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'Tough on crime' stance an odd sight in pot-friendly Ottawa - Metro US

‘Tough on crime’ stance an odd sight in pot-friendly Ottawa

On Tuesday, a mass of dope fiends gathered on Parliament Hill to flagrantly smoke marijuana — and the rest of Ottawa barely noticed.

Annual 4-20 decriminalization demos have gone on for years and they’re no longer news. Apart from an alarming rise in the prevalence of bongo drums, no incidents or arrests were reported here or at the majority of smoke-ins across the country. (In Toronto, one person was injured in a fight and another was arrested with what appeared to be a firearm).

In my neighbourhood, especially when the weather improves, it’s not uncommon to catch a whiff of someone’s weed as they stroll down the sidewalk. This experience doesn’t fill me with fear of drug-fuelled crime. Instead, it reminds me that on the whole, this is a safe enough city in which to walk around whilst buzzed, which is as good a measure of a community’s health as any.

We don’t have the reputation of smoky Vancouver, but Ottawa strikes me as a relatively stoner-friendly city. This is not to say that everybody’s doing it, or that it’s good for those who do, but it’s not widely considered a menace.

From Parliament Hill, though, we hear different, dumber ideas. While the protesters puffed, federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson held a press conference to once again tout more “tough on crime” legislation.

Among the Tory prescriptions, better described as hopelessly incoherent on crime, are harsher penalties for marijuana growers and dealers. If we increasingly can’t be bothered to arrest users, though, why attack their suppliers?

The only result of their nefarious activities is that people smoke weed, apart, of course, from the outrageous profits that flow to criminal organizations simply because pot is illegal. If I were a Hell’s Angel, I’d vote Tory.

The next day, coincidentally, embattled former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, fresh from his plea bargain on drunk driving and cocaine possession charges, appeared before a parliamentary committee. He claimed, under oath, that he’d never taken any illegal substance.

During the last election, Jaffer attacked his NDP opponent over her party’s support of marijuana decriminalization, trotting out the usual folderol about keeping our schoolchildren safe from the demon weed. But since marijuana is as illegal for an adult as it is for a kid, it’s often easier for kids to get their hands on than alcohol.

No matter how often it hits, it’s hard not to be discouraged by the realization that your government’s policies make no more sense than your idiot roommate on his third bowl and second consecutive viewing of The Wizard Of Oz.

Steve Collins lives, writes and walks in Ottawa; ottawaletters@metronews.ca.

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