Thursday, November 15, 2012

Marijuana Legalization: High Time

A call to legalize marijuana will be met with some predictable responses. This is how you can rebut them.

The US will Never Let it happen

Yes Canadians understand some Americans would not be pleased about legalization. As such, Harper's musings about legalizing marijuana causing trouble at the border seem reasonable enough. The problem is this does not make marijuana prohibition any more legitimate in the eyes of the Canadian people. Support for legalization has been above 50% since 2004 and a recent poll in BC put it at 75% there. In BC in the last year 4 attorney generals, a large chunk of the medical establishment, a former police chief, the current mayor of Vancouver and 3 former Vancouver mayors came out in favor of legalization. Support for prohibition has all but collapsed in this province. Whether you think the marijuana issue an important one is somewhat beside the point. We as a society should not pass laws or keep others in place simply to placate foreign governments. We as a society should not be enforcing laws that no one believes in. This goes especially for laws that would result in Canadians languishing in jail. Any perception that Canada is enforcing laws to meet the illegitimate demands of a bullying third party, whoever that may be, is simply poisonous to the health of a functioning democracy.

All that being said, it was one thing for opponents of legalization to employ the let us not piss off the Yanks argument in 2004; it is quite another for them to dust this argument off now and act as if nothing has changed Stateside. Colorado and Washington State just voted to legalize marijuana. This changes everything. Indeed, it is hard to fathom Obama going to war with Colorado and Washington State over the marijuana legalization yet alone large portion of the Democratic base. Moreover, this is an issue that is clearly started to tip not only in Canada but also Stateside.

Obama's ability to push back is limited for other reasons as well. He freely admits to having marijuana in the past ("I inhaled frequently. That was the point") and his marijuana use is not a part of some redemption narrative, a la George Bush. It was a path he choice not to continue going down. Drug use was never presented as a demon he had to overcome yet alone one he still struggles with the way an alcoholic does with drink. This would leave him open to the charge of hypocrisy. Far more importantly though, the war and drugs, especially with regard to marijuana, has had a profound impact on the African American community in the States. If Obama was to toe the standard line, he would be in a world of hurt politically. The African American community would not, of course, abandon him, but they would be unhappy and their unhappiness would have the potential to throw his whole second term out of whack politically. His whole message of being a force for change would be called into question.

Finally, least we forget it was Obama that set help set the wheels of legalization in motion in the first place by declaring that he would not crack down on medical marijuana back in 2009. For you see, unlike in Canada, in California, for example, one does not have to be afflicted with a particular aliment to be eligible for medical marijuana. A doctor can proscribe marijuana for whatever they see fit. Needless to say, such a system is ripe for abuse and the Bush administration was right to see medical marijuana program as a potential Trojan horse. But Obama let the wooden horse to be wheeled into California and other States anyway. In so doing, Obama has allowed the medical marijuana industry in California and elsewhere to grow to the point there is no saving prohibition from Odysseus. There are more "medical" marijuana dispensaries in LA than Starbucks. It is not a question of if marijuana will be legalized in the US it is matter of when. Canada had best start preparing.

Talking points:

1) It is not matter of if the US will legalize marijuana, it is matter of when. Furthermore, this is likely going to happen sooner rather than later and Canada had start preparing.

2) We do pass laws or keep others in place in order placate foreign governments. This goes especially for laws that would result in Canadians languishing in jail.

Potent Pot

Potent pot is more myth than reality.

However, even if one assumes that potent pot is a reality it is certainly nothing to be concerned about. Indeed, saying that potent pot is reason for keeping marijuana illegal is akin to saying that alcohol should be banned because gin has higher alcohol content than beer. It makes no sense. The pharmacological affects of consuming 1 "chemically supercharged" joint, as various US attorneys like to say, versus x number of "dad's joints" would be no different if the amount of THC consumed is the same. As for consumption, just as people do not drink the same volume of gin as beer, the higher the THC level in pot the less people consume. Hence, ironically more potent pot may be a welcome development. After all, one of the most prominent health effect related to marijuana, if not the most, is that it is usually smoked. The more potent the pot, the less people have to smoke to achieve the same high. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School concurs, so does Mitch Earleywine of the University of Southern California and so does UCLA's Mark Kleiman.

That said, if potency is the concern, then it should be legalized. After all, the only way to regulate the potency of pot is to legalize it.

Finally, the attempt to scare parents that have grown up on marijuana by distinguishing between potent pot and “your dad's marijuana” is too clever by half. It begs the following question. If today's marijuana is truly different in kind from "dads marijuana", would it be okay to legalize "dad's marijuana", i.e., low potency pot?

Talking Points

1) Saying that potent pot is reason for keeping marijuana illegal is akin to saying that alcohol should be banned because gin has higher alcohol content than beer. It makes no sense.

2) If today's marijuana is truly different in kind from "dads marijuana", would it be okay to legalize "dad's marijuana", i.e., low potency pot?

Gateway Drug

Researchers have rightly noted that people who have try marijuana are statistically more likely try other illicit drugs. This gave raise to the theory that there was something about marijuana that encouraged drug experimentation. Marijuana, it was alleged, is a gateway drug. This, in turn, was given as one more reason to keep the drug illegal. However, the gateway drug theory has until recently fallen on hard times for lack of an intelligible mechanism. The problem was that there was no coherent explanation for why marijuana would lead people to experiment with other drugs. Without this explanation doubt was cast relationship being more than mere correlation. That said, in recent years researchers have breathed new life into the theory, albeit with a sociological twist. According to the new version, it is not marijuana's pharmacological properties that serve as a gateway, but rather marijuana's illegal status. Specifically in the process of illegally procuring marijuana, users are introduced to the criminal elements with access to other illicit drugs and hence it is the forged black market relationship between dealer and buyer that serves as gateway.

