In 1973, the Globe and Mail published a blistering editorial criticizing the Liberal government for their inaction on cannabis legislation. The conclusion rings true today, as the Liberals discuss legalization while arrests continue.
Canada no longer has the rule of law, with regard to marijuana, but the rule of men. And the rule of men is capricious… The law has not been changed, it has just been winked at, undoubtedly because the Government does not feel that the time is politically right for change. So it leaves bad law on the books to influence wrongly, perhaps for their lifetimes, human beings. We have reached the point where the law is an ass, with dangerous hoofs.
The bad law on marijuana
Globe and Mail, September 25, 1973
It is very interesting that one of the major arguments made against easing the laws concerning marijuana is that we do not as yet know the bad effects which may arise from its use. Almost all of the research that has been done has been directed at determining what is wrong with marijuana – if, that is, work done to validate an assumption, instead of to uncover the facts, can properly be termed research.
Into this search for proof of evil a Yorkville dentist, Dr. Harry Slade, 53 (an age of maturity somewhat removed from the more impassioned supporters of pot)), has thrown a monkeywrench. He has found some good in marijuana; it appears to prevent tooth decay.
Dr. Slade freely admits he doesn’t know why. He just knows that, operating in the heart of the drug culture area and noting before and after effects, he has observed that marijuana users have fewer holes in their teeth than non-marijuana users. He can even tell, by looking at a mouth, whether the owner smokes pot or not. Regular pot smokers have little or no food plaque – a cause of decay – on their teeth. If they stop smoking, the plaque returns; if they start again it goes away.
When he first noted this phenomenon, he quizzed his patients about their eating habits, reasoning that a diet change might account for the difference; but no, the smokers ate much the same foods as the non-smokers; there was, especially, no decrease in pop or sweets. He’s had the situation under observation for some 10 years and says, “I can prove case after case with these young kids.”
If the objective Dr. Slade has found some positive good in marijuana, there is other evidence that i at least does little or no harm.
Dr. Colin G. Miles, involved in laboratory studies of marijuana use for the Addiction Research Foundation, says he has never encountered a case of cannabis abuse. “I know several persons, experienced smokers, who say they smoke enormous quantities daily and who are able to function well,” he said. “The only measurable social cost (of marijuana) is that of law enforcement,” says Dr. Miles.
Dr. Kenneth Gorman, head of ARF’s acute medical ward, says, “We do not admit people with problems from marijuana… for all practical purposes it doesn’t arise.” Dr. D. E. Meeks, head of the ARF Clinical Institute, says that most marijuana problems are legal or domestic ones; not, that is, medical problems.
Added to this lack of concern over marijuana, by those who should be in a position to know, is the growing use of marijuana by adults. Lawyers, doctors, public relations men, university professors, production-line workers, actuaries – representatives of all these groups and others will casually admit these days that they smoke, and sometimes grow, marijuana.
Some of these see social – not medical – dangers in the way the law functions. It puts young people against older people and gives the young a contempt for the law, for seldom are the older people arrested on marijuana charges. It presents the mature generation as breaking the law deliberately and with impunity. It leads the young into contact with law-breakers – those who sell marijuana commercially – who have fingers in other and more certainly criminal activities, and who are selling other and absolutely certainly dangerous drugs. It produces a flourishing industry which, being illegal, pays no taxes and operates under no controls.
When Marc Lalonde first assumed the portfolio of National Health and Welfare, he was concerned that the law affecting marijuana be made less punitive. By last spring he saw the matter as not very pressing, and he has not found it pressing enough to present legislation for change.
Yet there has been change, outside the law. Judges and Crown attorneys have been urged to go easy.
The result – of which Mr. Lalonde should be heartily ashamed – is that Canada no longer has the rule of law, with regard to marijuana, but the rule of men. And the rule of men is capricious. Most of the courts have taken the federal hints about clemency, and are punishing marijuana possession offences with fines, probation, suspended sentence and conditional or absolute discharges. But a significant number of Canadians still receive jail sentences ranging from six months to three years for possession of marijuana.
The law has not been changed, it has just been winked at, undoubtedly because the Government does not feel that the time is politically right for change. So it leaves bad law on the books to influence wrongly, perhaps for their lifetimes, human beings. We have reached the point where the law is an ass, with dangerous hoofs.