the anti-libertarian election-subsidy law declaring a moratorium on choice the day after the LP was formed.

  3. I love how those of us who still stubbornly vote Team Red (at least most of the time) get saddled with Watergate. When Nixon came from the liberal wing of the party. And many of the things he did we are explicitly against (e.g. wage and price controls). He did however, “win” the Viet Nam war. At least until the Dem congress (which was elected on the heels of Watergate) voted to withhold funding for S. Viet Nam after the Paris peace accords.

    Although, when that schmuck G. Gordon Liddy had a talk show, some of my more conservative friends loved him. A man who was a convicted felon (and rightfully so), and by the way, was a bungling incompetent as well.

    1. His opponent was Timothy Leary, basically a do-yer-own-thing libertarian absolutely opposed to the initiation of force.

  4. The Liberals probably benefited from Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hysterical claim that “marijuana is infinitely worse” than tobacco?which, experts promptly noted, kills more Canadians than alcohol, hard drugs, guns, car wrecks and HIV combined.

    I find it hard to believe tobacco kills more Canadians than alcohol. Citation needed.

  5. The only reason marijuana it’s illegal in Mexico it’s because of US bullying.

    1. *is, not it’s. Stoopid phone

    2. True dat. Also Ecuador, where every bank is plastered with reefer madness and cocaine fiends posters, Columbia, run by US puppets along with Panama and Costa Rica, Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela hate American prohibitionism and elect looters out of spite. Sooner or later someone will take out DC and relieve us of looter politicians that order us at gunpoint against the will of the majority through Nixon-rigged elections.

  6. All substances should be legal. Divert enforcement resources to counseling and medical care for addicts. Encourage industrial standards so people know what they are buying. Empty our prisons of drug offenders. Stop bombing the fuck out of Latin America and Central Asia trying to stop the drug trade.

    1. No counseling and no medical care. You’re free to do whatevet with your life but pay for the consequences yourself.

      1. Regular drug use/abuse is caused by PTSD. Generally. If the treatment indicated is drugs what you gonna do?

      2. Exactly. I’d be 100% in favor of all legalization if the safety net were also cut out.

        But as it stands now, all legalization will accomplish is an even greater burden on our increasingly socialized healthcare system, plus hysterical demands for even more government programs to take care of all the addicts we created by legalizing drugs in the first place.

        Freedom is worthless without consequences. If you remove all consequences, you’re just creating children.

        1. Addiction is far less costly when the stuff is legal. No mass of new addicts will be created by ending the drug war. And the addicts all ready around will have a far easier time feeding there addictions.

      3. Okay. Can we put the homeless addicts in your neighborhood?

  7. The biggest problem the GOP has with carrying on their wars on women, gays and drugs is everybody except the evangelicals have left the party.

    It’s hilarious if you think about it. A religious group is responsible for destroying capitalism in the most powerful country the world has ever known and turning it into a socialist state.


    1. Where did they go? The Tea Party is the electrified frog leg of the old Prohibition Party, redesigned to enact Sharia Law in a Positive Christianity modeled after Hitler’s National Socialism, just like the Prohibition Party and God’s Own Party. After they’ve been beaten by communists, African muslims, mexicans, catholics and yellow dogs, they will go the way of the Whigs and change names or forswear murder and violence and join the LP. Which will it be?

      1. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if they all ended up in hell?

  8. Taxing and regulating will require enforcers. LOTs of enforcers. The Drug War will morph. It will not end.

    No more taxed or regulated than tomatoes.

  9. We Are a republic

    They haven’t beaten MY awesome state

    Booya WA- better privacy protections, no income tax, extensive gun rights, legalised MJ, tons of case law restricting law enforcement search and seizure way beyond federal standard

    1. Is this the real Dunphy?

  10. Im making over $9k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do,


    1. online spamporn.

  11. I think history will judge marijuana prohibition as the greatest civil mistake in U.S. history. From its racist roots to its horribly unjust racist results, the costs of the demonization of a plant will have cost billions, possibly trillions of dollars and untold numbers of lives over its almost 80 year deathspan. The 13 year prohibition of alcohol proved to be a boon for criminal enterprises of all sorts but those lessons were ignored so the costs of marijuana prohibition are many orders of magnitude larger. The war on drugs is over. There was never a single battle won other than the enforcers battling to keep their jobs. The government has a huge problem understanding that when something is being done that doesn’t work and is causing harm, something different needs to be done, not just more of the same thing. Try it out at home – Hit yourself in the head with a rock. The war on drugs has been much the same, doing much more harm than good.

    1. Don’t forget about hemp, especially when you get geneticists working on it.

      1. GMO hemp is poison.

    2. By drugs you mean ordinary plants mystical politicians believe are possessed by Satan?

  12. If you want to use alcohol as the basis for legalizing pot (or any other intoxicant) then you have to play buy the same rules. No public intoxication, requiring a set level for intoxication that can be reliably measured and enforced.
    As you have the right to be stoned, my family has the right not to be harmed by your intoxication.

    1. You are not harmed by public intoxication on illegal drugs. The drugs are Federally illegal. No one can get them.

    2. First of all, it’s not toxic. Water is toxic; alcohol is very toxic, but marijuana is as toxic as hay. Totalitarians invent imaginary neighborhood effects as the default alternative to sending men with guns out to kill a few as examples for intimidating the survivors. When do they question the danger of a bunch of illiterate mystical cops running amok killing blacks, potheads, women, children and pets?

  13. So if most Mexicans, Americans and Canadians favor decriminalization yet “their elected” leaders mostly favor sending men with guns out to shoot them and their kids and dogs and rob them of their homes and automobiles (leaving them liable for mortgage & loan payments), is that democracy? What does that say about US secret elections that forbid a voter from verifying that his or her ballot was counted as cast?
    I want a password or hashtag that will let me look up and verify MY vote after it is cast and tallied.

  14. By the way, Uruguay legalized weed as soon as a libertarian party formed there.

  15. Canada and Mexico do not have the Richard Nixon anti-libertarian campaign subsidy law freezing their political development in the year 1971. Canada had prohibition in some provinces. Today the province most controlled by organized crime clings to prohibition, but Ontario went wet June 7, 1927 largely to shake loose from racketeer control. Mexico imported Republican White Terror prohibitionism, and the result was beheadings to rival any Islamic State and machine-gun fights to rival Chicago during Prohibition. Only Americans are brainwashed enough to completely lose touch with the facts of reality, thanks to the funneling of tax dollars into a venal propaganda soft machine.

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