The following article was originally published on VancouverSun.com
In the wake of US President Barack Obama’s recent and groundbreaking support for medical marijuana legalization, it is now more apparent than ever that the world has changed. Attendance at 420 celebrations has skyrocketed in recent years, reaching an estimated 30,000 at Vancouver's location. In the 1970’s, voter support for cannabis legalization in the United States was as low as 15%. Today, the view that marijuana should be legal is held by the mainstream majority.
Some estimates land in the high 80th percentiles for support of medical marijuana legality and decriminalization. Public icons from all sides of the political spectrum are standing and being counted amongst the ranks of advocates of cannabis policy reform. Opponents cling to arguments of risk-minimization and slippery slopes. However, evidence of positive economic, political, and social impacts is hard to ignore.
Today, the view that marijuana should be legal is held by the mainstream majority.
A distinct and timely drop of 25% in opiate related overdose in Colorado since legalization in the state seems to starkly contradict the ‘gateway drug’ hypothesis. Washington State has not been plagued by a boom in unemployment since retail marijuana outlets took root over the last year. Perhaps a more direct approach to protecting public safety through risk minimization would be to outlaw beer and cheeseburgers, likely accountable for millions of North American deaths per year.
Cannabis advocacy can come from surprising places. Last week, billboards in Toronto touted a call for legalization from a coalition of current and former Conservative Party of Canada members, calling themselves Canadian Conservatives for Legal Marijuana. Polarizing icons such as Conrad Black and The Fraser Institute seem to be odd fits for a political platform once manned by the sandal-clad fringes of 1960’s Kitsilano.
As we learn more about the true nature of the risk associated with cannabis use, rational thinkers from all sides of the political spectrum are finding it hard to stand behind historic ‘Marijuana Kills’ anachronisms.
Politically moderate advocates have lead the charge on evidence-based marijuana policy, some for decades. Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States, suggested reform was necessary on the US ‘policy of imprisonment’ in the year 2000, a decade before such sentiment was safely backed by majority opinion.
Dan Rather, Former Anchor of the CBS Evening News suggested ‘that what we have been doing in the so-called Drug War simply doesn't work,’ calling it a ‘losing game.’
Policy follows voter sentiment. If the people of a nation or constituency believe something, it is their government representative’s job to advocate for that belief. If a majority is willing to fight for a cause with enough passion, it is their elected official’s mandate to represent that will of the people. We are witnessing sweeping change in attitudes around this defining social issue, and the question becomes: Where do you stand?
Where do you stand?
No matter what your attitude towards marijuana policy in Canada or the United States, it is time to speak up. There is legal precedent in BC ruling against an employer firing an employee for medical marijuana use.
Your opinion matters, and the most effective battlegrounds for shaking off rusty assumptions can be the coffee shop or the dinner table. Ask yourself, do you have an opinion? Do you care to? If you do, how often do you speak up? How often do you stay quiet for fear of judgement from a mild mannered co-worker? Let your voice be heard, have an opinion, and stand for what you believe. Marijuana policy matters, and so do your opinions.