Weed for Windsor

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published September 12, 2002

On Sept. 4, the Canadian Senate made the first sincere attempt at cannabis reform in North America. Last Wednesday, the Canadian government issued a 600-page suggestion to make marijuana legal in nearby Windsor, effectively bringing to the table what is perhaps the most significant drug reform initiative in years. The government is expected to discuss the real possibilities of this plan early next year despite the tremendous pressure it is receiving from a staunchly anti-drug Bush administration.

Of course, the location of this latest liberal experiment raises serious issues for Michigan. Just over 50 miles from Ann Arbor, Windsor already offers other decreased restrictions to University revelers. When it was established as a nightlife district in the '80s, the modest Ontario city quickly beat out both Detroit and Toronto among many younger Michiganders with its completely nude strip clubs, legitimate escort services and a drinking age of 19. Most Canadian politicians say that the decision to legalize and regulate pot sale will simply present an opportunity for tourists to indulge in a harmless substance without the specter of incarceration or deportation.

Supporters of marijuana prohibition in the United States argue that cannabis legalization in Windsor would inspire an increase cross-border traffic between countries and a general resurgence of drug-related crime in the area. The Detroit division of the Drug Enforcement Administration reacted strongly against the news of the Senate report, stating that Windsor's move would nullify the progress that southeastern Michigan has made in the war on drugs. Keeping with federal precedent, detractors of the plan in Washington, D.C. also cite their problems with the substance they feel contributes to a lapse social responsibility.

The Canadian government should not be influenced by this static rhetoric. For several years, the Canadian government has exercised progressive thinking with its adoption of looser penalties for marijuana possession and responsible pot use. British Columbia, in particular, has long been at the epicenter of Canadian drug reform. Shortly after last year's decision to reclassify marijuana in Britain, pro-reform advocates in British Columbia appealed to Ottawa to recognize the need for legalization. The fruits of their respectable campaigns will hopefully be realized in the coming months.

Officials on this side of the border should view Canada's legislation with respect, rather than scorn. For decades, medical patients and recreational users alike have been denied a material that possesses absolutely no known health harming effect. Those who are ignorant enough to criticize cannabis as a socially degrading substance have clearly never been presented with an adequate education of both its utility and, in some cases, its necessity - but, at least one North American city has transcended the sad boundary of stigmatization.