Even though the Canadian government has illegalized the trade of cannabis, it is evident that it still legalizes it overtime considering the events that have happened and continue to happen, among them being the 4/20 protest. Every 4th of April, protesters meet to celebrate the smoking of pot and demand that the product to be legalized just as tobacco. The law enforcers are always on the lookout to ensure that safety is maintained during such occasions. However, they do little or nothing to control the smoking of the pot.
4/20 protest in Canada
The code 4/20 is rumored to have been started by ‘the Waldos’ in San Rafael High School. They used it to refer to the time they met to smoke pot which was usually at about 4:20pm everyday. The name was later used as a code by other pot smokers to keep the police, parents or school administrators unaware of their activities. There are other stories that speculate the origin of the code which may not be ascertained at the moment.
However, what is known for sure is the date the protests began and it is believed to be in 1995. It all started in Vancouver when a manager, Rozek, and one hempe store employee, Cindy, put up a request to their boss, Marc Emery, to start the movement. “They asked if they could hold a 4/20 celebration next door in Victory park”. Marc declined this request but they insisted on going ahead with their plans despite his lack of approval.
Therefore on April 4th, 1995, about 200 hundred people met in Victory Park and smoked pot all day long while playing loud music. In the following years the number of people who joined the meeting had grown to five hundred and promised to become even larger. By 1997, the number had grown to such an extent that the venue was too small. “It is then that Vancouver Art gallery was selected as the next venue and has been used to date”.
The main occurrence in the celebration is the smoking of pot and its trade. Police deployed to the scene do not engage themselves in preventing the smoking of cannabis. Rather, they insist that their main responsibility is to combat those who traffic and smuggle the commodity.
Cannabis trade in Canada
The growth of cannabis in Canada can be dated back to the early seventeenth century. It is actually believed to be one of the first crops that had been farmed in Canadian soil. “Parisian is believed to have migrated to Nova taking with him a wealth of knowledge on the farming of cannabis” . The trade has been going on since that time to the present day.
Initially, it was grown naturally but due to the new rules set by the administration, farmers have gone the extent of growing the product indoors. In order to achieve this, state-of-art equipment was used to attain almost natural atmospheric conditions that are favorable for the growth of the product. The THC content in the marijuana grown in doors ranges from 10-15% while that from naturally grown marijuana contains slightly over 2%. The indoors product thus fetches good money in the market.
“The trade is said to be masterminded by Vietnamese gangs who operated in family units, a large market share of the product sold come from the Vietnamese groups”. The units can range from as few as four to as many as a hundred people. The operations revolve around how debts are settled and secrets kept in the area. “The main strength of the trade is the co-operation exhibited among families that keep the business well networked and funded”.
The multibillion business has grown so dynamic that the Vietnamese groups have gone to the extent of hiring security men to guard the crop. These groups then sell the grown product to other organized gangs in the region. The families preferred the trade to the normal day jobs as they regarded it as a quick way to make cash.
Besides, their language was poor and would not permit them to secure well paying jobs. Cannabis often goes to the extent of being traded at $6000 for every pound. Given these insane amounts, people can then manage to do all that money can do. “Helicopters are sometimes used in the trade, particularly for transit purposes”.
The trade was first illegalized in the late nineteenth century. Then, the police were on the look out for all the smugglers in the region and for any equipment that would be on transit with the intension of the cannabis growth. When the rule was first established, people brushed it off saying people would eventually break the rule.
The example given was the tobacco trade that was illegalized for one decade and legalized in the years that followed. Government efforts to decrease the trade in the industry may have doubled but many of those convicted ended up in being bailed out only to embark on the trade.
Many of the 4/20 protesters argue that the product has medicinal value unlike tobacco, yet the later is legalized while the former is illegalized. The money spent on combating the growth and trade of the product should be re-channeled and boosted from the revenues of marijuana to cater for the health issue of the people in general. According to them, “cannabis users never commit the social crimes such as wife battering that is pronounced among drunkards”.
Effects of cannabis on the Canadian society
Cannabis, unlike other drugs, has both positive and negative effects. Acute use of the product can result in increased vulnerability to heart and lung diseases. However, the effects occur rarely and in occasional cases will lead to the loss of memory by the user. Studies conducted indicate that cannabis has no relation to increased crime. “Drunken people often become violent but cannabis does not particularly cause aggression”.
