Thursday, October 8, 2015
The Case for Legalization of Freedom
Let me get this straight right off the bat, I am no fan of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and I will not be voting for him in this election. His government would increase spending & by necessity our taxes. They will erode our traditions & deemphasize the achievements of our history that occurred beyond the last 50 years. They will debase our culture under the guise of multi-culturalism and throw open our borders to anyone no matter the cost. They would promote a globalist agenda that is subservient to the United Nations at the expense of the interests of Canadians. So when I make the case for legalization of Marijuana it is not in support of Mr. Trudeau and his cynical ploy to woo the younger demographic to his big government Liberal cause. Phew!
I write this in the hope that our Prime Minister will once again return to his Libertarian roots and conclude that ending the Prohibition of drugs is the morally and economically correct thing to do. Mr. Harper has done a masterful job at keeping Canada united and prosperous. Ending prohibition is not a compelling issue that should lead to his defeat. The truth is, there isn't another party in the country that is closer to the goal of individual liberty than the Tories. (that has a chance of winning). I am promoting a process with stated goals that will evolve over time to enhance our freedom.
The case against legalization of marijuana was made recently by Ken Robertson, a former police chief and parent, in the Toronto Sun. The thrust of his argument was that legalization would lead to increased impaired driving accidents, an escalation in the addiction rate and the real concern about the health consequences of using marijuana. Mr. Robertson seemed to be advocating decriminalization as the correct course to take since it would emphasize treatment over the police arresting users for possession. He believed that this would free up badly needed police resources for more urgent duties. His most compelling argument however comes as parent who does not want his children to be seduced into using drugs. I strongly believe his heart is in the right place, but his prescription will not get him where he wants to go.
I start from the premise that “man must be free” to choose his destiny and by extension be responsible for the consequences of his actions. The law should support this concept by punishing activities that inflict provable damages against the life or property of others. Once a person reaches the age of reason they become an adult and have earned the right to be treated as such. Our legal tradition enshrines the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” necessitating the punishment of crimes committed, not restrictions on those who may, in the future, commit a crime. The paternalistic view that government is the guardian of our welfare is anathema to the historic evolution of common law.
The economic case for legalization is clear and undeniable. The free market decides how to meet the demand for goods by setting a price somewhere between what will provide a profit and what consumers are willing to pay. Any interference with these transactions will cause distortions that will result in costs imposed by Adam Smith’s invisible hand. If the supply is restricted the price of the product will by necessity rise. If the demand remains steady and the supply is outlawed then a black-market is created to meet the demand with the cost of circumventing the law built into the price. It is the prohibition of products that enables exorbitant profits that finance the viability of criminal organizations. The unintended consequence of government regulations lead directly to the correlation between the outlawing of products and the existence of organized crime.
For what appears to be mainly emotional reasons we have gone down a road that obliges the government to impose regulations upon us in the hope of re-engineering our behavior. The result has been an unmitigated disaster. Our best intentions have empowered a criminal class operating outside the constraints of the law. They profit by corrupting our politicians & law enforcement, unethically market to our young people, lure young men away from traditional responsible lives for the easy rewards of crime and violently defend their territory against all comers. Consider the fact that organized crime formerly controlled the distribution of alcohol with results that are well documented. Once alcohol was legalized, organized crime was forced to find new sources of revenue. The social ills caused by the abuse of alcohol are still with us, but the criminal element has been reduced to insignificance and the taxes collected help to mitigate the damage. Isn’t it time to start learning from our mistakes and stop enabling criminality?
Sometimes legal prohibition of products or services promotes the growth of vested interests that purport to exist for the greater good and enforcement of the law. Police budgets are inflated and defended by the need to fight the violent activities of organized crime. Social agencies fund-raise to help the addicted, abused mothers who were abandoned by criminal spouses. It is suspected that Intelligence Agencies around the world have funded black operations by facilitating illegal drug deals. These groups would be in favour of a status quo solution such as greater funding to fight the contrived menace. Little thought is given to undermining unlawful profits by making the criminals compete with the likes of Molsons or Seagrams. In fact many view this as simply a transfer of money from law enforcement to greedy corporations.
The health issue is a legitimate concern that should be addressed by scientific study and conclusions. The disease caused by abuse of alcohol and the smoking of cigarettes is well documented. One would have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the perils of these legally sold products. Cigarettes have been controlled, regulated, restricted and taxed to the point that there is now a profitable business case to be made by selling them illegally. So even here we are enabling the black-market. The solution of course is to treat people like the adults they are and let them decide their own destiny.
With products like Cannabis the danger is not yet fully understood. It has been claimed that smoking pot can lower one’s IQ, that it can lead to lung cancer or it can bring on deadly consequences if mixed with other drugs. It has also been called a gateway drug because its lower cost helps build a relationship with the drug salesman who can then up-sell the customer to something stronger. Studies that show the exact opposite have also been published. As with other little understood threats to humanity, opponents will invoke the “precautionary principle” which justifies a ban in their minds. Our legal tradition passed down from the Magna Carta tends to let the individual decide what risks they would like to assume.
The argument against legalization that resonates with most people is the fear of impaired drivers causing havoc and carnage on our roadways. With alcohol it is well known that most DUI accidents causing death involve a chronic drunk with multiple offenses who is vastly over the legal limit. The answer is tougher punitive sentences for those who kill on our roadways. The lowering of the legal limit from .08 to .05 BAL is sadly a PR tactic to inflate the argument for more regulation. It does not address the problem. With Cannabis the same logic must be used. Those who kill while driving under the influence of any substance should punished and taken off the road with the full force of the law. Will legalization increase the number of impaired or drugged driving offenses? In Colorado we have a precedent, according to official state statistics the number of drugged drivers involved in fatal crashes has remained constant or declined over the past 10 years.
The moral foundations of our legal tradition, where “arbitrary measures” by government should be vigorously opposed in order to protect our cherished freedom, are the basis in law for legalization. The invisible hand of the market where regulations distort the commercial viability of supply and demand offer a strong economic case in favour of legalization. The corruption and violence caused by empowering organized crime support legalization. The freedom to study long term health effects demands legalization. The decisions we make while operating a motor vehicle remain the same and the responsibility remains the same.I have not come in contact with pot since high school many years ago. My concern is not to make pot more accessible to young people – it already is. The control of marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol would reduce the profits of crime, add revenue to government coffers, promote legal business, reduce police budgets and end the incarceration of people for possessing a weed. The solution is freedom.