Cannabis, Compassion and Peace in Canada
In the Introduction of Pearson’s book, ‘Peace in The Family of Man’, Robert Stewart, Director of Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace said, "It is also very important for Canadians to consider our responsibility to help build peace in our communities and world. I believe Canada is well placed to play a special role. Canadians are blessed with resources and skills, and hence we have more responsibility to serve the world in building peace."
Canada is known to be a compassionate, peacekeeping country. So why does the government insist that its own citizens live in fear of having their lives ruined over a medically beneficial plant? Pearson once said, "Misunderstanding… arising from ignorance breeds fear, and fear remains the greatest enemy of peace."
The government’s ignorant stance on cannabis breeds fear into the citizens. This fear remains the greatest enemy of achieving peace in this country as well as with our neighbors to the south. We cannot achieve peace in this country until we stop persecuting and prosecuting Canadian citizens who choose to use a harmless plant. Some people seem to think that if we stop prosecuting cannabis users that we will suffer consequences from the US. If Canadians are so blessed with natural resources and skills and have more of a responsibility to serve the world in building peace, why do we heed the threats from the US?
Rather than worrying about the US we need to be concentrating our efforts on peacekeeping within our own country. In his book Pearson said "When you have to compete against this kind of appeal, you can only hope to show by policy and example that your kind of society offers the best model to emulate." The US has chosen to lead the world in the war on drugs and ruin the lives of billions of people. Canada, as the leading peacekeeping country should be legalizing cannabis and using a harm reduction approach rather than joining in the war on drugs by prosecuting our own citizens. Canada should be offering the best model of harm reduction for other countries to emulate rather than forcing millions of harmless cannabis users to live in fear of prosecution.
In 1969, on the recommendation of Minister of National Health and Welfare John Munro, the Government of Canada appointed a Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs. The commission became known as the Le Dain Commission after its chairman, Dean Gerald Le Dain. The Interim Report of the commission, published in April 1970, said:
"In the case of cannabis, the positive points which are claimed for it include the following: it is a relaxant; it is disinhibiting; it increases self-confidence and the feeling of creativity (whether justified by objective results or not); it increases sensual awareness and appreciation; it facilitates concentration and gives one a greater sense of control over time; it facilitates self-acceptance and in this way makes it easier to accept others; it serves a sacramental function in promoting a sense of spiritual community among users; it is a shared pleasure; because it is illicit and the object of strong disapproval from those who are, by and large opposed to social change, it is a symbol of protest and a means of strengthening the sense of identity among those who are strongly critical of certain aspects of our society and value structure today.
- The conclusion of the Interim Report of the Le Dain Commission also included this:
1. The use of marijuana is increasing in popularity among all age groups of the population, and particularly among the young;
2. This increase indicates that the attempt to suppress, or even to control its use, is failing and will continue to fail - that people are not deterred by the criminal law prohibiting against its use;
3. The present legislative policy has not been justified by clear and unequivocal evidence of short term or long term harm caused by cannabis;
4. The individual and social harm (including the destruction of young lives and growing disrespect for law) caused by the present use of the criminal law to attempt to suppress cannabis far outweighs any potential for harm which cannabis could conceivably possess, having regard to the long history of its use and the present lack of evidence;
5. The illicit status of cannabis invites exploitation by criminal elements, and other abuses such as adulteration; it also brings cannabis users into contact with such criminal elements and with other drugs, such as heroin, which they might not otherwise be induced to consider.
For all of these reasons, it is said, cannabis should be made available under government-controlled conditions of quality and availability.
In his book Pearson says "When progress is slow the idealists are always in danger of becoming cynics, while realists grow in sober confidence and hope for the longer future." He also said "In technological and scientific advance, we have scaled the heights, but in social and political change, we are stuck in the swamps of human behavior. We are giants in brain power but we are pygmies of the spirit."
Our government has been waiting us out, waiting for the cannabis culture to become so cynical that we fight amongst ourselves and burn ourselves out. I think they underestimated cannabis users. We are giants in brain power but cannabis users are not pygmies of the spirit. I think most cannabis users are idealists, we can see a more perfect world full of peace and compassion that could be felt by all if we weren’t prohibited from using it freely. Like Lester Pearson, most cannabis users don’t take themselves too seriously, but we do very much believe in the spiritual healing aspects of the cannabis plant. Many activists turn those beliefs into action and minor achievements. We have been trying to educate and inform others of how wrongfully cannabis users are being treated, but we need to have every cannabis user and supporter collectively campaigning for freedom.
It is time to get out of the swamps of our human behavior and force some social and political change in order to gain our freedom. The liberal attitudes of the sixties when Lester Pearson was Prime Minister need to be resurrected. We are not all at peace in Canada when millions of cannabis users are living in fear because of the stigma attached to the plant. Our government has the power to erase that stigma with the legalization of cannabis and by publicly admitting that cannabis is harmless enough to be legalized.
Canada can become the real leader in peacekeeping by keeping the peace within our own country. Canadians must be allowed the freedom to choose their own medicine or recreational drug. Peace cannot be achieved without a feeling of freedom first. With millions of Canadians being prohibited from using cannabis, legalizing its use would release the feeling of freedom necessary to achieve peace within our own borders. We have a responsibility as citizens to let our government know that we are not free to live in peace and have been persecuted long enough.
We need to urge our members of Parliament to actually read the Senate and the Le Dain Commission reports and educate the rest of the country with the truth about cannabis. The government has a responsibility to help build peace in our communities. It is time for the Canadian government to do that by finally accepting the Le Dain Commission report and do what they recommended – legalize and regulate cannabis and make it available under government controlled quality and availability for all to use. If the millions of cannabis users and supporters in Canada were to speak out and contact the media and their government representatives, we would be heard. As the saying goes, "speak up now, or forever hold your peace." We’ve been holding our ‘peace’ for far too long; it is time to speak up so that we can all feel the peace and pride in our country.