Sunday, October 21, 2018

Thoughts on Canada's cannabis legalization

by George J. Dance

On October 17 I got an early birthday present - well, early because my birthday is a week away, but in fact something I had been wishing and waiting for for almost 50 years: the criminal law against possession of marijuana was repealed in Canada.

This is a huge step for liberty, which must be acknowledged. Canada is only the second nation in the world, and the first in the developed world, to have taken this step. Due credit has to be given to the Young Liberals who have called for the law's repeal since the 1970s, and to Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who successfully pushed repeal through his caucus. If Trudeau does nothing else of value (and that might well be) history will remember and thank him for that.

We should also remember, of course, that Trudeau is no libertarian, but a pragmatic "progressive liberal," who came to believe one libertarian argument: that prohibition leads to an illicit black market with its attendant problems. He championed repeal, not for any belief in personal liberty, but simply for the "public good."

Consequently, there is little that is libertarian in prohibition's replacement. A libertarian would like to see growing and smoking marijuana treated, under the law, as no different from growing and eating lettuce. While the law can arguably constrain some marijuana use (from DUI to public smoking), that has nothing to do with the basic right to treat one's own body the way one prefers (at least when no one else is harmed). Instead of that, we have a highly regulated regime, with many harmless actions still illegal, as a recent CTV report reminds us.

Growing cannabis is banned outright in two provinces. In all the others, growing five or more plants in one's house or garden is illegal. It is even illegal to transport any budding or flowering plants to or from one's home: "For example, if someone is moving, they must make sure the plants don’t have any buds or flowers on them before they transport them. Those caught with a budding or flowering cannabis plant in their possession in public could be sentenced to up to five years in prison."

Possessing more than 30 grams of dried marijuana, outside one's home, is also "punishable by up to five years in prison." Possessing any amount at all, when leaving or entering Canada, is illegal: "Anyone found guilty of importing or exporting cannabis without authorization could face fines or up to 14 years in prison."

While you may grow marijuana, do not try selling any of it: "Unless they’re a licensed retailer, any individual who sells cannabis to others can face steep fines and possible jail time." You may give it away, but only up to the prescribed 30 grams; give someone 31 grams, and the penalty is the same as if you sold it: you "could be charged under Bill C-45’s distribution laws and face up to 14 years in prison."

That last should give Canadian cannabis users pause. For years, if not decades, we bought marijuana from reliable, trusted private dealers, and in recent years, from public dispensaries. All those dealers and dispensaries faced jail time just for the crime of honestly meeting our needs – and all of them still do. The entire network of marijuana sales that Canadians relied on before October 17, all of it illegal, remains just as illegal today.

Some provinces ban cannabis sales except by the provincial government. Others, like Ontario, allow private dispensaries, but require those to buy from the provincial government. Cannabis cannot be bought online, except from a single website. (No, one cannot even buy from another province's website). Even if one successfully bought cannabis online from another source, it still could not be shipped to them: "although it’s permitted to give less than 30 grams of cannabis to an adult friend, it’s not OK to send it to them via the mail or a courier because organizations can’t legally possess or distribute the drug without explicit authorization."

Indeed, the police can still raid your home, confiscate your cannabis, and arrest you if they suspect you are buying from an unlicensed source: "if someone purchases pot from an unlicensed seller, they would be in possession of illegal cannabis.... Individuals found guilty of possessing illicit cannabis can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years."

Unfortunately, many more steps remain for us to take on this trek. Fortunately, we do not have to take them alone. Social attitudes to cannabis have changed drastically, and will do so even more now that the stigma of illegality is removed. Cannabis activists will become more prominent and more respected. As well, we have a potent ally in the Charter of Rights, which our courts have invoked over and over to strike down laws and regulations regarding medical cannabis, and will no doubt do so for the recreational stuff as well.

So the fight for the freedom to use cannabis is only beginning. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to celebrate this sign of progress.

Reference: Jackie Dunham, "10 Things that are Still Illegal after Pot Legalization," CTV News, October 18, 2018. Web, Oct. 21, 2018.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Students tased & beaten in the name of 'safety'

The Other Side Of School Safety: Students Are Getting Tasered And Beaten By Police | HuffPost US - Rebecca Klein:

September 8, 2018 - "Jalijah Jones, then a freshman at Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan, remembers the punch of thousands of volts hitting his slight frame.... He remembers four school security guards officers pushing him up against a hallway wall before a school police officer arrived and Tasered him. He remembers a feeling of intense cold as if his high school hallway had just turned into a walk-in freezer. He remembers falling to the ground....

"Jones ... had never been in a physical fight at school before. It was just a teenage drama. He owed another kid a small amount of money. Angry words were thrown back and forth, then a push and a shove and some swinging. But no one had been hurt until a school police officer Tasered the teen....

