Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday August 4, 2001
Our marijuana laws still in the dark ages
Off-duty, journalists love the summer as much as anyone. But when he or she is back in harness, your average ink-stained wretch will tell you summer is not what it’s cracked up to be, at least not in the newsrooms of the nation. We call this the silly season, when the same things that make it great make it tough to deliver a steady diet of compelling, important news.
An unfortunate by-product of the silly season is that some stories take on a life of their own, their real importance blown out of proportion by the lack of competition. Take, for example, the extensive coverage this week about new federal regulations around the medicinal use of marijuana. According to much of the coverage and commentary about Allan Rock’s announcement and photo-op tour of the country’s first government-approved pot garden, this is a big deal. For the first time, Canadians who can demonstrate that they need to smoke marijuana to ease and control chronic pain and discomfort can grow and toke their medicine legally, provided they have a licence from Health Canada and approval from their doctor.
In reality, this is a modest step, at best. Critics point out that the policy is severely restrictive in that applicants must have a life expectancy of a year or less, or be in severe pain from AIDS, cancer or some other serious medical condition. Doctors or medical specialists must support the application, and the process is alarmingly slow. To date, fewer than 300 people have been approved, with another 500 applications pending. (Source: Hamilton Spectator Editorial)