Pubdate: Sat, 10 Aug 2013
Source: Barrie Examiner (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013, Barrie Examiner
Author: Robbie Woods
Page: A5


When it comes to the legalization of marijuana, I find myself in a quandary.

I firmly believe people should be allowed to do as they please, 
provided they're only doing it to themselves.

In any case, no amount of enforcement can stop the supply of drugs 
because no amount of enforcement can stop the demand.

Faced with this reality, legalization is the philosophically appealing policy.

But what about the practical considerations?

British Columbia is the heartland of Canada's pot culture, with 
domestic consumption estimated on the order of $ 500 million annually.

That's a lot of a mellow. And potentially a lot of tax revenue.

But, under the surface, weed contributes a hell of a lot more than $ 
500 million to B.C.'s economy.

In 2008, BC Business magazine valued the marijuana industry at $ 7.5 
billion per year, making pot the second-highest contributor to the 
province's GDP even outpacing forestry.

So $ 500 million comes from domestic use. What about the other $ 7 
billion? That revenue comes from exports to Washington State, Oregon 
and California, where ' BC Bud' is virtually a brand name.

The Drug Enforcement Administration ( DEA) estimates that between 90% 
and 95% of the province's crop ends up stateside.

While such a lucrative racket naturally attracts gangs like the Hells 
Angels, it also employs approximately 250,000 British Columbians.

The question of legalization is not therefore one for the 
philosophers, but for the economists.

Can B. C. actually afford to legalize? What would happen to the black 
market that has quietly become a mainstay of the province's economy?

If our federal government undertook to regulate and tax cannabis, it 
could doubtless construct a suitable framework to that effect.

But our neighbours to the south have historically taken drugs rather 
more seriously.

Even with many states moving towards drug liberalization, what 
agreement with the Americans could be reached to allow B. C. growers 
to legally export their product to the United States?

For if they were unable to do so, legalization could lead to a 
complete collapse of the province's second-biggest industry.

Or, more realistically, a continuation of the current state of 
affairs, whereby the black market keeps our American cousins blazed 
at a staggering profit.

In which case, what was the point of legalizing in the first place?

So the government could charge us twice as much as Danny from the 
bowling alley while tacitly allowing gangs to keep making a fortune? 
Bummer. If legalization is ever going to be accomplished tenably, it 
must come via high-level co-ordination between our government and the 

At a minimum, we would need a joint ( pun intended) legalization 
framework, as well as a generous trade agreement to sustain B. C.' s 
250,000 pot jobs. We would be trying to wrangle all this from a group 
of people who can't even reach a consensus on issues like gay 
marriage and shooting teenagers.

I'm not saying it can't happen.

I'm just saying it might take a good 200 or 300 years.

In the meantime, we should forgo the tax revenue, legalize 
possession, focus on violent crime and keep the quarter-of-a-million jobs.

Robbie Woods

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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom