Writing headlines can be tricky at times. You want to convey as much as possible about a story in just a few words, drawing readers into the article while limiting the chances that the message will be misunderstood.
In penning last week’s front-page Chief headline, “Locals back B.C.-wide pot referendum,” this writer hopes most readers read far enough into the story to realize we weren’t suggesting that “all” or even “most” locals support Sensible B.C.’s effort to put a a measure to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana up for a province-wide refer-endum (pun intended). After all, a reporter talking to those who are staffing a “CannaBus” and who show up to seek more information on signing the petition is going to find a disproportionately large percentage in favour of the measure. So as a “poll,” our story could hardly be described as scientific — apologies to anyone who didn’t recognize the story as a snapshot of a select group, not a random sample.
For the record, though, this writer supports the measure being proposed by Sensible B.C., which would amend the Police Act to instruct police not to spend time, money and resources on cases of simple possession of cannabis. Why? Because it sends the right message — that while marijuana use isn’t the healthiest choice for many (especially young people) and should still be illegal for those who don’t have clearance to use it for medicinal purposes, police officers’ time is far better spent going after those who traffic in hard drugs and those responsible for violent crimes, property crimes and fraud, for example.
Legalizing the substance — i.e. treating it as something to be regulated and taxed, just as we do with alcohol and tobacco — shouldn’t be ruled out as an option, as doing so would be treating marijuana as a health matter, not a legal one. But first things first.
It was interesting to see the comments on The Chief’s website and Facebook page in response to last week’s article. Those who labeled anyone who favours decriminalization (or legalization) as “potheads,” of course, drew the most virulent response. However, you don’t have to be a user (this writer has never used the stuff) to be in favour of a more mature — and, we believe, more sensible — public-policy approach to marijuana in B.C.
— David Burke