Pubdate: Mon, 08 May 2017
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Robert McGarvey
Page: B3


The good news: an absurd prohibition on pot is about to end. The bad
news: the Trudeau government has tied itself in knots

EDMONTON - The federal government's plan to legalize marijuana is
another nail in the coffin of Canada's expensive and wasteful war on
drugs. But at what social cost?

Former justice minister Anne McLellan, who chaired the federal task
force on marijuana legalization, and Bill Blair, a former Toronto police 
chief, played key roles in the government's new legislation. This 
forthright and responsible group examined the complex issues, listened 
to many concerned citizens, drafted their reports and made their 

The good news is that an absurd prohibition on pot is about to

The bad news is that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals have
tied themselves in knots.

It's impossible to legalize a presently illegal substance, protect
youth from harm and stem the growth of Canada's violent criminal
underworld at the same time.

The legislation attempts to liberalize and regulate every aspect of
the marijuana trade, including its production, distribution, sale and

Adult Canadians will be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of pot and to
grow four pot plants at home (strictly for personal use). Possession
by underage Canadians of a small amount (five grams) of legal pot will
be a civil matter, not a criminal offence. However, there are also a
host of draconian new criminal offences (with up to 14 years in jail)
for those who sell or otherwise distribute pot to underage persons.
There are also new, lengthy prison sentences proposed for even giving
young people pot.

As Canadian youth are among the most prolific pot users on the planet,
the most obvious consequence of the proposed legislation is continued
growth in the criminal drug trade. That's precisely the opposite of
the intent. Even worse, we could soon be sending scores of
middle-class Canadians to jail for decades when their children
inevitably raid the family pot stash.

Drug gangs are no trifling matter. The global illegal drug trade is a
$300-billion annual business. In many drug-producing regions, criminal
empires have infiltrated the government and the police, creating a
criminalized culture that threatens to totally overwhelm these
vulnerable nations.

Regrettably, the proposed legislation also introduces another mission
impossible for police, who will soon have a new host of unpopular and
seemingly contradictory laws to uphold.

If we've learned one thing over the past 40 years, it's that police
forces are almost powerless in the face of widespread public demand
for cannabis. The United States, for example, spends $50 billion a
year trying to eradicate pot and other drugs. According to the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration, they intercept less than 10 per cent
of illicit drugs.

Certainly, the Mexican drug cartels and homegrown gangs don't seem
overly concerned. They are gearing up for what will become a boom
market in Canada.

Will the Liberals do more harm than good by regulating marijuana?

How effective will police be in thwarting a legal drug when their
plate is already full to overflowing? Among other things, they now
will have to deal with people caught driving under the influence of
marijuana, with enforcement tools that are so new and dodgy that
they're likely to fall on the first serious appeal. The police will
either retreat from this unpopular role (as they have in the past) or
institute a reign of terror on the road, as the new legislation will
make it much easier for them to use their powers.

This pot legislation demonstrates, once again, the folly of righteous
government activism.

Have we learned nothing from the past? Legions of righteous people in
the 1920s sought to use government to morally improve society through
a prohibition on alcohol. The ultimate result (despite an almost total
retreat on prohibition): a growing disrespect for the law in general
and a host of organized crime syndicates operating with impunity.

Government using its legislative power in this fashion is a vain
attempt to improve society. And the new law certainly won't get rid of
violent drug cartels.

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Robert McGarvey is chief strategist for Troy Media Digital Solutions 
Ltd., an economic historian and former managing director of Merlin 
Consulting, a London, U.K.-based consulting firm. Robert's most recent 
book is Futuromics: A Guide to Thriving in Capitalism's Third Wave.
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