Nelson: Just say no to selling drugs in government-run stores

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Harry Anslinger, Richard Nixon and Nancy Reagan all failed dismally, but our own justice minister, Kathleen Ganley, could be on the verge of finally emerging victorious in the long-running global war on drugs.

Poor Harry, the zealous initial boss of the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics, Tricky Dicky, who coined the War On Drugs slogan, and Nancy, with her doomed Just Say No campaign, all missed the most obvious answer in attempting to turn the buying and selling of naughty substances into a horror show that would deter the entire populace – they should have simply let the government do it.

But now, here in Alberta, we are contemplating doing exactly that as the July 1 deadline for the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada approaches.

Yes, the province’s justice ministry is pondering whether to set up government-run stores to sell marijuana or, instead, leave it up to private retailers. Given the NDP’s penchant for figuring it, along with its public-sector union friends, knows best on each and every subject, the odds are stacked in one direction.

There is still time, however, for ordinary Janes and Joes to make their feelings heard on the matter, as Ganley’s department says it is open for public input and suggestions until Oct. 27.

No doubt some folk will be stampeded into imagining that government control over the sale of marijuana, along with its various offshoot products, will ensure the public is somehow safer from outbreaks of subsequent reefer-madness breaking out among ordinary Albertans.

Those would be the people who have forgotten what it was once like to buy booze at those brick-built dens of despair and dread that otherwise were known as Alberta Liquor Control Board outlets.

As a quaint refresher course, recall standing in line for as long as an hour on those days before popular imbibing holidays such as Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve, while some sour-faced clerk would take an eternity to bag your bottles. Or how dreadfully limited the stock was and how few actual stores were even in existence, and all those had the same opening and closing times, which were set to punish rather than entice.

Oh, and remember how, in the year prior to the whole edifice being dismantled by the Klein government in 1994, the public employees — yes those who took some strange pleasure in treating customers as an inconvenience — went on strike and closed down the system?

As an aside, have you noticed the increasing trend in any building in which so-called public service workers toil – whether at the city, provincial or federal level – regarding the prominent placement of notices warning how abuse will not be tolerated?

And here we are thinking Canadians are among the most polite people on the planet. Certainly saying sorry now appears to be a national obsession. So why would such world-renowned nice people become so abusive when dealing with government workers? And why is there no need for such warnings to be nailed to the door of your favourite restaurant?

Hey, here’s a wild thought — could it be the actual service, or lack of, in these joints that fun forgot is what gets people so riled?

But, to return to the dope selling debate: Ontario is already going the route of limiting future sales to government outlets. That alone should persuade Alberta to do the opposite.

And don’t think this is only a matter for the hazy hash pipe crowd. Oh no, this is also a tax and spends initiative. Who will be on the hook for building such outlets, as the AUPE rubs its hands over once again getting its feet under the table? Yes, that would be taxpayers.

Still, if we want to make the sale of cannabis a nightmare that will save any potential future users from their own desperate desires, then the government-run stores are surely the way to go.

“Look, son, that’s what smoking dope leads to. You’ll have to step foot . . . in there.”

Chris Nelson is a Calgary writer.

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