Pubdate: Sat, 02 Dec 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Colby Cosh
Page: A14



Absolutely everybody in sight has had a go at Ronald Orr this week.
Which, just as a polite heads-up to the man's friends and family, is
not going to stop me from joining in. Orr is the Alberta MLA who rose
in the provincial legislature on Wednesday to discuss his fears about
the "social and economic experiment" of marijuana legalization.

This happened during the debate on Alberta's bill making arrangements
to meet the federal government's legalization deadline. Orr, a
religious minister and former construction contractor, attracted
national attention because he started gibbering about Chinese history,
the Opium Wars, and the Cultural Revolution. The Vietnam War found its
way in there, somehow. The fella jumped around quite a bit.

Orr was accused in some quarters of suggesting that legalized weed
might lead Alberta to communism. He didn't actually say that, and
editors who have written that headline have been careless and unfair.
However, I do notice, in reviewing Orr's address, that he literally
did not have a single thing to say about the actual bill under debate.

Early in his speech, Orr declared himself skeptical about the public
revenue bonanza from marijuana. "This is supposed to be some kind of
fantastic economic boon for governments," he said. "Really? I don't
think it's going to be. Nobody has done a serious business plan on
this thing yet. What actually are the revenue streams?" Strangely,
once he came around to China, this part of the argument turned
upside-down: speaking about opium, he warned that "(Chinese)
governments became utterly dependent on the taxes that fuelled the
human crisis and the addictions."

Far from criticizing the Chinese Communists, Orr seems to ... give
them significant credit for solving that problem? "The Chinese culture
was decimated by up to 10 million opium addicts," Orr attested, aiming
to demonstrate how the recreational use of a harmless little plant can
spiral right out of control, given a century or two. "It wasn't until
the 1950s," he said, "that China began to seriously eradicate the
opium trade, the opium business, the opium tax revenue, and all of
these wonderful things that are supposed to be generated from
recreational use of drugs.

"They actually got so serious about it, their whole society was so
broken down and debilitated by it, that it contributed to the Chinese
Cultural Revolution under the vendors will set the price too high to
compete with existing dealers. But it is not quite the point Orr chose
to make. He seems to be convinced that licensed growers cannot compete
with the black market at any price.

Why is it that criminals grow pot? Orr's answer is not "because
growing pot has, until now, been a crime." That would be too easy.
"Let's look at it from a business point of view," he suggests ...

"The black market doesn't have to pay taxes. They don't have to pay
(workers' compensation). In most cases they don't have to pay for any
capital expenditures on land or buildings. They don't have to buy
business licences. In many cases they don't pay for power ... Anybody
who tries to do this legally is going to have to pay all of these
expenses, and you think you can compete financially on that level with

This, of course, explains why, when we want furniture or shoes or
chicken, we all invariably buy them in back alleys from underground
businesses. But if Orr were to actually look around Alberta - even his
own part of Alberta - he would see that lawful businesses do have some

Legal growers can raise hundreds of millions of dollars in capital
markets not run by guys named Lefty or Snake. They can recruit
scientists, professional marketers, and horticultural experts without
having to hope Walter White shows up. They can exploit economies of
scale. They can buy or rent acres of land without having to hide from
helicopters. They can do business in broad daylight: they can rent

And meanwhile, it is not really as though illegal pot growers don't
have labour costs, or overhead, or capital and land requirements.
Underground businesses that don't pay "tax" still have to spend money,
often more money, on the basic protective services that taxes buy the
rest of us. Any economist could have told Mr. Orr as much. But I am
afraid he got his economics out of the same Cracker Jack box his
Chinese history came from.
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MAP posted-by: Matt