Folly from the war on pot

If mental-health and addiction-treatment centre’s advice was followed, pot would be legalized

Donald Charles Isadore was given a six-month sentence for killing a woman as he drove downtown.  An unnamed man was given a six-month sentence in a Kamloops court room for sexual interference of his step-daughter.

This week, Donald Clarkson — a 76-year-old grandfather from Little Fort — was handed a six-month sentence for doing something an increasing number of experts say is not the demonic activity depicted back in the 1936 movie Reefer Madness.  The pensioner was growing 150 small marijuana plants on his North Thompson property, a crime for which he walked into court and pleaded guilty, sparing taxpayers a costly trial.  He grew pot for one simple reason — to supplement the pension he now receives.

Justice Dev Dley, in sentencing Clarkson, called his action “a crime of greed.”

It’s ironic Dley was making this kind of observation just days after provincial-court judges in the province won a battle with the government about their pay and pensions, one that will see judges getting a significantly larger pension than the kind a retired trucker like Clarkson receives.

Thanks to the we’re-really-tough-on-crime Stephen Harper government, Dley imposed the mandatory sentence on the septuagenarian.

In addition to the six months of residence in Kamloops Regional Correction Centre — Clarkson was slapped with a decade-long firearms-possession ban — until he is 86 years old — and must submit a sample of his DNA to a national registry.  So, Clarkson will now be living among, as fellow reporter Cam Fortems put it, “a lot of nasty people there [KRCC] on remand.”

Think lamb and a cave full of lions.

I don’t understand marijuana use. I’ve never tried it, have no desire to do so and assign that attitude to the Baptist side of my brain. Decades ago, firmly rooted by my parents’ belief children should go to church every week and some weekdays, too, the Baptist side of my brain also dictated dancing and drinking the demon rum were sins.

Most of those synapses have been obliterated, but the marijuana one hasn’t — although I have spent a lot of time since moving to B.C. 16 years ago reading what experts are saying about medical benefits of cannabis.

I’ve talked with people who use it to address chronic pain, anxiety disorders and the fear of the final days of palliative care.

I’ve listened to other experts talk about why it should be legalized. Perhaps that’s the lesson from Clarkson’s new reality.

If the country’s largest mental-health and addiction-treatment centre’s advice was followed, pot would be legalized, rules would be applied, production and sale would be taxed and this grandfather’s actions would become a commercial crime, something more likely to result in a fine rather than half a year in jail with thugs for neighbours.

It’s working in Washington state. It’s working in Colorado.

The New York Times’ editorial board recently came out in favour of legalization. Even a survey in Harper’s right-wing foundation of Alberta shows a majority favouring decriminalization.

National polls show two-thirds of Canadians want marijuana legalized or decriminalized.

Clearly, the federal government is behind its people on this issue, with almost 60,000 cannabis charges laid in 2013, the most recent year with available statistics.  It seems like a waste of police resources and court time and a failure to identify a new taxation-revenue system.

To be fair, Clarkson was growing more than a few ounces’ worth of the plant, but that reality would lead straight back to the federal pension levels — and that’s another column.

Dale Bass writes for Kamloops This Week.


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