gTc’s latest AdvocateDaily commentary is at:  Vancouver’s marijuana regulation a response to public demand.

But there is a bit more to say. To elaborate, the Vancouver dispensary situation illustrates a fascinating collision of governmental purposes at ground-zero of the marijuana prohibition debate. At a local level, the Vancouver council is dealing head-on with reality – dispensaries exist because of public demand and in the absence of public disapproval. Council is fulfilling the basic purpose of government by seeking to ensure order and public safety through regulation.

In the current federal government’s alternate reality, people can only be protected by having the government make their personal choices for them, through criminal prohibition.

The current federal government takes it as self-evident that marijuana is a dangerous drug. But in historical reality, weed was not prohibited in the first place for being dangerous. It was just lumped in with a bunch of other substances like heroin and cocaine without any democratic debate – eerily like an early form of omnibus legislation.

But on this issue, the Conservative party is deeply committed to having the government make people’s personal choices for them – and to spending enormous public monies for that purpose, from paying judges and prosecutors to building courthouses and jails and beyond.

The idea of allowing a marketplace to form and having the local government step in to keep it safe through regulations is anathema to the current federal government. This is fascinating because the Conservative party would generally claim to be the party of “market forces”, “personal choice” and small government.

This fascinating collision of principles leads to apparently bizarre outcomes. For example, close to a majority of Canadians have used this “controlled substance” at some point. They are all criminals, not just technically, in the federal government’s world view. What does that say about the moral authority of our criminal law at large, that almost half the country are criminals, and the rest of us either friends or family of criminals?

When principles are left behind, so are facts. Forget about the fact that this is just a plant that grows out of the ground and has provided medicinal and recreational relief to countless people since before the advent of modern government. The federal Health Minister claims it is not real medicine because it has not gone through the same testing that potent chemical cocktails of human concoction must go through before doctors are allowed to direct people to trust and consume them regularly.

When a political party is stuck like this with a position that is actually contrary to the principles it purports to believe in, strange things happen, such as a Conservative Cabinet Minister being “disappointed” that a local government is regulating an emerging market to enhance public safety within the realm of personal choice. A disturbing micro-example of this dynamic can be seen in the case of a child (Liam McKnight) with a rare form of epilepsy, licensed to use medicinal marijuana because it allows him to live a relatively normal and safe life. When the Supreme Court recently ruled that this license was not limited to smoking the substance, that ingestion is permissible, the federal Health Minister was “outraged”. Yes, that’s right, the Federal Health Minister would force a child patient to smoke. This is an absurd view for anyone to take, much less the Federal Health Minister, but not surprising within the political vacuum that essentially prohibits both fact and principle.