Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Toronto pot shop raids just enforcing the law of the land

I must confess I am at a bit of a loss to understand the arguments of the plethora of marijuana "dispensaries" that have sprung up in Toronto recently (and not so recently in Vancouver), after the police raids in Toronto this last week.
Yes, I understand that the Liberal government has vowed to legalize marijuana during their first term in power, probably next year. But, as things stand, the only way to buy pot legally in Canada is by mail order through one of the 31 licensed producers listed on the Health Canada website, on presentation of a valid doctor's prescription. This may not be the most convenient system, but it is currently the only legal system for people to obtain medically-required marijuana. It is therefore not legal to sell marijuana through high street stores, or "compassion clubs" as some insist on euphemistically calling themselves, whether the product is intended for recreational or medical use. Maybe one day this will be legal, once a regulatory and licensing structure has been put in place, but, as Aragorn had it in Lord of the Rings, "it is not this day".
That all sounds pretty straightforward to me, and it is against this background that the Toronto Police Force recently carried out Project Claudia, raiding and closing down 43 stores and arresting 90 individuals involved.
It is disingenuous to argue, as David Butt does in the Globe and Mail, that criminal law enforcement action usually rests upon social and community consensus, and so criminal charges should not be laid on those in contravention of such an ambiguous law. The law is not ambiguous at all: Mr. Butt may not agree with it, but the law is nevertheless the law.
Similarly, the Toronto Dispensaries Coalition's argument that the majority of the shops offer high-quality medical cannabis products to those who desperately need them, and so the charges against those arrested should be dropped forthwith, is just not relevant. Their claims may or may not be true (frankly, I suspect not), but the fact remains that the law has not yet been changed, and so selling pot in this way remains illegal. QED.
Some closed-down dispensaries are vowing to open up again just as soon as they are able, arguing that the crack-down was heavy-handed, and that their poor "patients" are relying on them. Some have even tastelessly compared the raids to Kristallnacht, which I find just unbelievable.
Once the new law has been passed, and a satisfactory regulatory system has been established, I will have no problem with these stores opening up again and selling their wares legally. Until then, though, they need to abide by the laws of the land, whether they like them or not, just as I do. Call me cynical, but my feeling is that most of these outfits are not in the "compassion" business at all - they are just out to make a quick buck in what they (incorrectly) perceive as a grey legal area.

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