The movie is considered to be one of the best directed movies ever, and the three way duel standoff provides one of the greatest ending to an already action-packed film (although its more of Clint Eastwood versus Lee van Cleef):
Let me just start out by stating it plainly: the marijuana prohibition is bad law. Any criminal prohibition requires huge amounts of resources and restricts citizens' civil liberties; if there’s a risk of imprisonment it even engages s 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So criminally prohibiting something that isn’t actually harmful (or otherwise unacceptable to society), is bad law. It’s a waste of resources and it’s a strain on the integrity of the legal system. Marijuana is not even close to harmful or intolerable enough to warrant criminal prohibition.
That’s not to say that marijuana doesn’t have any negative side-effects. Smoking it can cause respiratory problems because the smoke irritates the throat and lungs (although, marijuana can be eaten, vaporized, turned into pills, etc. instead, which would avoid this). While marijuana does not cause mental illnesses like schizophrenia, it can worsen symptoms of some disorders. Chronic use may also have a negative affect on brain development, meaning that marijuana use could negatively affect youth and unborn children. There is no conclusive evidence of any other negative long term effects of the drug. In the short term, marijuana causes impairment, can elevate heart rates and can be mildly hallucinogenic. There may be other long or short term side effects but, due to the obstacles present when researching an illegal substance, the empirical knowledge we have about the substance is relatively sparse. There is also no conclusive evidence supporting a claim that marijuana use is any way related to the use of harder drugs (contrary to the popular “Gateway Drug” argument). It does seem fair to say that marijuana use has harmful effects if used by specific groups, but generally is not particularly harmful for adult use. Just look at long-time marijuana user and comedian, Doug Benson. In the documentary Super High Me, he spent every conscious moment for 30 days high without any significant harm to his health or quality of life (certainly much less harm than was suffered in its inspiration, Super Size Me). He said it was actually pretty fun.
The fact that marijuana has very few negative side effects is a compelling reason to believe that having a criminal prohibition against it is a bad idea. Perhaps even more compelling are the negative side effects marijuana doesn’t have as compared to legal substances. Marijuana has been found to be less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes and may even be less harmful than caffeine and sugar. Most notably, marijuana has killed a whopping zero people ever, as opposed to alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs (including common pain killers and other medicines) that can cause fatal overdoses.
So, a quick recap to illustrate why the marijuana prohibition is bad law, period. Criminalizing something requires a lot of resources, limits citizen’s agency and potentially infringes Charter rights. Such a serious investment of resources and such serious criminal sanctions should be reserved for harmful or intolerable actions. As we’ve outlined marijuana is not particularly harmful and it’s certainly not intolerable. Especially when you take into account that the majority of Canadians support at least decriminalization if not legalization of marijuana.
Until now activism on this subject was seen as firmly outside the mainstream and supporters were assumed to be just a bunch of potheads. However, since then, Justin Trudeau has been outspokenly against the marijuana prohibition and the issue has become an important aspect of the Liberal’s policy platform. Trudeau’s stance has “evolved”, as he puts it, to promote legalization, as opposed to leaving the laws as-is or merely decriminalizing (marijuana would still be illegal but the sanctions associated would be less harsh). This is the first time a major Canadian political party has supported this position. It would mean that the substance could be legally produced, consumed and possessed, subject to regulations imposed by the government (for example, it would still be illegal for minors, sales would be taxed, etc). Trudeau’s position is based around the economic benefits and protection of youth that could be made possible if the substance were legalized (and these benefits would not be realized by decriminalization alone). Trudeau also asserts that valuable lessons will be learned by following the effects of legalization in American states.