"Jones ... remembers being cuffed a few seconds later, and the school cops dragging him through the hallways and out of school. His body shook furiously as he was loaded into a police car, before being escorted to the hospital in an ambulance. He was charged with resisting arrest....

"The police officer who stunned Jones is one of over 80,000 currently stationed in public schools around the country, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education, covering the 2015-16 school year.... The number has risen sharply in the past few years and will continue to grow. Amid the recent spate of deadly school shootings, there has been an increase in federal money funding school police officer positions. This is true at the state level as well...

"Over the past few years, there have been several high profile instances of police brutality in schools. Still, there are no official data sources tracking how often students are subject to intense physical punishments at the hands of law enforcement....

" For the past several months, HuffPost has been tracking how often students in schools are Tasered or shot with a stun gun, pepper sprayed or intensely physically punished. We found:
  • Since September 2011, students have been Tasered or shot with a stun gun by school-based police officers at least 120 times;
  • Since January 2016, students have been pepper sprayed by school-based police officers at least 32 times;
  • Since January 2016, students have been body slammed, tackled or choked by school-based police officers at least 15 times.
"These numbers represent a minimum. Not every incident is reported in the local news. And there is no agency that systemically tracks these numbers."

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Friday, October 19, 2018

League of Women Voters drops Senate debate in Pennsylvania over 3rd-party exclusion

Televised U.S. Senate debate loses co-sponsor over exclusion of Green, Libertarian candidates - Reading Eagle:

October 16, 2018 - "The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania withdrew as co-sponsor of a televised debate this weekend between candidates in Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race because the Green and Libertarian party nominees were not invited to participate.

"Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Casey Jr. and his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, are to debate Saturday at the studios of WPVI-TV, the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia....

"Reason magazine cited a WPVI-TV spokeswoman as explaining that only Casey and Barletta were invited because no other candidates reached the station's criterion of showing at least 10 percent support in 'multiple reputable statewide polls'....

"In a news release late Monday, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania explained that it wants any candidate who makes the ballot to be included in the debates it sponsors."

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

95 years of cannabis prohibition over in Canada

The NSLC has sold marijuana to its very first customer | CBC News:

October 17, 2018 - "A Halifax massage therapist was the first person in Nova Scotia to legally buy recreational marijuana, picking up some rolling papers and pot at a Halifax store Wednesday morning as Canadians finally discovered what legalization looks like after 95 years of prohibition.

"Alicia Wright was handpicked by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. to be the first person to buy legal weed at the Clyde Street location before the official opening. She jumped the queue ahead of the handful of people lined up since around 7 a.m....

"NSLC stores selling marijuana opened at 10 a.m.... By 5 p.m., NSLC reported it sold $393,000 worth of cannabis....

"Musician Ashley MacIsaac lined up outside Cape Breton's only NSLC store selling pot starting at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. He was joined by a Glace Bay man shortly after midnight and a few more people Wednesday morning.

"Shortly before 7 a.m., there were just a few people lined up waiting for the province's only cannabis exclusive NSLC location on Clyde Street. Joseph Brown was first in line.

"'I think it's like a big deal, it's like a historical moment, right? It's like a crack in like the puritanical ideals of like the past, right? Where it's like, you're going to tell an adult what they can and can't put in their body,' he said....

"As the sun rose at the Joseph Howe Drive location in Halifax, Daniel Moore and his friend were the first two people in line. 'I'm here for this historic day in Canada. It's very exciting,' he said....

"In Nova Scotia, legal cannabis can be purchased at 12 locations, or online through the NSLC's website using a cannabis card.... [U]nder provincial legislation, Nova Scotians aren't currently allowed to order recreational pot from online retailers out of province.

"The Liberal government first announced its marijuana legalization plan on April 20, 2016. The Senate passed the contentious legislation on June 19 to legalize cannabis Oct. 17, several months after the government's initial target date."

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See also: Thoughts on Canada's cannabis legalization

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Stossel: Larry Sharpe brings new ideas to NY (video)

Libertarian Larry Sharpe Brings New Ideas to New York - - John Stossel & Maxim Lott:

 October 17, 2018 - "In New York, Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo wants to raise taxes. But John Stossel interviews an interesting candidate with a different plan – Libertarian Larry Sharpe. He proposes alternative ways to raise money.

"One idea is to lease naming rights on public infrastructure. 'The Triborough Bridge could be called the Staples Bridge, or the Apple Bridge,' Sharpe explains to Stossel. 'Hundreds of thousands of vehicles pass by, and see that big sign. That's valuable!'....

"Sharpe says it's necessary, 'You can shake your fist and say "this doesn't sound good" if you want to. And you're going to wind up in a place where the tax burden is insanely high.' That, he points out, would lead to more businesses and people leaving New York.

