Holiday debates

Matt Burgess-

Though not every family is like the Woodhouse family, political diversity within families is common, sometimes leading to political debates during the holidays (much to the chagrin of Joy Woodhouse, evidently). Unlike the Woodhouse family apparently, I find holiday political debates in my family to be mostly civil and quite interesting. In fact, these debates were part of Ian’s and my inspiration for the The Tête-à-Tête.

This holiday, I had a particularly interesting debate with some of my relatives about marijuana legalization in Canada (which the Liberal Party has recently come out in support of, but the Conservatives oppose).

The core argument on the pro-legalization side was that marijuana seems to be less addictive and have lesser negative impacts on personal and public health than cigarettes, alcohol, and perhaps even fast food, all of which are legal. Despite its current illegality, marijuana use is still widespread, and is a cash cow for criminals. Enforcement of anti-marijuana laws is selective, and criminal penalties for its use seem disproportionate to the harms. Legalization, combined with taxation and regulation, could enhance the safety of use by placing the government in greater control of manufacturing and distribution, and replaces a large source of revenue for organized crime with a new source of government revenue, which could help fiscally-strained provinces without raising other taxes.

The core argument on the anti-legalization side was that decriminalization (sanctioning possession with fines instead of criminal penalties) can make the punishment fit the crime without tacitly encouraging marijuana use (unlike legalization), which is already problematically widespread among Canadian youth. Moreover, unlike smoking, alcohol, and fast food, marijuana use does not have a long (legal) history in Canada’s culture. Why make something we know is bad for us, which has always been illegal, legal?

What do you think about this issue, and did you have any interesting holiday debates this year? Tell us in the comments below. Who knows, your family’s debate could end up being our first Weekly Discussion.

One thought on “Holiday debates

  1. The nice thing about having the marijuana legalization debate now is that two US states are doing this experiment now for us, so we can get a pretty good idea for what the consequences are likely to be for us by looking at them. What has been observed so far is that usage rates are up moderately in the short term (to be expected, but may or may not last once the novelty wears off), but recent polling shows that so far the people of these states seem to be happy with the outcomes of legalization overall. If I were the PM, I’d wait maybe two more years until there is some hard data out on usage rates, overall crime rates, tax revenues, accessibility to minors, etc. from Colorado and Washington and then make a clear evidence-based case to Canadians one way or another, depending on what the evidence says.


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