Kirk Tousaw Debates Cannabis Legalization on CBC

Lawyer and cannabis activist Kirk Tousaw was recently on CBC’s The Current debating licensed producer-hopeful and former politician George Smitherman on legalization.

George has been very vocal that legalization should not entail home-growing, even one plant, and the CBC adopted this theme, opening with a sound clip from the reefer madness era and then ensuring that the Liberal Party will avoid “legalized reefer madness.”

This put Kirk in an interesting position, sounding like a populist right-winger calling for under-regulation of a plant the status quo wants heavily restricted and regulated.

George reminded everyone that we weren’t living in the U.S., where cannabis legalization were “citizen-backed initiatives which empowered the legislature to move forward, here we have a political party that which has staked that out… that’s.. uh.. that’s very different in the political dynamic.”

Meaning, the Liberals campaigned on legalization to restrict and reduce access to children, and by allowing every parent to grow it in their own home without any oversight shows a real “lack of clarity” and accountability on the part of the Liberals.

George said “a model that allows people to grow their own is going to be confusing and runs counter to the core principle which is to restrict use for teenagers.”

Kirk, of course, reminded George that locking people in cages for growing plants is not legalization.

George called that an “extreme vision” despite the fact that people are routinely imprisoned for cannabis. Kirk reminded him of this, but George chose to ignore it and the CBC interviewer didn’t press the issue.

Kirk said that a system called legalization that still criminalizes some but not others will inevitably provoke a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge.

We are, after all, allowed to brew our own beer and wine.

So the CBC pressed Kirk on the dispensary question — don’t they need heavy regulation or a control board system?

Kirk said people are already demonstrating their preference by buying from dispensaries instead of going through legal channels. That’s a clear instance of why legalization won’t succeed if it mimics the over-regulated medical regime.

Kirk said legalization will only succeed “if you make the legal alternative one that is realistic for people to participate in.”

George didn’t get it. He wanted to “zap up the black market” by reducing the number of people involved, asking “do we really want, as a foundation, the entrenchment of the people who have been operating in the shadows?”

Kirk defended the current community, but George was given the last word. Legalization should not be “creating roles” for the BC Bud community.

Why? Because we apparently accept “marijuana in duffel bags” and pay for it in cash.

The CBC then moved to appeal to authority by addressing a health-care professional who reiterated that legalization was about keeping it out of the hands of “vulnerable” young people “in the interest of public health.”

Kirk, using his common sense, said that any legal system would obviously have age limits, like with alcohol. He said it was an issue getting overplayed, retailers check IDs and, besides, it’s the jurisdiction of the provinces.

When the CBC asked Kirk for some final words, he reminded them that if the legalized market is more burdensome than the current illegal system, it won’t gain traction.

It can’t be like the existing licensed producer scheme, where, the “financial barriers” are “simply insurmountable for most small businesses.”