Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Just Another Marijuana Bust in Alberta

Also available at mises.ca

The other day a 34-year old man from Edmonton was busted for driving a van full of marijuana. The RCMP pulled him over on Highway 1 near Canmore; they found over 300 pounds of product. Now the man is out on bail, but set to go to trial tomorrow. Meanwhile marijuana consumers are facing higher prices and the RCMP are getting paid to do something anti-social. I can think of three reasons why this otherwise forgettable news item should be getting front-page coverage.

First: All drugs should be legal. The history of alcohol prohibition shows that government restriction creates black markets, empowering sketchy entrepreneurs in enterprises better left to more peaceful individuals. Today’s drug trade is perhaps the most violent activity on the planet, next to participating in US foreign policy (which often go hand-in-hand). Yet, both the Canadian and American governments continue to spend billions a year on fighting and regulating certain substances instead of allowing voluntary association to figure things out. Which brings me to point number two:
Marijuana is not bad for you. Of course there are downsides to smoking and a psychological dependence has been known to surface in some users. But from a purely medical point of view – marijuana is a lot healthier than alcohol and refined sugar. It’s even used as a medicine. If farmers had the freedom to develop this plant to its potential, the medical discoveries could be endless. Even if hemp was unrestricted – its potential as an alternative to plastic, or use as fuel, food, clothing, paper, etc. could revolutionize the economy. It could put entrepreneurs and consumers back in charge of the social order.
Hence why it probably remains illegal or heavily regulated. Governments, drug cartels and other special interest groups have an interest in keeping the drug war going. But people have enormous power; markets have the ability to counteract bureaucracy. The RCMP cannot calculate; the police apparatus has no inherent checks and balances. It’s ability to adapt to change is weakened by its basic structure. The state taxes, often ignoring or trying to mimic price signals. The state also refuses to allow competition, making the RCMP the sole police force in the province of Alberta. With no competition and no way for consumers to withdraw payment – the RCMP has no appropriate way of policing the province.  What they’re doing now is the following the arbitrary valuations of higher-ups and unquestioning obedience to outdated statutes and laws. This is not what law and order are supposed to look like in a free society.

Individuals calculate their own costs. We use price signals as a means of communicating knowledge to each other about the scarcity of resources and preferences. The free market is a reflection of people’s underlying values. When I say “the market should handle drug regulation” I’m saying that the people should. Everyone votes with his or her own dollar. Or votes by refusing to use the dollar. The RCMP and the federal government are bullies. They define the money, then take it without asking, outlaw competition and try to prevent peaceful individuals from growing, trading and smoking marijuana. But like all bullies, they eventually go away if enough people ignore them.

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