Submission to BC Government’s consultation on cannabis regulation

November 9, 2017
Posted in Blog
November 9, 2017 Editor

Submission to BC Government’s consultation on cannabis regulation

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WN: The issue of cannabis legalization internationally is well summarized here. A breakdown of jurisdictions internationally in relation to cannabis and other drugs is found here, and a comprehensive worldwide chart is found here. Archbishop Miller is incorrect about Canada’s being “only the second country in the world, to make the recreational use of cannabis legal.”

Portugal is an amazing test case on drug decriminalization. It is treated in detail by Johann Hari in his fascinating and well-researched Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, along with so much more on worldwide alternatives to the war on drugs, including how that “war” began, dealing with drug addiction, numerous alternative test cases including the work of our own Dr. Gabor Maté in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, etc.

I find Archbishop Miller’s (Vancouver diocese – from Powell River to Hope) take on the current issues very informed and wise.

Please read his submission:

I welcome the British Columbia Government’s consultation on cannabis regulation and the opportunity to offer my concerns, and some suggestions, about the implementation of legalized marijuana in Canada.

Let me also commend the Government for taking seriously the opioid public health emergency by creating a Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The issue of addiction and mental health is, I believe, relevant to the discussion of a regulatory framework for cannabis in B.C.

The Government carries a heavy responsibility as Canada proceeds with this initiative, which will make it the only G7 country, and only the second country in the world, to make the recreational use of cannabis legal.

When the Federal Government announced it would legalize marijuana for recreational use, its stated intention was to keep drugs “out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals.” If legalization takes place by next July, as expected, it is important that provincial regulations reflect the intent of this Federal legislation.

Legalizing marijuana will have large-scale consequences throughout our Province – on communities, families, and individuals – and it is our young people we must be especially concerned about. As experience in other jurisdictions shows, it is they for whom marijuana will have the greatest impact, since it affects the adolescent brain, which is still developing until the mid-20s. Numerous studies indicate there is serious cause for concern about the effects of regular marijuana use on teens and the resulting changes in brain structure:

American Psychological Association: Marijuana and the Developing Brain

PNAS: Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife

I hope to offer some suggestions to ensure young people don’t suffer the consequences of liberalizing a substance that can impair judgment and health and that, until now, has been against the law.

As British Columbia sets up a regulatory framework for distribution, sales, consumption, and possession of cannabis, we are fortunate to have years of experience to draw from in other jurisdictions, as well as our often-unsuccessful history with other controlled substances such as tobacco, liquor, and prescription drugs.

Consider the effects on young people alone. There is evidence that use by teenagers rises, high school dropout rates increase and traffic fatalities involving marijuana use doubled.

When cannabis is legalized, emergency room visits by children and poison control centre calls rise as children ingest cannabis in everyday products.

Because of the great risks, known and unknown, and the experience of other jurisdictions, I urge the Government to take a strict approach to regulating cannabis in order to keep it out of the hands of the most vulnerable.

I ask the Government to take a three-pronged approach:


Due to the widespread and growing perception that marijuana use is safe, I urge the Government to launch a broad education campaign outlining the facts about cannabis use, so the public are as familiar with the risks as they are with the risks of smoking, alcohol, and other drug use.

A 2014 article in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health said marijuana is not the harmless drug many believe and that it is associated with “substantial adverse effects, some of which have been determined with a high level of confidence.”

These negative outcomes identified in the paper include the potential risk of addiction, health problems, increased fatal and non-fatal motor vehicle accidents, and reduced life achievement and school performance in cases of long-term use, especially starting in adolescence.

The Government must keep in mind that the message it sends on marijuana may affect, especially for young people, the social acceptance of other drugs, possibly weakening messages on opioids and other substances.


Distribution and retail use: restrict the sale of cannabis to entities with an established history of dealing with controlled substances, such as pharmacies and liquor stores.

Personal cultivation: prohibit growing within a to-be-determined distance of a school, park, place of entertainment, or other place typically accessed by minors.

Driving restrictions: In the absence of appropriate suitable roadside testing, implement a zero or low-tolerance threshold for drivers, as is the case for professional drivers and airline pilots.

