I’m afraid so. Like I wrote in a previous post,
legalizing marijuana gives the government more tax revenue and
regulatory powers. This option should always be discouraged. But as more
and more politicians
jump on the pro-pot bandwagon, it’s likely that Canadians will have a
government-approved marijuana market by the end of the decade. And the
South American country of Uruguay may be leading the way. Since the
1930′s they’ve regulated alcohol much in the same way Ontario has. Now they may be the first country to legalize (as well tax and regulate) the marijuana industry.
Uruguay’s new marijuana law
is expected to get Senate approval by the end of this month. If it gets
the green-light, the Uruguayan government will hold a marijuana
monopoly. Bureaucrats will be responsible for licensing growers, sellers
and consumers. They will also regulate the imports, production,
marketing and distribution of the drug.
The bureau that will regulate the process will also control how much
weed consumers can legally buy. The law going through the Senate says
that consumers, who must be licensed, can only buy 1.4 ounces a month.
Growers must use government-approved seeds (and given the unavoidable calculation problem,
I don’t think Uruguayan marijuana will be replacing BC Bud anytime
soon). Growers for personal use will have to register with the state;
they can only grow up to six plants and cannot harvest more than 17
ounces per year.
Senator Lucia Topolansky, who is also Uruguay’s first lady, told the Associated Press
that all this is to protect consumers from “criminal drug traffickers.”
In Topolansky’s eyes, the problem with marijuana prohibition isn’t a
government failure – it’s a problem with the market. “Marijuana
consumers go to dealers where they sell it mixed with more addictive
substances, or they sell them something else. It’s a clandestine world
where we can’t enter. The state needs to regulate this market, like it
did before with alcohol.” Now I can’t speak for Uruguayans, but as a
Canadian that’s bought and smoked in several different provinces, I can
assure you that dealers don’t mix pot with toxic or addictive
substances. Marijuana producers and dealers are entrepreneurs. They
serve consumers – if they do a bad job, they go out of business. A
dealer in my high school liked to rip people off, and he could get away
with it too since the illegality prevented buyers from scrutinizing the
product in the open. But once consumers had discovered the rip-off, this
particular dealer found little to no buyers. Even if for the sake of
argument government regulation is required, Uruguay’s plan to
nationalize the industry is one step too many.
Senator Topolansky isn’t shy about the government’s real intentions
either. The Uruguayan government has publicly stated that their goal is
to lower marijuana consumption by legalizing it, then regulating it. It
is in the economic interest of monopolies to restrict production and
raise prices. Those still growing and consuming pot in the black market
will continued to be punished.
Sound familiar? Liberal leader Justin Trudeau favours marijuana
legalization for many of the same reasons. “I’m actually not in favour
of decriminalizing cannabis – I’m in favour of legalizing it,” he’s quoted
as saying, “Tax and regulate. It’s one of the only ways to keep it out
of the hands of our kids.” Of course it’s for the children. Never mind
the new taxes and regulatory powers. Government bureaucrats as
self-interest individuals? Nah! They’re all-knowing, all-loving angels
that only want the best for us. All hail our wise overlords!
The truth of the matter is that Uruguay’s legalization model will not
solve the “criminal drug trafficking” problem. Nor will any
legalization model Canada likely adopts. There will always be those
thwarting any attempt to regulate their behaviour. Why can’t Uruguayans
consume more than 1.4 ounces a month? 1.4 ounces may be a lot to smoke,
but what if they’re cooking with it, or making medicine?
And why do growers have to use government-approved seeds? What makes
these seeds superior to the seeds of the “illicit” competitors?
I fear that legalization in Canada will produce a similar model.
Canadian pot smokers will have to register their recreational activity
with the federal government. Then they’ll have to abide by arbitrary
guidelines such as x amount per month or x amount of
plants. I wouldn’t be surprised if the federal or the provincial
governments got into the marijuana seed business as well. And since they
have a coercive monopoly, consumers will be worse off. At least now the
marijuana market adheres to supply and demand schedules. There is no
monopoly price and no need to register with a third-party. Save for the
complications arising from its illegality, marijuana production, investment and consumption is in a free market!
If the federal government legalized marijuana, it wouldn’t change the
focus of policing the war on drugs. Now cops would be targeting those
violating the marijuana regulations. Cops may divert less resources to
marijuana offences, but they’d still have the “duty” to bust pot smokers
and growers unregistered with the federal government. And seeing that
legalization subjects marijuana to taxes, I can’t see how legalization
is a goal worth fighting for.
Why mess with a good thing? Like I wrote previously, the best way to
“legalize” marijuana would be to convince your local cops that
prohibition is wasteful, corrupt, immoral and impractical. Legalizing
marijuana would increase the power and influence of the federal
government. Is that really a good idea? Look what they’ve done to
health-care. Or what provincial governments have done to education. Or
what about Ontario’s LCBO? Is that what the proponents of marijuana
legalization really want? Surrendering their freedom of choice to a
government entity with a monopoly price? I think for once I might
actually agree with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Let’s keep it in the