Time to decriminalize

By Charles Ghorayeb on March 12, 2012


The ever vigilant forces of law and order (mostly the Surete du Quebec) seized 1.7 billion dollars in illegal drugs in 2011. Some of these drugs were seized from shipping containers “randomly” selected by Customs for inspection at the Port of Montreal or at one of the rail yards, others in police raids against organized crime operations and a few on the street.  At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a bad year’s work.  Upon further scrutiny however, the numbers are far from convincing.  Coming in a proud and perennial First Place Winner by a comfortable 10 to one margin, weighing in at a staggering $1.3 BILLION (76%), was marijuana; hashish was a comfortable second at $122 million.  All other drugs combined added up therefore to less than $400 million. 

There is no evidence to suggest that making these drugs illegal has slowed their flow into the country in the past 50 years.  Quite to contrary, police believe it has accelerated.  Less than 2% of all containers entering Canada are inspected.  Since the searches are not quite “random” –country of origin, informant tips, targeted importers are major factors in determining which containers will be searched- it is fair to assume that approximately 10% of the drugs entering the country are therefore seized.  This is a mere minor inconvenience, a cost of doing business, to the importers who simply build it into their enormous profit margins. 

The logical extension of that argument therefore, is that $14 BILLION of marijuana and hashish enter the country each year.  The cost of searching and policing these operations in Quebec exceeded $450 million in 2011.  If we legalized those two drugs and kept that same budget in place to stem the flow of all other drugs into La Belle Province, it logically follows that we would stop a higher percentage of shipments and put a larger dent in the traffickers’ wallets, rendering those drugs even more expensive and therefore lowering their use by the general public.   

It is generally accepted that the markup on marijuana and hashish between its importation stage and the time it hits the streets is roughly 500%.  If those two drugs had entered the country legally, the GST alone would amount to $700 million.  The gross profit involved by selling those drugs through the SAQ or a similar style government operation would be a staggering $11 BILLION.  This money could funnel into our health care system, our roads, our education system, and in all three cases inject a healthy overdose of much needed funds where our society most needs them. 

Opponents will bring up the issue of morality.  Do we really prefer, on “moral grounds”, to put all this money in the hands of organized crime?  Do we really prefer to know that users are being sold low-grade diluted drugs, which are more likely to harm them?  Do we really believe that marijuana and hashish are in fact more harmful than cigarettes or alcohol?  Do we really want all those shady characters lured by the appeal of a quick buck to hang around our schools pushing their product to our kids?  All studies, both theoretical and practical, empirically prove that consumption actually drops marginally when these drugs are legalized and age-restricted.  The allure of the forbidden fruit is eliminated and the elusive high is demystified.   

Organized crime would suffer a major if not mortal blow, and the period of reorganization which it would then be forced to endure as it realigns its illegal activities to recover from the loss of such an income, would leave it all the more vulnerable to a potentially fatal offensive by the now wealthier forces of law and order. 

I am normally the last person on earth to call for more Government controls, but some things just make sense.  Ottawa is busy and urgently promoting other opiates such as professional sports and institutionalized religion to the masses.  I think maybe  the time is right to urge them to consider one that we can actually all benefit from as a society:  Legal Cannabis.  Now, where the hell is my shisha?! 



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