Public consumption should be prohibited, as with smoking and unlicensed alcohol.

Legal age limit: 21 years due to adolescent brain development continuing into the 20s.


In my 2016 Statement on Vancouver’s Overdose Crisis I called on the Provincial Government to increase addiction treatment and residential care. This is clearly needed more than ever as the opioid crisis worsens and a new legalized drug enters the marketplace.

These recommendations do not reflect a legalized, punitive approach to cannabis, but a measured and reasonable strategy to educate and discourage use, as we do with tobacco, and provide resources for those who wish to stop, as we do with alcohol abuse.

In a message to young people in 2013, Pope Francis said “it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty, and giving them hope for the future.”

Drug use, including use of legalized marijuana, is symptomatic of broader social problems. The Pope told a 2014 drug enforcement conference in Rome that if we don’t want young people to fall prey to drugs, society has to say “‘yes’ to life, ‘yes’ to love, ‘yes’ to others, ‘yes’ to education, ‘yes’ to greater job opportunities.”

“If we say ‘yes’ to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.”

It is our responsibility, both Government and Church, to protect and form young people, who are our future. I strongly urge the BC Government to tackle these issues with a broad, holistic approach that takes into account societal problems such as addiction, mental illness, and homelessness.

Such a strategy will ensure that at the federal and provincial levels, we look at health approaches that address overall wellness.

I pray that as the Government implements measures to regulate marijuana use, it will deter its use among young people, implement effective treatment, and at the same time use this as an opportunity to address the widespread causes of so many in our society, and young people in particular, turning to drugs.

This statement was submitted to the government November 1 and is re-posted by permission. The Most Reverend J. Michael Miller, CSB, is the present shepherd of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver.