In this context it should be noted that when the Dutch partially legalized the sale of marijuana, heroin and cocaine use went down despite an initial increase in marijuana use. Dutch use of hard drugs remains well below the European average.

Talking Point

Every time someone goes to buy marijuana they come into contact with criminal elements with access to other hard drugs. This is your gateway. When Holland decriminalized consumption and made it available in coffee shops, heroin and cocaine use went down.

Schizophrenia and Marijuana

Epidemiological studies have consistently failed to show any kind of positive correlation between marijuana use and schizophrenia. Despite a massive increase in the number of Australians consuming the drug since the 1960s, Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland found no increase in the number of cases of schizophrenia in Australia. Mitch Earleywine of the University of Southern California similarly found the same with regard to the US population and Oxford's Leslie Iversen found the same regard to the population in the UK. According to Columbia's Alan Brown, "If anything, the studies seem to show a possible decline in schizophrenia from the '40s and the ‘ 50,"

Talking Point

There has been an astronomical increase in the number of pot smokers since the 1950s and no increase in the rate of schizophrenia whatsoever.

The gangs will simply move on to other drugs

The market for marijuana positively dwarfs the market for all other drugs combined and marijuana is far and away gangs' biggest money maker. The notion that the gangs would simply shift focus and thereby maintain the same levels of profitability is absurd. Comparable demand for other kinds of drugs is simply not there. Moreover, such an argument rests upon a mistaken assumption. Namely, it assumes that the sure size and scope of the marijuana industry is limiting the distribution of other kinds of drugs. The reverse is true. Marijuana profits and sometimes even marijuana itself are providing the seed capital the gangs need to diversify operations (e.g., cocaine, heroin, human trafficking and guns) and to expand those other operations. This is one of the main reasons why we need to nip this in the bud.

Talking Point

It is not like the gangs have access to capital markets. Marijuana profits and sometimes even marijuana itself are providing the seed capital the gangs need to diversify operations (e.g., cocaine, heroin, human trafficking and guns) and to expand those other operations. This is one of the main reasons why we need to nip this, pardon the pun, in the bud.

The Black Market will live on

It is one thing to illegally sell a legally produced product and make a profit, e.g., black market cigarettes. It is quite another thing to illegally produce and sell a product (e.g., moonshine) in market where there is legal competitors. The reason is simple. The illegality of the product means that your production and distribution costs are significantly higher. Also demand for your product is always going to be less. People want to know what they buying and consuming. So when given the choice of buying an illegally produced product versus a legally produced product they are going to go with the later. (There is one notable exception and that is when an illegally produced product is successfully passed off as a legal one, e.g., fake brand name goods). That is why no matter how much Canadians drank during the time of American prohibition, I am sure that it never crossed the RCMP’s mind that American moonshine might become a competitor of Molson’s.

Talking point

Molson executives do not worry about moonshine eating into market share. Demand for illegal products is not what it is for legal ones.


Tyler Paquette said...

I am touching base with you in order to try and coordinate an interview with you for your blog in the near future. David Bertschi wants to engage the grassroots of the party in order to rebuild the Liberal party of Canada from the bottom up and, in this modern age, he recognizes the important role the online community plays in this process.

Please let me know what day is best to schedule an interview and we can coordinate accordingly. We can easily arrange a phone interview, interview through email or even try to schedule a face to face interview.

Tyler Paquette
tylerp [at]

Koby said...

1) Canada lags behind behind virtually every other Western nation in terms of the number vacation days its citizens are guaranteed. Is it time that Canada bridge the vacation gap?

EU minimum is 4 weeks
Switzerland 4 weeks
New Zealand 4 weeks
Norway 5 weeks

2) Should Canada legalize some form of euthanasia?

3) Do you support the Legalization of marijuana?

4) Would you scarp the F-35 contract ?

5) Would you scrap the temporary foreign worker program?

6) Every election there are a slew of grassroots efforts to get young people to vote in greater numbers. All have been miserable failures.

Getting young people to the polls is vital for the future health of Canadian democracy. Many Canadians in their 20s will move into their 30s never having voted and it remains to be seen just how many will start voting.

Do you support mandatory voting as the solution to this problem?

7) This is two part question. 1) Do you support reinstating the per vote subsidy? 2) If so, will you promise to help pay for such a subsidy by no longer making contributions to political parties tax deductible?

8) Will you end the charitable status for overtly political organizations such as the Fraser institute and Manning Center?

9) How much your vote counts for depends whether you reside near or in a major urban center. For example there are 228,997 in Oak Ridge Markham and mere 55,977 In Kenora. There are 26, 728 In Labrador and 100, 559 in St. John's East. Would you support a measure calling for there to be equal representation within provinces?

10) Consider the following argument for the gun registry;

The number of legal gun owners in Canada, is huge (1.85 million) and with any large population certain very accurate predictions can be made about their future behavior. One thing we can know for sure is that a small percentage of "law-abiding duck hunters and farmers" will be convicted of a crime sometime in the future and that a small percentage will develop a mental disorder that will render them unsuitable for gun ownership at least for period of time. Now, even though this number is small in percentage terms, in absolute terms the numbers are quite large, in the 10s of thousands. Enter the gun registry. It made it easier for authorities to seize the guns of people who should no longer have them. Why? Because the onus is on the gun owner in question to produce any registered weapons. If the police do not have proof that someone owns any unrestricted guns, how can they demand that he produce them?

Do you find fault with this argument?

10) What was the first car you owned?

11) What was the last two movies you saw?

Cheers, Koby

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