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The Marijuana Fiasco

November 22, 2018

The legalization of marijuana in Canada is a striking illustration of the fumbling, bumbling, stumbling incompetence of governments that try to tackle sales and marketing. We're only the second country in the world to do this and our experience should be a beacon advising others how not to proceed.

I'm not questioning whether marijuana should have been legalized. That's for another discussion. My contempt here is at how it was done.

Marijuana advocates compare the situation now with what existed in the bad old days when toking up was a route to a criminal record. But don't compare a (now) legal product to a (former) illegal one. Compare it to another legal product. Like, say, apples.

Under the new legislation, I cannot buy more than thirty grams of pot, nor can I have more than that on me. Apples? I can buy as many as I want and no cop will ticket me for exceeding my limit. It's illegal to eat or drink marijuana products. Apples? Pass the applesauce. Today in BC, we have one—that's one—store that sells pot legally. Apples? I can't count that high. Across the country, many similar stores and even online sellers ran out. Apples? Uh-uh. In fact, this has to be the first time in the history of recreational drugs that an entire pusher organization has had to say, "Sorry, sold out."

How should it have been handled? One of our legal principles is that what isn't banned is allowed. Marijuana is illegal because somewhere in prohibitive legislation, the word "marijuana" appears (along with synonyms, but that's a minor complexity). Legalizing the stuff is as simple as replacing that word with . . . nothing. Search and replace can do that. Yes, the changes must pass Parliament, but since the government has a majority, that's a technicality. There's nothing here that warrants three years of negotiations.

But, I hear the objection, how will the stuff be sold? Well, there is already a network of stores. Yes, they're illegal, but once the search and replace thing has been done, that's no longer the case. But what about the supply chain? Where does the pot come from? I figure it would continue to come from the same place it does now. An entire sales and distribution system is already in place. There's no need to build a new one, especially one that doesn't work.

But, I hear the objection, who will pay for the increased policing? Increased policing? For something that's now legal?

But, I hear the objection, we need policing because we don't want people driving stoned. Of course not. But, as anyone who's blown over 0.08 can attest, that's a matter of motor vehicle legislation, not product legality. Yes, the cops can't tell if someone is stoned, but that's technology, not law. As for increased policing, just start testing drivers for pot in the same roadblocks we're now using for booze.

But, I hear the objection, how will tax revenues be distributed. I doubt anyone outside the bureaucracy cares, but let's let the feds take the GST and the provinces the PST as they do now for everything else. Do governments want more? Of course they do, but levying taxes is not alien territory to them.

But, I hear the objection, some municipalities don't want pot stores. Gee, has no municipality ever used business licences to block businesses they don't want?

But, I hear the objection, cities and provinces need time to put their policies in place. Okay, then make the changes to the legislation prospective for, say, six months. After that, it's done.

That would be the responsible way to legalize marijuana. So why didn't the government do it? See the preceding sentence.