Thursday 16 February 2012

How to Fight the Deficit

No single measure will bring down the enormous Canadian deficit, but that does not mean that dramatic slices are impossible. One such measure can be stated in two words: legalize marijuana. This is not equivalent to decriminalization: far from it. Legalization means precisely that: make the cultivation, distribution and retailing of marijuana entirely legal, and subject to all the forms of taxation that apply to other forms of legitimate income.
By its very nature, the size of the market is difficult to calculate, and estimates vary widely depending upon whom you ask. According to the CBC, the market in British Columbia alone is $19-21 billion a year -- placing it ahead of the BC lumber market. Unfortunately, such numbers examine only half of the equation. In my opinion, two important factors are overlooked: the cost of all the police and their surveillance equipment, overtime hours, etc.; and the cost of incarcerating those caught in the act. The RCMP and other police forces are reluctant to admit these costs, but we can rest assured they are substantial.
In addition, there is a third immense cost, and this one is extremely difficult to measure: the profits gained in the trade almost invariably go into financing other forms of illegal activity, from prostitution to cocaine trafficking to gun trafficking. Marijuana grown in BC is considered the finest in the world, and is frequently smuggled into the USA and there traded for cocaine, guns or both. Apparently this form of bartering is more common than sales for cash.
Finally, a substantial amount of these drug profits are moved off-shore, to banks in the Caribbean Caribbean and Switzerland and China among other places beyond the reach of Canadian law.
All this is obvious -- so obvious, in fact, that that about the only sound reason for maintaining the status quo is self-interest. It is clearly in the interests of the traffickers to keep marijuana illegal. And about the only explanation for legislators to preserve the status quo is because they are getting a piece of the action, whether directly or via campaign contributions. Perhaps they would prefer to be considered idiots.

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