Pubdate: Fri, 14 May 2010
Source: Nelson Daily News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Nelson Daily News
Author: Matthew M. Elrod


To the editor,

Concerning the proliferation of cannabis "grow ops" in Nelson, when 
Police Chief Dan Maluta asked his officers "if it would break their 
hearts not to go the Criminal Code route, and we were able to rid the 
neighbourhoods of these places through other means, like through use 
of the grow op bylaw," they answered, "No, absolutely not. The 
ultimate goal is to get rid of the grow."

This is marvellous news, because it means the police finally support 
the recommendations of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, 
who in 2002 concluded that the only way to rid Canadian communities 
of illicit cannabis growing operations is to legally regulate the herb.

To put the problem into perspective, according to the RCMP, annual 
Canadian cannabis production is roughly estimated at between 1,399 
and 3,498 metric tonnes. About 50 tonnes were seized in 2007, less 
than 5 per cent, less than cultivators lost to plant diseases and 
pests, and less than distributors would have paid in GST if cannabis 
were legal.

At best, municipal bylaws cause cultivators to move to neighbouring 
jurisdictions. At worst, they cull out the least "organized" growers, 
attract gangs, who prefer to sell cocaine, heroin and 
methamphetamine, increase black market violence, and cause 
cultivators to adopt more dangerous and destructive counter-measures, 
such as the use of rented homes that they can afford to abandon and 
the theft of electricity.

If all goes as planned, there may be a brief, localized scarcity of 
weed, and an increase in the "street value." However, when the price 
of cannabis rises, the economic incentive to grow and import rises in 
tandem. Cannabis consumers substitute other drugs, primarily alcohol, 
pharmaceuticals and solvents, causing addiction, violence, overdose 
deaths, domestic abuse, traffic accidents and all the other social 
costs associated with alcohol to rise as well.

More pragmatically, does anyone know how much the Nelson economy 
depends on the cannabis industry? Can you afford to rid Nelson of 
B.C.'s largest cash crop and the cost of importing pot from Castlegar 
and Grand Folks? Like many police chiefs before him, Dan Maluta might 
find himself looking back fondly on a time when his cannabis market 
was run by non-violent, domestic hippies.

Matthew M. Elrod

Victoria, B.C.
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