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A new approach is needed to fight violence and gangsterism

By Hempology | November 13, 2007

Vancouver Sun, BC
12 Nov 2007
Ian Mulgrew


Policy of Prohibition Only Helps Organized Crime Pocket the Profits From a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

Simon Fraser University economist Stephen Easton said it best — marijuana is the low-hanging fruit for organized crime.

The rise of gangs in this province is due primarily to the immense profits to be had from B.C.  bud.

It is another reason the war on drugs should be abandoned as a failure.

The growth of the massive provincial marijuana industry is a study in market dynamics and real-life supply and demand economics.

It had distinct phases, from the initial rich kids who arrived with a couple of keys, to the days of trans-oceanic smuggling operations involving tons of dope, to today’s mature home-grown industry.

The rise of the gangs has accompanied and been driven by the revolution in indoor-growing technology accompanied by the development of marijuana-specific breeding and nutrient regimes.

Today, with a little knowledge, a small investment and a bit of nerve, anyone can get into the marijuana game.

The more money we have poured into criminal law-enforcement, the more the pot business has flourished, and the more the violence that accompanies its black market has proliferated.

The profitability of pot ensures that even if we catch more and more people, there’s always a lineup of eager new recruits.

Look at the thriving above-ground marijuana-driven economy — the plethora of local hydroponic supply stores, nutrient suppliers, head shops, smoking lounges, tea-rooms, seed companies and bong emporiums.  If the numbers Easton has generated in his research into the subterranean market are correct, pot rivals forestry as our most valuable agricultural product.

After more than a quarter century of the U.S.-led jihad against dope, it’s easier for our children to score a dime bag than a pack of smokes.  That’s wrong.

Pot is a multi-billion-dollar industry and organized crime is its biggest beneficiary.

Cannabis in my view is a primary reason we are plagued by gangs.  Cocaine and other illegal drugs play a role, but pot generates much, much more money.  It is indeed the low-hanging fruit plucked by everyone regardless of ethnic heritage.

And there are many, many, many more marijuana consumers compared with users of other illicit substances, which tend to be niche markets.

The widespread illicit activity associated with cannabis production and the bucketloads of cash that come with it have created the environment for the current gang war in the Lower Mainland.  The cash flow from pot pays for flashy cars, nightclub romps, retina-slamming wardrobes, guns, attitude…  The number of people involved in the cannabis industry is regularly pegged at upwards of 150,000, making marijuana one of the province’s biggest employers.

I believe it’s obvious the criminal prohibition isn’t working.

A new approach is needed and I think we should legalize marijuana as one element in our fight against violence and gangsterism.

There are many benefits of adopting a new regulatory model instead of using the Criminal Code to deal with cannabis.

Legalization would allow us to better control access to pot ( the liquor store checks ID; the corner dealer doesn’t ) and do a better job of keeping it out of the hands of our children.

We could offer more effective anti-drug education in our schools by abandoning myth-driven programs that demonize cannabis.

We could better address health concerns about recreational use without threatening smokers with criminal prosecution and incarceration.

We could redirect the enormous legal and law-enforcement resources now aimed at pot towards true social evils such as people-trafficking, robbery, violence…

Legalization also would seriously injure organized crime.

It would throw many of those involved in the underground economy out of work.

No one would grow pot in their basement or attic if it were regulated in the same fashion as tobacco or alcohol.  So say goodbye to grow-rips and the dangers posed to neighbourhoods by the current guerrilla gardeners.

Similarly, no one will be down on the corner if nearby there’s a liquor-store equivalent offering various cannabis products to adults as if they were locally produced wines.

As Senator Larry Campbell has been saying for years now, taxes from legalized pot could be directed to health, education and law enforcement.

Let’s stop giving the money to thugs.

Legalization will not eliminate criminal gangs.

They have their fingers in many pies — extortion, kidnapping, fraud, armed robbery…  But legalization will staunch the most lucrative income stream fuelling organized crime and the gangsta lifestyle.

The end of the alcohol Prohibition sapped the strength of North American organized crime until after the Second World War.

Legalizing marijuana would have a similar effect — and go a long way toward eliminating our present problems.

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