Pubdate: Thu, 10 Jun 2004
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2004 Southam Inc.


If you had any lingering doubt that the push to legalize marijuana is
no longer limited to left-wing activists and ageing hippies, a report
this week from the Fraser Institute should erase it. Prepared by
Stephen Easton, an economics professor at Simon Fraser University, the
report suggests that legalizing pot would bring economic benefits
without inflicting any social harm. The institute insists that it does
not take formal positions on these sorts of issues. But the fact that
a conservative economist writing for a conservative think-tank would
make an unequivocal case for liberalizing our drug laws shows just how
far the debate has come.

As interesting as the source of the report is what it says. Most
legalization advocates focus on the pointlessness of saddling
otherwise law-abiding Canadians with criminal records or fines for
indulging in a substance less dangerous or addictive than alcohol or
tobacco -- an argument we agree with wholeheartedly. But Mr. Easton
makes a different and no less compelling case: that legalization would
allow government -- rather than the black market -- to enjoy the spoils.

As he put it: "If we treat marijuana like any other commodity, we can
tax it, regulate it and use the resources the industry generates
rather than continue a war against consumption and production that has
long since been lost." By his estimates, the marijuana industry in
British Columbia alone -- worth more than $7-billion per year -- would
inject at least $2-billion into government coffers.

Of course, Canada is a long way from legalization. And even
decriminalization has proven a political hot potato, with Paul
Martin's Liberals having stalled on reforms first initiated in 2003
and Stephen Harper's Conservatives pledging to abandon them entirely.
We hope this report will help convince both men that our marijuana
laws are in desperate need of overhaul. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake