Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


In today's Province, written by David Carrigg and Glenda Luynes, Liberal Senator Larry Campbell is calling for the legalization of Pot. In fact this is what he says, " Legalize it, tax the hell out of it and put the money into health care". Mr. Marc Emery affectionately known as the Prince of Pot, who has built a lucrative business empire dedicated to selling of marijuana and seeds, echoes the same sentiments as the Senator. Both these men state that possession of pot should only result in fines.

What both Mr. Emery and Senator Larry Campbell seem to overlook and which the Province paper completely overlooked is that legalization of socially stigmatizing issues, similar to marijuana use, like alcohol consumption and prostitution, have created a two tiered system which creates a class system and for the most part has had dire consequences for those who live in poverty.

In the Oldtown area, historically we have witnessed many wino's or alcohol dependent persons resorting to drinking bay rum or Chinese cooking wine. Legalization of alcohol hasn't been of benefit to these individuals and so far there hasn't been appropriate standards of treatment for these individuals and the reserved outcomes for these unfortunate souls are usually a cold steel cage in the local jail or sadly, a real hard, cold place in the local morgue. Talk about a stiff one.

With legalized prostitution, which is the legal framework in which we currently operate under in Canada, the results have proven disastrous. While those who can afford to work in one of those nice uptown places licensed by the City, these women have enjoyed the full protection of the law. The same cannot be said for those engaged in survival sex work on our streets. Most prostitution related charges are laid against those who are considered of the lower class of prostitution and in fact there is a stroll named after this class of sex workers called Low-Track. The violence perpetuated against sex trade workers has mainly been targeted at those working low-track.

In fact, before Canada adopted the legalization framework, many sex trade workers, especially those working the West End were targeted for criminality and in most cases were fined. This had dire consequences since most sex workers had to engage in prostitution to pay off their considerable fines.

While Senator Campbell and Prince of Pot, Marc Emery, lobby for the legalization of Pot, I'm not certain both these men have looked at this issue from a broader policy perspective of what is in the greater public good and interest.

For instance, should lower income citizens who smoke pot and be in possession of it, also be fined? What happens if they receive fines? Do they then need to engage in trafficking of pot to pay off their fines?

In fact, levying of fines for possession of pot would in my humble opinion, only benefit those who already gain measurable benefit from the existence of legalization of social issues like alcohol use, gambling, prostitution and marijuana production.

I'm not sure those on the bottom rung of our social pecking order would in fact gain any measurable benefit..

So what is the answer?

What is needed is De-criminalization not Legalization for possession. I don't want to see people going off to jail for smoking pot. Neither should they be fined for being in possession of it. Moreover, people should not be carted off to jail for being alcoholic or pot dependent. I want a society which treats people with kindness and respect. If they have health issues, I believe its in the greater public interest for citizens to be treated for their medical conditions.

While Senator Campbell speaks from a perspective of being a former Coroner which provides him a great soap-box and considerable clout, I'm shocked though that from a political position he doesn't seem to think things through carefully. In fact, he often muddles things. For instance, he calls for de-criminalization of pot than states those who possess pot should be fined.

By using the Senator's same logic, should we as a society push for fines, tax heavily and legalize other drugs?

The only reason I think the Senator is pushing this legalization idea is that he already has bought into a class system of drugs and druggies, prostitution and prostitutes, alcohol use and alcoholics. He most likely believes that those who smoke pot are different from those who smoke crack. He thinks, I am certain that there are different classes of drug dependent people, just as I know he supports two distinct societal classes of the sex trade.

I think Senator Campbell fails us the people when he lobbies for his various class-entrenched systems to prevail. While this is hardly surprising, considering he perches grandly amid one, but for a supposed top cop and coroner to even suggest legalization and fines as the answer to drugs is really bizarre thinking.

Jamie Lee Hamilton