Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The vote on marijuana decriminalization by the UBCM today

Today the resolution that has been getting the most media  at the 2012 UBCM was voted on and the media says 72% voted in favour:

WHEREAS marijuana prohibition is a failed policy which has cost millions of dollars in police, court,
jail and social costs;
AND WHEREAS the decriminalization and regulation of marijuana would provide tax revenues:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that UBCM call on the appropriate government to decriminalize
marijuana and research the regulation and taxation of marijuana.

Drug prohibition is a very complex public policy issue.   I agree that current approach is not working well, but what the resolution is calling for will only makes worse than they are now.

What most people are doing is confusing decriminalization with legalization, the two are not the same thing at all.   Decriminalization is a half way measure to avoid making a drug legal but ending the crack down on the users, it is really the worst place to be with respect to public policy.  Legalization means make it a completely legal product people can produce and sell like alcohol or cigars.

Decriminalization normally means small scale possession is no longer prosecuted as a crime.   It means that growing and distribution remains a serious crime.   It has some unintended consequences that harm our civil society and make life easier for the worst criminal element involved with the drug trade.

Decriminalization will increase the casual market for marijuana which means there will be a demand to grow more.  This will not be grown by farmers but by the same criminal elements that do it now, except they will have increased profits and less problems with the police.  Decriminalization does not mean the growers or sellers will pay taxes.   Decriminalization does not make it a legitimate enterprise and therefore no one could register it as a business, borrow money for it, or enforce any contract law in relation to it.   That last one is crucial because it the lack of access to police and the courts that causes most of the violence in the drug trade.

The problem with marijuana is not with the end user, but with the people involved with the production and distribution of the stuff.   One very good reason not to take part in buying any marijuana in BC is that your money goes to fund people that are misogynist racists that use their money to further destroy our civil society.  These are not nice happy hippies but they are the sort of people that do their best to destroy all that is good in our province.  They also do not pay their fair share of taxes and steal $100,000,000+ a year from BC Hydro.

One person I knew in the past grew marijuana as their primary income for years.   They started doing it back in the 70s as a hippie but by the end of the 1990s the business had changed.   The meetings with the people buying the crop were becoming more and more sinister.   They talked about dealing with people coming to the meetings with guns, serious guns.    The threat of violence and coercion were becoming worse all the time and they knew they needed to get out.  They were being dictated to at the end of a barrel what the price should be.

The violence in this world comes about because no one can go to the courts to enforce a deal, they can not go to the police to report a theft or an assault.   Over the last generation we have seen the emergence of the use of extreme violence as the way to enforce contracts in the drug world, this brings everyone involved in the drug trade much, much deeper into the realm of very serious crime.  Once you are in up to your neck in major crimes, minor crimes do not matter.  

When it comes to drugs we do need to end prohibition but we need go to the full way and make it fully legal, nothing halfway.   We have to allow all drugs to be sold through something like government liquor stores and we need all the growers and producers to be registered.   Allow everything but regulate it up the wazoo and tax anyone involved with it into penury.   You would also need to make it a very serious offence to break any regulation.   I would then use much of the tax money raised to educate people about the drugs and point out they how had they are for your health.

This really is a case of something almost black and white, either prohibition or full legalization all halfway measures will not address the root problems.


Bill said...

Very much agree with your analysis and conclusion. Half measures would only make the situation twice the problem and cost and with no benefit of new tax revenue.

Did the UBCM discuss legalization too or just decriminalization? There really is a huge difference between the two.

We need to do something, what we have now is only working for the gangs.

Anonymous said...

"Decriminalization will increase the casual market for marijuana". - what's your source?

Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%.

Brian said...

Well-written argument and you're right, decriminalization is a bad half-way measure.

However, I'm not sure that even legalization will stop the violence. Mexico has made personal possession of drugs, all the way up to small amounts of heroin, legal but the violence surrounding the drug trade down there is astounding - and it's not because of the domestic demand for drugs, but because of the demand for all types of illegal drugs in the United States - decriminalizing or legalizing in Canada won't affect that, and the gangs will be working as hard as ever to satisfy international demand for their product, and killing off the competition as they go.

There's just too much money involved for criminals to let this go. Too much money and employment involved in the prohibition and punishment side, too.

Speaking of killing off the competition, legalizing drugs and making them available on the open market places the government in the position of needing to be the biggest, most forceful dealer on the block. Will we see a post-legalization day when the police or even the Armed Forces are used to shut down growers and distributors who sell direct and don't submit to government regulation and taxation of their product? I think so - witness all the seizures and crime around traffic in smuggled cigarettes and alcohol, two quite legal commodities. Hell, Discovery Channel has a reality show on moonshiners, and if there's any intoxicant more cheaply or readily available on the open market in the US than cheap rotgut booze, I don't know what it is... gasoline to huff, I suppose, though some of their wines are almost the same price, per gallon.

Bernard said...

I think that as long as the part of the business that represents most of the profits is not legal the incentive for the use of violence as a way to protect property and enforce deals will remain. I have almost wonder if it would be more productive to legalize production but make all possession illegal.

When a company like InBev or ConAgra could comfortably get into the business of growing dope is when you would see an end to the violence.

David Bratzer said...

I'll write more about this later, but decriminalization is a good half-way measure, although not as good as full legalization. There are many benefits to decriminalization: It reduces policing costs, reduces the number of young people caught up in the criminal justice system and it also forces police to focus on more serious crimes rather than the low-hanging fruit of simple possession charges.

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