Edited Hansard * Table of Contents * Number 143 (Official Version)
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Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I half expected the Liberal member, who had quite a bit of time to finish her speech, to stand up first, but I guess Monday mornings come too early for those who support the use of marijuana. I should not say that.
I have mixed feelings rising to speak to this motion because I would prefer that young people and adults not become involved in drugs which are addictive and harmful. I would be much happier if these things were not available, if the use of drugs, especially when it comes to harder drugs, would be such a taboo that people would simply not use them. However I also recognize that this is quite unrealistic.
We have a couple of major blights in that regard and both are legal. I am talking about cigarettes and alcohol. I know there are many people who use these substances in moderation and do not seem to suffer any long term ill effects. Yet I am aware of several people, in fact one of my friends, who I think it would be fair to say, is not alive today directly as a result of alcohol destroying his body. Many, because they have been impaired, have been involved in motor vehicle and boating accidents and as a result has had a huge devastation in the lives of those families and individuals who have involved themselves with drugs.
We now have the question of marijuana and whether it should be legalized. I have said that I would prefer that we not make drugs available to our children. They should be given activities and other things that challenge them without having to get into these chemical diversions.
How does one balance this off? On one hand, we could say that if they are in possession of this stuff there will be fines or jail as the law now stands. On the other hand, we could say that they can do whatever they want.
I am torn between the two opinions on this issue. I do not believe that we should have so much government intervention and so many rules and laws that try to control the minutest details of our lives. I would like to have a great deal more freedom. There are some laws which of course are necessary. We have very proper traffic laws regarding driving on the right side of the road, obeying speed limits and stopping at stop signs and red lights. Those are fine laws that we as a society agree with because they are to our benefit.
The question is would legalizing marijuana be to our societal benefit or should we continue to have a rule against it and there should be a restrictive law? It is my understanding that my colleague's bill would decriminalize it to the extent that possession of marijuana would no longer entail a criminal offence with jail sentences and a criminal record, but that it would be reduced to a fine for possession.
I do not know how other members in the House feel about it, but people who make a profit at the expense of our children are among the most despicable of our citizens. I think of the gangs and the organized crime that make money from child prostitution and from distributing drugs to our young people. That is absolutely despicable. I would like to see them stopped. Our young people are so precious and vulnerable in those young teen years and earlier.
I would really like to see drug dealers who go to schoolyards to try to suck young people and children into the use of their drugs, because it is a source of money for them, in jail. We do not need that. They have a very negative effect on our society.
However on the other hand, if young people smoke a toke, as they say, does that mean that they should go to jail? I do not know. They are more a victim than a participant, yet I would like to see something very tangible that would discourage them from becoming involved in this.
There are other arguments about marijuana. Certainly some say that it is not as harmful or addictive as the use of ordinary cigarettes. Just because one is legal and the other is not does not necessarily mean that we should conclude that it is bad that marijuana is illegal. In fact one of the things I really wonder about is the ability of this government and other governments, but this one particularly, to refuse to allow businesses that sell ordinary cigarettes to advertise. They put all sorts of restrictions on them without having declared it an illegal or dangerous substance.
When young people say that they can smoke marijuana and that it will not do them as much harm as smoking a pack of cigarettes every 12 hours, is a specious argument. I wish we would not give our young people those arguments. I really wish we would have very strong families who would by example show that the use of these substances is unnecessary. Therefore young people would not use them by their own choice, rather than by coercion of the law.
There is an interesting little sidelight here. I remember that cigarettes and liquor were not permitted in my grandfather's home. It was partially a religious thing that they did not touch it. Somehow my parents inherited that idea and we never had any liquor or cigarettes in our home.
I have confessed in the House before that one time I did smoke a cigarette. It made me feel very uncomfortable and I decided that it was a stupid thing to do. Why would one pull into one's lungs something that would make him cough uncontrollably and that cost money on top of that? I made an intellectual decision very young. I was in high school at the time. I found a pack of cigarettes, took one out, smoked it on the sly and decided it was not for me. That was it. My grandfather's and father's example carried on to me. I also would like to believe that it has been effective in preventing my own kids from smoking anything, either cigarettes, or marijuana or other things.
I believe the strongest way of prevention is having strong families who teach by word and by example that these things really are unnecessary. If one has a complete and full life, one does not need to either bolster or subdue it by the use of chemicals.
However in this case I have not yet decided whether I will support my colleague's bill. On one hand, I like the idea of the courts utilizing their resources to fight the real criminals who traffic in these substances instead of going after kids who happen to have a small amount in their possession. On the other hand, I am so hesitant to send a signal to our young people that it is okay them to do it.
There are medical and longer term psychological ramifications from the use of it. I would be very delighted if this blight were to be removed from our society. Whether retaining and strengthening the criminal law prohibiting it is the way to go is not clear to me at this time. At this stage I am firmly undecided.