HORNER’S CORNER: Prohibition, an idea whose time has come

Is it time we did something about the ubiquitous agony bags?

Believe me, if I thought for a second that prohibition worked I would be the first to call for an outright ban, enforced by the full weight of the law.

I would campaign for zero tolerance and mandatory minimum sentences. I would contribute money to the cause and even stand on a street corner with a tambourine and a bullhorn if that’s what it took to get legislation passed.

Unfortunately, prohibition doesn’t work and so I’m afraid we’re going to have our ears bleed to the shrill squawk of the bagpipes for the foreseeable future.

That’s too bad, because it seems at just about every event someone drags out the bagpipes and starts honking away as if the pipes were some kind of symbol of Canada — which they’re not.

They’re a joke the Irish played on the Scottish that the Scottish never got. The only truly Canadian instrument I can think of might be the spoons.

But if we banned the pipes, like in Prohibition days, it would only result in overcrowded jails and shattered lives.

Bagpipe prices would go through the roof in the underground economy and it wouldn’t be long before the entire bagpipe, sporran and kilt trade was in the hands of organized crime.

Like the gin joints and speakeasys of the earlier prohibition, illicit, sound-proof bag-inns would sprout up like mushrooms as bagpipes became cool.

Hollywood stars would be forced into musical rehab after being caught at the pipes and sure enough they would break their parole for just one chorus of Scotland the Brave — all fodder for the tabloids.

Eventually the toll on society would be obvious to everyone and a counter-movement to legalize or at least decriminalize bagpipes would begin to gain ground. Eventually there would be a breakthrough in one jurisdiction or other — probably B.C. — and compromise legislation that allowed bagpipes only at the Legion would be passed.

That would just be the tip of the iceberg and it wouldn’t be long before all Canadians would once again have the right to grind their teeth in time to the agony bags any time they liked — but not within three metres of any doorway.

“What were we thinking?” they would ask. “That was a stupid law and just look at the damage it’s done.”

That’s how I feel about the current marijuana prohibition in Canada. It’s a bad law that has done — and continues to do — untold damage to Canadian society.

Marijuana prohibition doesn’t work. It’s as simple as that and because of this I’m fully supporting Dana Larsen’s referendum campaign to decriminalize it.

Elections B.C. has approved the Sensible Policing Act, a law which would effectively decriminalize marijuana possession in the province, as valid legislation and suitable for a referendum. The 90-day signature-gathering period begins on Sept. 9.

If the campaign can collect signatures from 10 per cent of the registered voters in each electoral district, the Sensible Policing Act will be put to a referendum in 2014.

The measure would instruct all police in B.C. to spend no time or resources on searches or arrests for marijuana possession. It would also treat a minor in possession of marijuana as if it were alcohol.

The act formally calls upon the federal government to repeal marijuana prohibition, or give B.C. an exemption to marijuana prohibition and it would create  a provincial commission to come up with the laws and rules needed to legally regulate marijuana cultivation and sale.

I am not in a position to head up the local campaign, and I’m not ready for the tambourine and bullhorn routine, but I would be happy to staff a signature booth for a shift or two.

Pass the referendum and I’ll tell you what … I’ll shut up about the agony bags.




Neil Horner is the assistasnt editor of the NEWS and a regular columnist



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