Cannabusters myth #26: Cannabis prohibition is good for children

Sep 21 2018, 3:41 am

Every day, in every way, cannabis legalization in Canada is getting closer. But despite all the hype, noise, and publicity, there seem to be recurring cannabis myths flying around that just won’t quit.

With 26 days until federal legalization, Grow’s daily Cannabusters series tackles common myths by cutting through the stigma and sensationalism to bring you the facts about cannabis.

Myth: Cannabis prohibition is good for children

Fact: Cannabis prohibition hurts kids in multiple ways.

One of the most oft-heard justifications for cannabis prohibition is that it is in place to help protect children, to the point that the Cannabis Act Senate and House of Commons hearings sounded like Helen Lovejoy wailing on a loop. The problem is that prohibition often ends up harming those it seeks to protect. Today we take a look at just a few of the ways in which cannabis prohibition doesn’t benefit kids, and may even hurt them.

Discrimination and overrepresentation of marginalized communities in the justice system

Vulnerable populations are vastly overrepresented in the Canadian justice system – and those convicted of cannabis possession are no exception.

“Racialized Canadians are more likely to be carded, arrested, and charged and are more likely to receive harsher sentences upon conviction,” says Anamaria Enenajor, director of Cannabis Amnesty, justice reform expert, and lawyer with Ruby Schiller & Enenajor Barristers.

Low-income and mentally ill citizens are also at an increased risk of facing possession charges and convictions.

How that hurts kids

Many incarcerated adults or Canadians with who face possession charges are parents or caretakers, meaning their children can lose a parent for an extended period of time. As a result, are more likely to suffer from challenges such as emotional trauma, behavioural issues, and economic/residential instability.

A 2007 Corrections Canada study of incarcerated fathers found that “approximately one-quarter of all fathers reported they had no telephone or mail contact with their children since their incarceration,” and that 38.7% reported that they “had no visits from their children.” Incarcerated mothers are likely the sole caregiver of their children, causing further trauma to a child who may have already lost a parent.

Since the children of individuals convicted of possession are more likely to be part of a vulnerable community, they are also most likely to be negatively impacted by their parents’ possession charges – perpetuating an already-unfair system that sets up specific populations to be caught in a vicious cycle.

Even families with parents whose possession charges didn’t lead to jail time – or aren’t convicted – don’t walk away unscathed.

While fines or ticketing may not seem like a big deal compared to criminal charges, they can be a massive economic burden for Canadian parents on a low or fixed income. Same goes for legal fees, difficulty finding or retaining employment as a result of the charges, and residential instability – all of which directly impact some of the country’s most vulnerable children.

The potential consequences for Canadian parents who face legal trouble due to cannabis possession can far outweigh the severity of the soon-to-be-legal offence.

“Sanctions for use may be more detrimental than use itself, and consumers cannot access spaces to use safely,” according to chair of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) and the National Institute of Cannabis Health and Education (NICHE) board member Kira London-Nadeau.

“Ultimately, prohibition doesn’t work.”

Cannabis amnesty

About 13,768 people in Canada were charged with possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis in 2017, according to numbers released by Statistics Canada.

Correctional Service Canada estimates that Canadian children with an incarcerated father are  “2 to 4 times more likely to be in conflict with the law than Canadian children in general”  – further victimizing kids for circumstances over which they have no control.

“Justice was not blind when it comes to the enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws in our country. This is why cannabis amnesty is so important,” Enenajor told Daily Hive.

Won’t somebody pleeeease think of the children?

See also

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