Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The NDP are just flat wrong on decriminalization

Do you want organized crime ? Because that's how you get organized crime...

I don’t necessarily think that the Liberal move to legalize and regulate marijuana will go well. With that said, I do think it will go a lot better than any move to decriminalize marijuana. Unlike most ambiguous questions around the legalization of soft drugs, there is some evidence to attest to decriminalization’s poor record. I am of course talking about the world’s foremost marijuana mecca, Amsterdam. 

To give a brief positive view, the Dutch policies have done a lot to reduce drug use among addicts, reduce soft drug use by youth, and have proved true a lot of the other harm reduction principles purported by supporters of both legalization and decriminalization. That’s about where the good ends. Turning Amsterdam into the number one destination for global stoners and European stag parties is a move that surprisingly is not appreciated by the majority of residents. After all Amsterdam is home to the Van Gogh museum, the Anne Frank house, and countless other austere cultural landmarks - but that’s not what most people think of. This is …
Image result for dutch coffee shop
(A very subtle fan of Dutch Cannabis)

I can see why this rather dim view of a diverse cultural region might annoy some. I grew up in Nova Scotia after all and we have a similar situation.
(A Proud piece of N.S. Culture)
So the tourism benefits are at best a mixed bag, and would probably annoy the crap out of anyone who was a resident of the area effected. 

Now we get to the straight up bad. The Dutch laws when they were written in 1976 attempted to decriminalize personal soft drug use, while keeping traffickers out of the equation. Through a variety of loopholes, and eventual tolerance through public support, the coffee shop evolved out of these polices. Now this is where stuff gets really weird. The laws strictly forbid large-scale production. People are only allowed to buy 5g at a time, and can technically only carry 5g. Coffee shops themselves are only allowed to keep a stock of 500g of product. Now if we ignore the fact that anyone transporting the 500g a coffee shop needs is already breaking the law, how do the shops restock, because 500g of product at 5g a sale will last 100 transactions. I can tell you from experience that most shops serve far  more than 100 customers a day.  What am i hinting at here? Well because the laws are only designed to protect the individual and don’t really facilitate large scale production and sale, there is an awful lot of cannabis production that occurs on the grey market. This is produced in mostly unregulated illegal ways, then put into legitimate businesses that plead the 5th on where they got it and continue to sell it unabated. Here’s a quote from the website of one of Amsterdam’s premier seed producers:

So if I didn’t explain it well enough, there it is from the horses mouth. Having a system where personal possession is decriminalized means people will demand somewhere to buy and consume the product they are personally entitled to use. 

This is what has been happening on the West coast, where simple possession has been de-facto decriminalized with various municipalities refusing to prosecute personal amounts. Coffee shops have quickly flooded in, and medical retailers are offering Skype sessions with a nurse where you can get a medical card in about three hours.  Since Canada’s dedicated medical suppliers can’t possibly be filling the west coast demand this means that there is very likely a lot of grey market growing going on. Vancouver and Toronto have begun to crack down and regulate this budding industry (Victoria has as well to a lesser extent), but the flood gate have opened and people are unwilling to comply. In the case of Amsterdam it took a while for the grey market to evolve, it was after all 1976 that their laws were changed,and ideas took a little longer to spread then. However, today  the Dutch marijuana business is by best estimates selling 265,000 kg of marijuana and its byproducts with an annual gross revenue of about $3.2 billion USD. Not only that but they are able to pass on all the experience they gained building up this hidden industry to anyone who has an internet connection. 

This is why the NDP is flat out wrong on its suggestion that the Liberals should decriminalize marijuana ahead of next March’s announced release of marijuana legislation. This will lead to a possible last hold for organized crime groups, and may give them the fuel they need to legitimize their businesses when full legalization comes. If it’s anything like Amsterdam it will also lead to a massive spike in production of hard drugs by these organized crimes groups, looking to diversify their interests. This is exactly the thing that the move to full legalization is trying to combat. 

Uruguay, a country who interestingly never actually  criminalized marijuana, tried to shut out drug producers by regulating government pot shops, that set the price at half of the black market average. This move undercut the black market so much that many experts speculate illegal cannabis production has all but ceased in the country. All thanks to the market, not heavy handed enforcement. 

Whats the summation here? Back off NDP, unless you want to help create the next great crime syndicate, the Liberals actually seem to be navigating this as best they can. Let’s not turn Canada into one big Amsterdam.

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