Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rebutting bad arguments against ending prohibition.


Recently Monte Solberg wrote this article arguing against an end to marijuana prohibition. I strongly disagree with his arguments and would like to offer my counter points.

His first argument is that, if Marijuana were legalized, people would grow it themselves to avoid taxes. I think this is simply untrue, a quick look at other heavily taxed substances shows as much. Alcohol is heavily taxed, and brewing your own beer is inexpensive, but time consuming. I myself have brewed some, and while I enjoyed it, I stopped, and went back to purchasing the over taxed products offered by the government monopolies. Why? Convenience.

Certainly people could plant marijuana plants in their backyard and wait months for them to mature, and weeks for them to dry before smoking their marijuana, and some will, but they will be a small minority, just as those who currently brew their own beer are. We live in a society that values instant gratification, and convenience, and the ability to purchase marijuana ready to smoke will far outweigh the additional costs imposed by taxation for the vast majority of users.

Next he argues that home grown marijuana will be more available to youths. Mr. Solberg offers no evidence to back this up, and I can see no reason to suspect it would. The difference between Mom buying a joint at the store or growing a plant in the backyard is unlikely to affect youth access unless the youths in question are in the habit of raiding the garden and drying the plants themselves.

He argues that it will be more difficult to test people for impaired driving, but driving impaired is already an offense, and people already drive under the influence of marijuana. If police wish to keep impaired drivers off our streets, they must develop reliable tests for impairment with all substances, legal or illegal.

His final point is one that is often repeated in this country, everyone from former Tory cabinet ministers to Grit strategist Warren Kinsella has made the argument that we can't legalize marijuana or we will jeopardize trade with the United States. The attitude in those United States is changing though; already two of them have outright legalized marijuana for recreational use, including Washington, a border state. The US has not put up checkpoints at the edges of those states, (partially because such a thing would be immensely unconstitutional.) but even if they did, would foreign pressure from without be sufficient reason to leave in place domestic policies that are causing harm to our own citizens?

I for one, think not. Ending prohibition is important, and I commend Justin Trudeau for taking a stance in favour of legalization.

Mr. Solberg's further criticisms of Mr. Trudeau strike me as much more accurate. He does not often speak on policy, he refuses to engage in substantive debate about the details of policy, and he prefers to deal in buzzwords and feelings rather than solutions and specifics. These are the problems we've had with him since day one, and he deserves to be confronted on them.

But his marijuana policy is relatively sound, certainly more so than that of the Conservatives or NDP, who are content to leave a terrible system in place because the status quo seems safe and comfortable to them.

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