Among the positive effects of consumption of the drug are reduced pains, anti-vomiting and anti-spasmodic. Owing to these effects, the Canadian society has not been affected gravely by the product. However, the frequent charges imposed on the people found in possession of cannabis have increased greatly.
Canadian government and cannabis
The laws that govern the possession of cannabis in Canada have often been accused of having no particular effect on curbing the trade of the product. Though the product is illegal, the smoking of the drug is carried out in the open right in front of the law enforcers. Activities of the government have in the long-run led to the implicit legalization of the product.
This effect has manifested itself in different ways. For instance, the prohibition of the drug as per the bill passed in 1923 indicates no apparent reason for the enlisting of the drug as illegal. “Its inclusion may have been done by accident”. .Therefore, when the law enforcers began executing the law, they had never felt the urgency of holding culprits. It is no surprise that the first case of one charge with possession of cannabis occurred more than nine years after the bill had been passed.
Secondly, the ambiguity in the law causes confusion to even the law enforcers. The law states that “cultivation of cannabis is illegal except for when it is used for medicinal purposes”.
This does not specify how much of the product should be for the medicinal value. It also implies that individuals who are found in possession of the product and who smoke it are called not be tried against the law. Therefore, when policemen are deployed to the 4/20 protest areas, they do not arrest those who smoke; instead they claim to be on the look out for those causing chaos or found trafficking the drug.
Another factor is the kind of action taken against those found in possession of the cannabis, “culprits are taken in for a few days, charged and then released”. The more relaxed the laws on the crimes committed by people, the more the perpetrators are encouraged to continue with their actions.
The Canadian government seems to take the cannabis case lightly. The policemen are not motivated to charge those found in possession of the drug. When they do, they never follow up the cases with seriousness they deserve. The courts, on the other hand are changed with responsibility of charging the criminals. However, “the ambiguous law surrenders them into toothless dogs that only bark but never bite”.
Initially, just after the enactment of the bill, people felt it was unfounded and strongly advocated for the legalization of the commodity. However, “all attempts to alter the act were thwarted by the emulation by foreign countries to ensure the drug is illegal”. In 2002, Jean’s liberal government attempted to pass a bill that legalized small amounts of cannabis. However, the bill died when parliament was prorogued. Similar attempts were made in 2004, but still the bill died in the process and never made it into a law.
Following the pressure from the United States and other neighboring nations, the Canadian government is under pressure to stiffen its rules on cannabis trade in the nation. However, Canadians think otherwise, “Anglo Reid poll indicates that about 53% of Canadians seek the legalization of the drug”.
Legalizing the drug would mean allowing the commodity to be legally traded within the nation’s borders. The cultivation would increase the supply of the product in the region and its great cash rewards would result in countries that have illegalized the trade experiencing frequent cases of cannabis smuggling.
To avoid such an occurrence, the Canadian government should amend the bill to be more precise on its restrictions and freedoms. Where possible, there should be no exceptions as they make the separation of the entities a difficult task. The policemen should then be motivated to charge anyone found in possession of marijuana- whatever the amount. Courts, on the other hand will be in a position to issue judgment accordingly.
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P. J.Giffen , Shirley Endicott and Sylvia Lambert. Panic and indifference: The politics of Canada’s drug laws : a study in the sociology of law. (Toronto: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 1991).
Joan Bello. The Benefits of Marijuana: Physical, Psychological & Spiritual . (EAST YORK: Hushion House Publishing, 2003).
David Patton. “Cannabis Use in Canada.” Cannabis In Canada: Addiction Foundation, (May, 2007): 10-15.
Lester Grinspoon. Marihuana Reconsidered. (Milano: Apogeo Editore, 1996).
“Marijuana use doubled over past decade: study”. CBCNEWS. Canada, last modified, November 24, 2004, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2004/11/24/drugstudy041124.html.
Marcel Martel. Not This Time: Canadians, Public Policy, and the Marijuana Question, 1961-1975. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006).
Catherine Carstairs. Jailed for Possession: Illegal Drug Use, Regulation, and Power in Canada, 1920-1961. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006).
Michael Howlett. Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles and Policy Subsystems. (Washington: Oxford University Press; Third Edition edition, 2009)