Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stephen Harper's War on People


Stephen Harper, with his Masters in Economics, should know that one can't eliminate markets through legislative decree. While cannabis prohibition still grips most of the nation, British Columbia has made significant efforts to end such a misguided, destructive policy. However, Harper's “tough on crime” approach means accelerating the drug war. Like the “private-sector prisons” that the federal government contracts corporations to build, the "free market" LP industrial greenhouses are fortified in barbed wire with a security apparatus like a nuclear facility.

And then there are the zoning issues.

British Columbia is home to half-a-dozen LP greenhouses and 50% of Canada's MMAR gardens and farms. The town of Maple Ridge has 13 applications from LPs for land-use rights. The problem for some residents is that, according to the provincial rules and regulations, the land being commissioned for the LPs is zoned for agricultural production. And as such, the Mayor of Maple Ridge is calling out Ottawa, and he wants public input on the proposed sites. But the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is a provincial body that determines agricultural land-use, and it has shaped the rules to ensure municipal governments have no say on where these sites are ultimately located.
Cannabis is a gateway drug to liberty. The smaller and more local the governing authority, the greater liberty individuals have to prosper and create a more peaceful society. The question of agricultural land and cannabis greenhouses, assuming it is a government decision, should be a local decision. And for once Health Canada got it right: They told Maple Ridge to take it up with the provincial authorities.

This leads us back to the ALC and the Minister of Agriculture.

While Vancouver's city council plans to regulate most cannabis dispensaries out of business for being too close to schools, one of the LPs in Maple Ridge is next to a neighbourhood with a school, playground, a community theatre, and hobby farms. But the concern isn't over the crop being grown. “None of us [opponents] are rabidly anti-medical marijuana,” Patricia Purdy told The Globe and Mail. “I use medical marijuana for my rheumatoid arthritis.” What Purdy and the other residents object to is the industrial size of the LP. A greenhouse that size requires a lot of water, and residents are concerned about the small aquifer that feeds the local wells. It doesn't matter if the LP is growing cannabis or tomatoes, a greenhouse that size is going to conflict with the neighbourhood over the scarcity of the local water source.

Agricultural Minister Norm Letnick assures us that such conflicts are common and we need not worry: “It’s always the balance between the farmer’s right to farm and the aspirations of local residents.” So who is in charge here? What bureaucrat or politician is responsible for wasting precious agricultural land on indoor industrial greenhouses that grow LP cannabis? Especially when cannabis has been and continues to be grown safely and effectively by 15,000 farmers in BC alone, the LPs have not proved their market worth. Stocks and bonds are no longer accurate portrayals of wealth, and thanks to the easy money of central banks, the stock market is one giant casino. The LPs have managed to sell something with the privilege of holding an exemption from the Controlled Drug and Substances Act that binds all potential competitors to prohibition, including (sans Allard injunction) the 30,000 farmers who were previously given this exemption. Removal of this exemption was justified, according to the federal government, because of the “inherent risks” of cannabis cultivation. These are the same “inherent risks” that require fortified industrial greenhouse prisons for pot, and the same “inherent risks” that, when applied to other areas of human activity, would require the federal government to license and regulate every human action and behaviour from birth to death.

Two bedrocks of a free society are private property and the private means of production. An unelected body of bureaucrats subordinate to the provincial Minister of Agriculture cannot regulate land-use to ensure peaceful cooperation no matter how well-intentioned. The water source that has Maple Ridge residents concerned should be privately-owned; it should be homesteaded by members of the community, not contracted out to a corporation by the Minister, and the ALC should cease to exist since it cannot know with any degree of objectivity what parcels of land should be allocated for what purpose. As well, the byproduct of the MMPR has been to provoke further conflicts in society by forcing large industrial greenhouses in areas where people don't want them. The government, acting as the ultimate-decision making organization, must resolve this conflict in a way that is lawful and just in a free and democratic society. But therein lies the problem. As a monopolist of ultimate-decision making, it will be in the government's interest to provoke conflict and settle it according to its ends. The government's ends are usually not our own – democracy notwithstanding – since threat of elections keeps short-term interests first and foremost. Additionally, special interests have proven to be very effective at co-opting all forms of democratic government. Government funds are taken from the taxpayer on an involuntary basis, and therefore the role of long-term sustainability (of everything except government's stranglehold on power and resources) never enters the question since future taxpayers can be used as collateral.