So why do the Conservatives so steadfastly defend the marijuana prohibition? They claim it is illegal because of its harmful effects, but this claim is pretty clearly erroneous. They seem relatively concerned with marijuana use by youth, which is valid. However, it certainly seems that getting marijuana regulated and off the streets would limit children’s access compared to the status quo. Do they agree with Pope Francis that marijuana is literally evil? Are they looking to appeal to a paternalistic moral majority (who, by the way, isn’t the majority)? Are they simply ignorant? It’s hard to see how any of these would be reason enough to support a criminal prohibition. Some other things to consider though: there is little to no information available as to why the substance was prohibited in the first place, although it was likely heavily influenced by early 20th century racism. Harry Aslinger, the era's 1st commissioner of the United State’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics famously campaigned for the marijuana prohibition on the merits of quotes like “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men” and “this marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” Perhaps more influential on Canadian law was Emily Murphy’s white supremacist work “The Black Candle”. The book was published only a year before Canada’s marijuana prohibition and painted marijuana as a “new menace”. However, there is no proof beyond coincidence that this work influence the government’s decision regarding the prohibition. We may never know why the government chose to prohibit the substance but we do know that at the time it was motivated by white supremacy, and marketed with fear-mongering and sexist undertones - "It'll make women have sex!" I mean, look, a picture is worth a thousand words:
Click on the picture for more examples of marijuana propaganda.
Today, marijuana remains by far the most commonly prosecuted drug offence. It has been shown that minorities are much more likely to be prosecuted, despite roughly equal use across races. With all of the mystery around why the prohibition began and the lack of clarity as to why the Conservatives don’t want it to end, a seriously disturbing picture starts to form. I don’t mean to say that all conservative people (or anyone else who supports the prohibition) defend the status quo to further a white supremacist agenda. Maybe, by and large, their reluctance to decriminalize or legalize the substance is motivated by your everyday, no-name brand, ignorant, right wing, self-righteousness. But when the status quo is a bad law that promotes racial inequality, defending it out of ignorance is simply not good enough for Canadians. The Conservatives are quite simply going to have to do better than that and hopefully the Liberal party will see to that.
While the lawsuit is in the nature of an administrative judicial review, but the idea of labelling all fans of a rock band as criminals sounds like group libel to me (which is not necessarily actionable these days in tort law depending on the jurisdiction). It is odd that the FBI would single out one band's fans - but then again, Phish fans don't fare any better.
In my last blog post, I mentioned that I am a big fan of the
radio show This American Life. Here’s why: in addition to telling stories you
would not hear otherwise, like this episode about babies who were actually
switched at birth, they also tell stories you’ve heard already, but maybe
didn’t really understand, and they explain
these stories in a way other news formats do not or cannot. (If you still don’t
understand the financial crisis, check out The Giant
Pool of Money and related episodes).
This was the case in the most recent episode on confessions.
The longest segment of the show ("Act One") discusses
a case of a false confession. I’ve watched other investigative news reports on
the problem of false confessions, and although my liberal disposition inclined
me to believe theories about false confessions, I was left wondering how they
could happen in real life. The TAL episode was the first time I’d heard a
step-by-step explanation of exactly how a false confession came about and
from the perspective of the police interrogator, no less.
As in other stories on TAL, however, the ultimate
punch-line was not the one expected. The context of most news stories or
investigative reports on false confessions is usually a wrongful conviction. In
the TAL story, the false confessor was released when she stopped cooperating
and the rest of the case against her unravelled. But the story does
not have a happy ending: as a result of having been charged with murder, the innocent false confessor never regained
custody of her children and had difficulty securing a job. For the next nineteen years.This
episode was a stark reminder that for many individuals who get caught up in the
criminal justice system, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
is a right more often honoured in the breach.
I was wondering why the latest Superman movie was doing so well in the box-office, even though no one I knew who had seen it really liked it. It turns out, there was a very effective marketing campaign behind it.
While much has been made about Miss Utah's flubbing of her answer, at least she did not espouse anti-liberty views. The winner, Miss USA, and runner-up both espoused anti-liberty views, although who knows if the runner-up, Miss Alabama, really got what she was saying. One supports the police taking DNA samples from everyone arrested regardless of guilt, while the other supported NSA surveillance.
I realize Holmes is fiction, but the author of the fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has to be as close to Sherlock Holmes as ever a man could get. Here is an interview with Doyle from 1930, where he dishes on Holmes and spirituality: