27 October 2006

R v Krieger and the Legalization of Marijuana

The Supreme Court released its decision in R v Krieger yesterday, overturning the pot activist's conviction and sending him back to trial. Good stuff. Sometimes it takes bold jurors to demand we sit up and recognize which way the wind is blowing - and no matter how many politicians talk about decriminalization and how many polls show we largely support it, judges simply can't do that, and jurors can. I hope he obtains the same result in his fresh trial, except this time putting an end to it.

Of course a lot of people see it as a stroke for decriminalization, which it is, although that has nothing to do with the Court's decision. But forget decriminalization. We should legalize it.

Decriminalization will simply not provide us with most of the benefits that are hoped to come from it. It will not eliminate enforcement, and may actually increase it (speeding ticket styles). It will not create any tax revenues. It would not even protect people like Krieger, whose activities are well beyond the scope of any proposed decriminalization regime. Growing or moving any serious amount would still be illegal, and still be done by suckers like Krieger or the Hell's Angels.

Legalization, on the other hand, will genuinely eliminate that aspect of distribution, and will of course provide the opportunity to tax both consumption and profits in production. Canada already has an international reputation for quality in this product and in a globalized economy it makes sense for us to leverage that competitive advantage.

But I also really see legalization as a way to undermine and attack the distribution and use of more dangerous drugs. I think the 'gateway drug' argument is crap when it comes to users, but it holds some water for dealers. For users, the amazing availability of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and a host of abusable OTCs make the idea of a criminal gateway drug ludicrous. The correlation exists of course, but because those who say 'no' to pot are probably the kind of people who say 'no' to meth and coke too. It's not like every non-smoker is a heroin addict just waiting to take that first step down the road to hell.

Dealers, on the other hand, do need a gateway. They start off small time, and work their way up. So remove small time, and their industry becomes a very difficult one. The supply of losers at the bottom of the pyramid, who are required to keep the tournament winners at the top rich, dries up. The pot smokers pick up legally, and find that they don't really have any connections for when they want something else - they no longer know a guy who knows a guy. So in terms of the labour market in dealers, the connections between the distribution channel and consumers, the average risk and the overall profitability of the enterprise, legalization of marijuana would really hurt the Angels, and really profit users and the government.

But everyone wins when the Angels lose. So lets stop talking about it, and do something. And when we do something, let's do it right instead of trying to appease people still living in the reefer madness of the 50's, and fully legalize and regulate marijuana like tobacco.


Blogger Penny said...

Good for you, Gavin!!

As usual I agree with you 100%.

October 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What ever happened to this case in re-trial? When was it tried and what was its outcome?

March 29, 2008  

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