Stephen Harper drops the bong The Sputnik March 23, 2010 OpinionLast week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was hit on two sides in a bid to legitimize the legalization of marijuana in Canada.On Monday morning, three MPs presented the House of Commons with a bill to stop the extradition of the self-proclaimed “Prince of Pot,” Marc Emery, to the United States for selling marijuana seeds to American citizens. Conservative Scott Reid, NDP Libby Davies and Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh crossed the partisan divide and presented a petition to the Canadian Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson. The petition was signed by over 12,000 Canadians asking the Minister of Justice to refuse to sign the order that would send Marc Emery to an American jail. In a 2009 letter to the Minister of Justice, Ms. Davies wrote: “Canadian law enforcement officials have for a decade ignored Mr. Emery’s well publicized activities. Yet, your government has refused to intervene on Mr. Emery’s behalf and he will now serve a five year prison term in the United States.”Mr. Emery’s fate lies in the hands of the Minister of Justice, but it doesn’t seem like Stephen Harper feels much sympathy.Then on Tuesday, he babbled and bumbled while responding to questions voted on by Canadians in a “Talk Canada” YouTube-hosted town hall meeting. Marijuana legalization dominated the list of the most popular questions.“When people are buying from the drug trade, they are not buying from their neighbour,” he said. “They are buying from international cartels that are involved in unimaginable violence and intimidation and social disaster and catastrophe all across the world.”But that claim gives more credit to legalizing and regulating marijuana. When alcohol was prohibited in the 1920s, it was only then that criminals like Al Capone became most active. When it was legal once again, those criminals were denied the black-market scarcity of alcohol. They couldn’t compete with an open market.“The reason drugs are illegal is because they are bad,” he said. “And even if these things were legalized, I can predict with a lot of confidence that these would never be respectable businesses run by respectable people.”Really? Amsterdam has a booming marijuana tourism and medical marijuana dispensaries across North America are allowed to make sick people feel better. The marijuana business is respectable and booming, so what is Mr. Harper talking about?He hasn’t bothered to research academic studies on the nature of marijuana, either. He said marijuana would never be a legitimate business because of the “very nature of the dependency they create.”If that’s true, shut Tim Horton’s down – they’re exploiting Canadians’ favourite substance, caffeine. A 1997 study found that nicotine, alcohol, heroin, cocaine and caffeine were more addictive than marijuana. A 1986 study from The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics concluded that, “compared with other licit social drugs, such as alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, marijuana does not pose greater risks.”So, Mr. Harper, when will you start dealing with the real peddlers of dependency creating substances, Tim Horton’s and the LCBO?I wonder how long Mr. Harper can stay aloof from the Canadian public before they realize the damage his rhetoric, fuelled by outdated and unsubstantiated claims, is doing to Canada.Mr. Harper, it’s time to pick up your bong.