Pubdate: Wed, 20 Aug 2014
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2014 The Western Star
Author: Dara Squires
Page: 10


Colorado has done it, so why can't we? Why can't we take one foreign 
state's measures and enact them federally in Canada. After all, 
marijuana legalisation in Colorado doesn't seem to have created any 
great waves. I'm sure when the prohibition on alcohol ended, we 
didn't have a rash of drunk drivers and alcoholics either.

It takes time for the effects of measures like this to be seen. Yes, 
there are some immediate effects - such as an increase in tax 
revenues. But when it comes to other effects, studies are split. Some 
say Colorado teens are less likely now than before legalisation to be 
smoking marijuana. But other studies show that not only are they more 
likely to partake, they are also less likely to consider marijuana a 
harmful drug.

Some studies show that property crime has decreased since 
legalisation. But on the other hand, drivers who have been in 
accidents are twice as likely now to have marijuana in their system 
as before the legalisation trend (even counting for the fact that 
blood traces of marijuana linger beyond the "high" stage, this rapid 
increase coupled with a supposed levelling in use is worrisome).

What do all the studies agree on? Crime has indeed dropped, taxes 
have increased, and while the number of people using marijuana hasn't 
increased noticeably, the number of people using daily has. In other 
words, former recreational users are becoming habitual users. And 
they're finding new ways to use - such as edibles, which are more 
likely to cause overdose situations and more likely to attract children.

Either way you cut it, the state is making money from people's addiction.

And while crime reports may have dropped, I doubt that means less of 
a crime involvement in the sale of marijuana - they've just 
legitimized the business.

I'm sure organized crime activity dropped after prohibition as well. 
And yet organized crime and biker gangs control a large number of 
legal drinking establishments - often using these establishments as 
legitimate bases for recruitment and other illegal activities.

If, as some Canadian believe, marijuana should be legalized similar 
to alcohol and tobacco, we need to ask ourselves has the legalisation 
of alcohol and tobacco been a great thing? Sure, it gives more 
individual freedom. But it has also led to its own species of crime. 
 From intoxicated driving to cigarette smuggling - we don't eliminate 
crime by making something legal.

And, if Colorado is the example we're going to go by, legalisation 
and providing a legitimate market comes with a handful of problems. 
If the state really wants to keep marijuana sales out of the hands of 
illegal syndicates, the taxes they've been reaping in are going to be 
a factor. It is still cheaper - though slightly harder - to buy 
illegal marijuana than to pay the taxes on legal marijuana. Although, 
if, as reports show, there hasn't been an increase in users, then the 
majority of customers already know where to get the illegal stuff.

Meanwhile, one of the main reasons Colorado may not be showing an 
increase in users in their state is because the majority of marijuana 
sales are being made to out-of-state customers. Won't Canada be 
considered a great international neighbour if we collect taxes on 
customers who will illegally import the product to their own countries?

And that tax revenue? It's not even half as high as expected. In 
January, media reports were saying there was an expected $40 million 
tax revenue in the first six months of 2014 due to marijuana sales. 
Turns out it's only been $12 million - $12 million dollars that will 
go to building schools not addictions treatment or mental health 
care. Schools. Cafeterias funded by magic brownies and science labs 
funded by hash brewing. Statesmen are already trying to figure out 
where they lost that anticipated revenue and looking at the medical 
marijuana market as the culprit. There is talk of increasing the tax 
on medical marijuana too. So while collecting taxes from a public 
health danger that will not be put into public health funding they 
are also looking at increasing the tax on what is essentially a 
person's medical need.

It is way too early to see how this is all going to turn out. 
Longitudinal studies aren't possible within just six months of legal 
sales. And the issue is far too politicised to get any accurate 
reports on what data is available. That is why politicizing the 
subject as part of Canada's national election leadup is both 
dangerous and wrong. Legalisation should not be an election platform. 
It should be something we look at with clear minds and due diligence 
as a nation. Once we go there, we can't go back. And there are far 
too many "ifs" to go there to begin with.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom