Pubdate: Fri, 10 Nov 2006
Source: Packet & Times (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006, Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Douglas H. Brown
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Letter to the editor:

City council recently discussed the increasing problem with marijuana 
grow houses and what to do about them. The source of the problem and 
the solution are both federal matters, not municipal. Only the impact 
is municipal.

We now have a government in Ottawa that seems to espouse conservative 
issues - reducing taxes, improving law and order, etc. Unfortunately, 
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government may be more committed to 
religious fundamentalist concepts than to truly conservative ones. 
Same-sex marriage is an example.

One issue now gaining favour among conservatives is the legalization 
of marijuana. Originally opposed to it, I, too, now believe that 
there are good reasons for legalization. But is this government 
conservative enough to act on them, or will its connections to the 
religious right preclude a common sense solution to this continuing quagmire?

I was surprised by the Fraser Institute's 2004 study, "Marijuana 
Growth in British Columbia," which recommended that marijuana be 
legalized, taxed and regulated the same as alcohol. The institute is 
a respected and highly conservative think-tank boasting such 
conservative notables such as Mike Harris and Preston Manning on staff.

That study estimates that British Columbia's marijuana industry alone 
is worth $7 billion in low-risk, untaxed, illegal, cash revenue for 
organized crime. Using conservative assumptions about Canadian 
consumption, estimated government tax revenues would exceed $2 
billion if marijuana was legalized.

Aside from the new tax revenue, other social benefits are predicted. 
Legalizing marijuana would be a crippling blow to criminal 
organizations by depriving them of several billion dollars in annual, 
untraceable income and by ending a cash flow used to subsidize other 
criminal activities. Police resources devoted to marijuana 
enforcement could be reallocated to other areas.

The Fraser Institute is not the sole conservative organ calling for 
legalization. The National Post in Canada, The Economist (U.K.), and 
The National Review (U.S.) have all examined the issues surrounding 
the legal status of marijuana. Like the Fraser Institute, each has 
concluded that marijuana should be legalized.

Of course, there are some social costs, just as there are with 
alcohol and with gambling. Some marijuana users go on to use hard 
drugs. We accept the social costs of alcohol and of gambling because 
they are not sufficiently widespread to justify depriving the general 
population of access to these vices. There is no evidence to suggest 
that marijuana will be any different.

It was reported in 2004 that then Conservative justice critic Vic 
Toews criticized Ottawa for taking so long to move on its marijuana 
reform bill. With the Liberals gone, Justice Minister Toews is now in 
a position to take the initiative. Legalize marijuana.

Douglas H. Brown
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman