Hemp, hemp… hooray?

There seems to be no getting away from hemp these days. In one form or another it keeps showing up – in the news and even in M.D. of Lesser Slave River council meetings. Take the April 12 meeting, for example.
Reeve Murray Kerik had attended a workshop in Whitecourt on growing flax and hemp. He came back a fan of the latter and had a container of seeds to prove it. He offered some to his colleagues to munch on while they dealt with various non hemp-related agenda items.
“It’s wonderful stuff,” Kerik said – of hemp’s qualities generally. “You can eat it, you can wear it and you can build with it. It pays better than canola.”
Demand is higher than processing capacity at the moment, Kerik added, but a new plant under construction at Nisku should help.
That’s hemp as hemp. Hemp as marijuana is bigger news. Most people seem to think legalizing it for recreational use is a lesser-of- two-evils sort of a situation. Regulate it, control it, take the profits out of the hands of the criminal underworld and so on.
These things always result in unintended consequences. We just have to cope the best we can. The attitude of Alberta’s Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley seems pretty sensible. She visited Colorado recently to see how things are working down there, where marijuana has been legal for a couple of years. She says her department will focus on keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, profits out of the hands of crooks and impaired drivers off the roads. Chances are the province will be about as successful at that as they are with booze.
As Jeff Burgar noted in a recent High Prairie South Peace News editorial, for something like 25,000 Canadians facing pot possession charges, legalization can’t happen fast enough. They might as well chuck the charges out right now (he didn’t say, but we will). What’s the point in continuing to enforce a lame-duck law? The courts are clogged enough as it is.
But there are a lot of angles on this debate – a lot of different ways of looking at it. Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen – predictably, but no doubt sincerely – thinks the federal government is moving faster and further than it needs to on pot legalization. He makes some decent points, which you can read on the ‘Letters’ page of this newspaper.
Reasonable opposition notwithstanding, you get the feeling that keeping pot illegal is sort of in the same league as the Berlin Wall once was. Once the political will to keep it standing was gone, down it came, for better or for worse. And it wasn’t all good, by any means. But probably more good than bad.
As far as we can tell, the sky is not falling, as much as some would like to think it is.

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