As unlikely as it may sound, Brandon is home to the province’s only cannabis clinic, a fact that has not been lost on an increasing number of Manitobans who have been approved to possess pot for medical purposes.
As the Sun first reported on Feb. 2, medical marijuana user Jade Ridge — who is also the regional rep for the National Organization Reform Marijuana Laws and the Women’s Alliance for Manitoba — has operated the Canadian Medical Marijuana Clinic in this community for the past few years.
The clinic’s popularity — Ridge estimates the clinic has approved about 400 applicants for medical marijuana use across the province since it opened — while congruent with changing Canadian attitudes on the drug’s use and legality, is contradictory to recent legal changes made at the federal level.
On Monday, the same day the Sun published a Winnipeg Free Press story on the clinic, we posed a question on our website to our readers: How legal or illegal do you think marijuana should be? Based on that unscientific web-based opinion poll, it would seem a rather large majority of our online readers believe that marijuana should be legalized in some form or another.
Broken down, about seven per cent of the 215 voters, as of Tuesday at noon, thought pot should be legal, but only with a prescription. About 14 per cent said it should be tightly regulated and available only from the government, like vodka. A whopping 32 per cent said marijuana should be regulated and available in lots of places, much like beer and cigarettes. The remaining 15 per cent thought it should be either available over-the-counter (two per cent), available everywhere though monitored like food (five per cent), or completely unmonitored and available everywhere like air (eight per cent).
Still, a substantial minority of our online readers — 25 per cent — believed that marijuana should remain illegal, though to varying degrees. Some believed pot possession was akin to owning a nuclear bomb (11 per cent), heroin or weaponized anthrax (six per cent), while others likened it to stealing a car (seven per cent) or shoplifting (one per cent).
Granted, this was a rather tongue-in-cheek look at marijuana legalization in this community, but it does offer a signpost to changing attitudes within our community, which, interestingly, seem to reflect the collective national opinions of ordinary Canadians.
Last November, Toronto’s Forum Research released a poll of 1,849 randomly selected people that suggested 65 per cent of Canadians favour either the legalization and taxation of the drug or decriminalizing it in small amounts. The same study also found that about 17 per cent believe Canada’s current pot laws should remain, while another 15 per cent wanted tougher rules.
“Very few want the law to be as it is,” Forum president Lorne Bozinoff told The Toronto Star. “Public opinion has been ahead of government on this issue for a while.”
And yet, under the federal Conservative government, Ottawa has instead enacted harsher penalties for marijuana users by increasing possible prison time and imposing mandatory jail sentences for those who grow six or more marijuana plants.
As The Canadian Press recently reported, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced last December that medical marijuana licences would no longer be granted by the government and pot would be prescribed only by doctors. Canada’s 26,000 licensed medical pot users and their designates will also no longer be able to grow their own when the new laws take effect, but will have to rely on pricier government-sanctioned growers.
We understand, in part, why the Tories are trying to take a harsher stand on pot — the vast majority of the marijuana industry remains in the hands of organized crime. And no Tory worth his salt wants to be seen playing into the hands of criminals.
But as attitudes change, and calls for legalization and regulation grow louder from the Canadian public, the Conservative politics on marjiuana are increasingly falling behind the times. With the federal Liberals backing pot legalization at the party’s policy convention last year and even some U.S. states moving to either decriminalize or legalize cannabis, the Tories may soon find their tough on cannabis crime stance has gone to pot.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 28, 2013