  1. [1]Please look at several articles as well on American/Western will to world domination by clicking on "Selected Articles: Western Aggression Backed by Western Media”. The series of articles is introduced thus:
    The Western allies never run dry of resources to support their global war of terror and aggression, ostensibly an integral part of their foreign policy. They dynamically legislate laws lest the people awaken. They have the unbending support of the corporate media, which skilfully distorts reality. When will they ever back down from their destructive quest for colonies? Read our selection below.
  2. [2]It continued:
    ‘For seven months, Tiger Force soldiers moved across the Central Highlands, killing scores of unarmed civilians – in some cases torturing and mutilating them - in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public,’ the newspaper said, at other points describing the killing of hundreds of unarmed civilians. ‘Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers,’ The Blade said. ‘Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed - their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”   The New York Times confirmed the claimed accuracy of the stories by contacting several of those interviewed.  It reported: “But they wanted to make another point: that Tiger Force had not been a ‘rogue’ unit. Its members had done only what they were told, and their superiors knew what they were doing. “Burning huts and villages, shooting civilians and throwing grenades into protective shelters were common tactics for American ground forces throughout Vietnam, they said. That contention is backed up by accounts of journalists, historians and disillusioned troops… ‘Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go,’ [one veteran] said in a recent telephone interview. ‘It was that kind of war, a frontless war of great frustration. There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.’ Current likely Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry was also quoted giving evidence before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.  He reported that American soldiers in Vietnam had “raped, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. Nicholas Turse [later author of: Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam], a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, has been studying government archives and said they were filled with accounts of similar atrocities. ''I stumbled across the incidents The Blade reported,'' Mr. Turse said by telephone. ''I read through that case a year, year and a half ago, and it really didn't stand out. There was nothing that made it stand out from anything else. That's the scary thing. It was just one of hundreds.'' Yet there were few prosecutions.
  3. [3]Historian John Coatsworth in The Cambridge History of the Cold War noted:
    Between 1960, by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin's gulags, and the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire] ("The Cold War in Central America", pp. 216 - 221).
    What was true for Latin America was true for around the world: massive human rights abuses, assassinations, regime changes of democratically elected governments, etc., etc., etc. orchestrated by US Empire. Yet Americans invariably have wanted it both ways: to be seen as the exemplary "City on A Hill" that upholds universal human rights and democracy, while operating a brutal Empire directly contrary to all such elevated values, and a concomitant rapacious Empire market economy that takes no prisoners. This began of course even before the founding of the United States of America and continued apace, in its mass slaughter and dispossession of indigenous peoples, in its brutal system of slavery on which its obscene wealth in the textile industry in the first place was built. "The Land of the Free" conceit was a sustained con job on the part of America's leaders. It was also apotheosis of hypocrisy. American exceptionalism was/is true in one respect only: it was brutal like no other Empire in its eventual global reach.
  4. [5]
  5. [4] The highlighted article about renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg points to again what is utterly chilling, horror-filled, exponentially beyond immoral, American (hence the world's) reality: "Daniel Ellsberg: U.S. Military Planned First Strike On Every City In Russia and China … and Gave Many Low-Level Field Commanders the Power to Push the Button". [5]He has since written The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Of it we read:
    Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist for the California Book Award in Nonfiction The San Francisco Chronicle's Best of 2017 List In These Times “Best Books of 2017” Huffington Post's Ten Excellent December Books List LitHub's “Five Books Making News This Week” From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of America's Top Secret, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that continues to this day. Here, for the first time, former high-level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of America's nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization--and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration--threatens our very survival. No other insider with high-level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.
  6. [6]A classic instance of this aligning with "just war" is the United States' "war on drugs" as subset of "war on crime", while at the same time the CIA was a major worldwide drug dealer in league with other drug cartels -- all done to enhance American Empire during the Cold War -- and continues to the present. The four-part series mentioned below connects American Empire drug dealing to the current War on Terror, in particular in Afghanistan. This of course is colossal hypocrisy as well. Worse: the series posits American federal government administrations over many decades as the Ultimate Drug Cartel, with Blacks, Latinos, and generally the poor directly being knowingly poisoned en masse. Then they have been primary targets of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and thereby become victims of America's too often savage prison system that oppresses and brutalizes them all over again... See: "The War on Drugs Is a Failure, So [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions Is All for It". A citation from the article reads:
    In June [2017], the History Channel aired a four-part documentary series called America’s War on Drugs.” The series asserts that the war on drugs was actually a war of drugs—and that the CIA was essentially a partner in spreading drugs and drug use. The series follows how the U.S. intelligence agency, in an obsession with fighting communism, allied itself with U.S. organized crime and foreign drug traffickers and includes firsthand accounts from many involved. In an interview with Truthdig columnist Sonali Kolhatkar on her radio program “Rising Up With Sonali,” the series’ executive producer, Anthony Lappé, explains why the CIA got involved:
    It’s actually a pretty mind-blowing story when you look at the extent to which the CIA was involved with drug traffickers and drug trafficking throughout the Cold War. … If you look at Cold War policy against the Soviet Union, we were locked in a global battle for supremacy, where we have lots of proxy wars going on. … We needed to team up with local allies, and often the local allies we were teaming up with were people who had access to guns, who had access to underground networks, to help us fight the perceived threat of communism. There are actually a lot of similarities between what drug traffickers do and what the CIA does.
    Lappé elaborates by saying the hypocrisy of the war on drugs has been evident from the start: Secret CIA experiments with LSD helped fuel the counterculture movement, leading to President Richard Nixon’s crackdown and declaration of the war on drugs. The series also explores the CIA’s role in the rise of crack cocaine in poor black communities and a secret island “cocaine base.” In addition the documentary makes the connection between the war on drugs, the war on terror and the transformation of Afghanistan into a narco state and contends that American intervention in Mexico helped give clout to Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and the super cartels, making it easier to send drugs across American borders. Watch Kolhatkar’s full interview with Lappé by clicking here. Please also see the now classic: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, by noted American historian Alfred McCoy. Of it we read:
    The first book to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, The Politics of Heroin includes meticulous documentation of dishonesty and dirty dealings at the highest levels from the Cold War until today. Maintaining a global perspective, this groundbreaking study details the mechanics of drug trafficking in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South and Central America. New chapters detail U.S. involvement in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan before and after the fall of the Taliban, and how U.S. drug policy in Central America and Colombia has increased the global supply of illicit drugs.
    To be noted as well is Johann Hari's Chasing The Scream, which tells the tragic tale of America's long-standing offensive against drugs, and the way to end such a war worldwide -- that several nations are successfully embracing.
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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

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