"Although Sharpe is the Libertarian candidate, he's doing well for a third-party. A recent poll has him getting 13 percent of the vote. And after survey respondents hear his campaign pitch, that number goes up to 25 percent."

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

PA Libertarian's debate invitation revoked

Pennsylvania's Libertarian Senate Candidate Gets Invited, Then Snubbed From Televised Debate - Hit & Run : - Eric Boehm:

October 9, 2018 - "Dale Kerns says he was promised a spot in an October 20 senatorial debate in the Philadelphia media market — only to have the invitation rescinded as the debate neared.... Kerns, an electrical contractor from the Philadelphia suburbs, is the Libertarian candidate in a four-way Senate race that also includes incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazleton), and Green Party candidate Neal Gale. All four candidates have qualified for the ballot in Pennsylvania.

"Emails obtained by Reason show that Kerns' campaign was twice assured of a spot in a televised debate by executives at the state's chapter of the League of Women Voters, which typically plays a role in organizing debates. In March, Suzanne Almeida, the then-executive director of the group, told Kerns' campaign manager that Kerns would 'certainly' be invited to 'participate in candidate forums after the primary.'

"In late August, the campaign again contacted the League of Women Voters seeking information about planned debates. Jill Greene, who had taken over as executive director in July, responded on August 29 to say that she was currently trying to plan a Senate debate with the League's media partners and that she would 'be sure to include Mr. Kerns and Mr. Gale.'

"Six weeks later, after the debate had been scheduled for October 20 on Philadelphia's ABC affiliate, WPVI-TV, Greene emailed Kerns' campaign manager John Odermatt to deliver the bad news. The League had asked to include Kerns and Gale in the debate, she said, but 'other organizers' did not 'feel as if current polling warranted an invitation'.... On Tuesday, Greene told Reason that any questions regarding the decision not to invite Kerns or Gale to the debate 'should be referred to WPVI, as it was their decision.'

"Niki Hawkins, director of community affairs for WPVI-TV, ... defended the station's decision on the grounds that Kerns had failed to meet eligibility criteria including 'significant voter support for the candidacy as reflected in polling numbers'.... It's true that Kerns has fallen short of the 10 percent threshold that serves as the only objective standard in WPVI's criteria.... But it's also true that Kerns wasn't officially on the ballot until August, so WPVI's decision to rely on polls conducted earlier in the campaign skews against the inclusion of third party candidates....

"'Make no mistake, this is cronyism: big media corporations colluding with big government political parties to keep out competition,' says Kerns. 'The mainstream media screams about Russia stealing elections, but behind the scenes they pull the strings to keep the duopoly in control.'"

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Libertarian political prisoner exiled from Venezuela

Libertarian prisoner Lorent Saleh released from cell, exiled to Spain – Instituto Mises-Mambí de Cuba via Boundless Liberty:

October 14, 2018 - "The 2017-2018 crisis in Venezuela is far from the first time there was popular opposition to the PSUV’s one-party dictatorship.... 2014 was the most recent protest cycle before the current one. During the 2014 cycle, ... student and dissident organizer Lorent Saleh had fled to Colombia. He was arrested and extradited by the friendly Santos government to Venezuela, where he spent the next four years in a cell at the National Intelligence Service HQ.

"Saleh was released from solitary confinement on Friday and immediately put on a plane to Madrid, where other Venezuelan exiles waited to give him a hero’s welcome.

"Venezuelan dissidents widely claim that this is the regime trying to keep the lid on public anger after the October 8 murder of a Caracas city councilman that the National Intelligence Service covered up to look like a suicide.

"'It’s important to mention that Saleh was "freed" by orders of the National Constituent Assembly almost immediately after the assassination of Fernando Albán,' says Adriana Flores Márquez, a heroine living in exile in Argentina, where she still directs Venezuelan dissident operations. Like Saleh, Márquez had to flee in 2014....

"María Oropeza, National Youth Coordinator for Vente Venezuela, has spent years denouncing her friend’s arrest and illegal imprisonment in what Venezuelans call 'The Tomb.' Regarding Saleh’s release, Oropeza said...
I know you finally saw the dawn after 4 years and 1 month of unjust imprisonment. Today you can see the night, breathe fresh air, and talk with your fellow citizens and partners in the struggle. Today you’re free in other borders, but fighting intensely as the first day. It won’t be long before you, Villa Fernandez, and all who have emigrated [or been] exiled against their will, can return to this land and begin the function of freedom and prosperity.

Let there be not one more political prisoner. Not one more murdered dissident. Not one more slave. Not one more exile....
"Oropeza has long since been sharing Saleh’s unjust imprisonment.

"While the Institute celebrates that Lorent Saleh is out of danger, we would like to remind the world of three political prisoners in Cuba: ... libertarians Ubaldo Herrera and Yanet Padrón, and ... innocent bystander Lianet Guerra, who is the niece of a libertarian." 
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