Therefore a democratic government will necessarily grow larger since it is politically advantageous to put more voters on the public payroll. As the bureaucracy grows, every risk once seen as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to provide value will be seen as an opportunity to increase one's grip on government power. With this in mind, the Agriculture Minister's decision makes complete sense: “The provincial government ... has determined, based on advice from the ALC, that growing medicinal marijuana is a legitimate farm use.” In other words, the monopolist of ultimate decision-making has determined, based on the analysis provided by us, that the lower hierarchy in our organization is not in the wrong and that your elected councillors have no say on where Ottawa's LP industrial greenhouses are going to go.  Moreover, as to ensure future conflict such as these will be settled to our advantage, the water resource that sparked this issue will remain under common ownership with private means of production continually being chastised as selfish, greedy, or out of step with basic human rights.

Governments are always at war, and even their people are subject to relentless propaganda. Stephen Harper knows the name of the game, though his anti-cannabis ads aren't fooling anybody. The official Health Canada policy that cannabis is not an approved medicine is embarrassing at best, and what's happening with medical cannabis in Canada is part of the drug war. If Harper is good at one thing, it's war – war in the Middle East, threats of war in Ukraine with Russia, and war on medicine through the MMPR. And in every battle, there are prisoners. Just as the federal government will contract crony-capitalists to build and maintain “private-sector prisons” while eliminating rehabilitation programs that allow prisoners to grow the food they eat, the MMPR contracts Licensed Producers to bring in a green “free market” rush after the RCMP have raided the small-farmers and gardeners of the old regime. Like Stalin's purging of the Old Guard in Russia – before signing off from his democratic duty, Stephen Harper sought to eliminate the by-products of the 2001 Parker Supreme Court ruling.

It's a war on small farmers using the same tactics prior governments used with past cultivators of medicine and food. The small-farmer model has been purposefully priced out by crony-capitalists contracted and protected by government fees, licensing, rules and regulations. They call it “regulatory capture,” and it is why reasonable people oppose government regulations. The regulations imposed on medical cannabis make small-to-medium scale cultivation impossible. The MMPR demands large industrial sites, indoor greenhouses, and secrecy and security perimeters that should remind everyone how dangerous democratic governments can be. Here are the real resources being invested and consumed wastefully. What will the LPs do once prohibition has been abandoned and everyone can grow? Prices have been inhibited by artificial scarcity constraints – constraints the LP rely on. And it isn't just a matter of LPs adapting to the new status quo, their entire business model is designed around the MMPR. Their production processes weren't supposed to be tested in a free and fair market, but thanks to the Allard injunction and the proliferation of store-front dispensaries in Vancouver and Victoria, they are being tested by the market, and patients are overwhelmingly supporting the small-scale cultivation and dispensary model. What will the LPs do with all that capital equipment? How smooth will the turnover be? What will become of their shares when the Federal Reserve's easy-money regime is over?

The market has debunked the government's claim that different strains are irrelevant, yet this is a factor very few keep in mind. While LPs are in the market of selling different strains, the regulations keep them from advertising. 

Meanwhile among farmers, connoisseurs, and patients, strains and genetics provide qualitative satisfaction that is reflected in price. So while a non-smoker may see no difference between an OG Kush from an illicit grow in Ohio and an organic Girl Scout from a BC farm tucked away in the mountains, they will see a difference in price. There will be no “$1-per-gram” flat-rate because different strains produce different prices. Identifying the grower is becoming increasingly important. Cannabis is not a homogeneous blob, it is a heterogeneous array of different strains and genetics. Some of these genetics have been lost to history, some are unique to one or two growers only. These farmers don't want to work for a big industrial LP– they’re small business owners who have mastered the craft through trial and error, and after years of experience and hard work. The Crown accused Allard plaintiffs of having a value judgment against the MMPR, and for a lot of farmers this is true. They're not about to give up their small farm to go work for someone else in an industrial greenhouse. And the fact that the government is essentially forcing them to do so is dangerously close to the collectivization model of the former Soviet Union.

If that isn't a war on the people, then what is?

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