Saturday, March 18, 2006

Legalizing pot will curb crime

The Brandon Sun

Regarding the editorial Dude! Chill Out Over Pot Laws (March 12): Once again a confused media misinforms the public.

To start with, pot laws in Canada are not “rarely enforced.” There were more people busted for simple possession in 2005 than in any other year in history. Even in 2003, when marijuana was technically legal for several months, police still broke their 2002 bust records.

Another bit of misinformation: “There’s a huge, huge difference between decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing it — as they do in the Netherlands.” The Netherlands has never legalized marijuana — they just stopped enforcing the laws because they realized that it was pointless and costly.

The notion that “most Canadians would agree that it would be a far better use of our law enforcement resources, the courts and the police, to go out and shut down grow-ops, meth labs and crack houses — which more often than not are tied to organized crime” is also less than accurate. Most grow-ops are run by small-scale home growers who are actively trying to avoid the black market, and have no association with crack houses or meth labs whatsoever.

The editorial continues; “If you want to keep kids from smoking marijuana, cut off their supply — don’t send the police out to charge them all with possession.” True enough, but the supply has to come from somewhere! If it is legal to possess, and not legal to grow, then it will have to be imported from other parts of the world, which will increase crime and the profits derived from it.

The solution to the “marijuana problem” is simple. First, let people grow small-scale at home, like a beer or wine-making kit. Next, licence large-scale growers so they can sell their wares in “coffee shops.” This will not only save taxpayers about $2 billion a year on enforcement, courts, corrections and stolen hydro — it will also generate an additional $3 billion in annual tax revenue.

Alcohol prohibition in the last century subsidized organized crime, fuelled corruption in the police and government and increased gun violence. Marijuana prohibition in this century is doing the exact same thing.

As all sensible people know, mandatory minimum sentences and “crackdowns” will only drive the little guys out of the business and leave marijuana the exclusive domain of organized — and heavily armed — criminals. Ever heard of Al Capone?

Prohibition also makes things much more dangerous and possibly deadly for sick and dying Canadians who use cannabis as medicine, like my wife and myself.

Not only that, the Tories want to build several more prisons — at a cost of billions of dollars — to jail even more pot users. Expect a large tax hike to pay that tab.

Taking the marijuana business out of the hands of teens and criminal gangs and putting it into the hands of responsible adults is socially conservative. Generating tax revenue from that industry is fiscally conservative and using that money to teach kids why they should avoid drugs is morally conservative.

But the attitude of these so-called “Conservatives” leads me to wonder just which side of the law they are really on.

By Russell Barth and Christine Lowe


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