If legalization works,
how about nationalization?
Legalizing cannabis has reduced the violence associated with illegal pot production, distribution and sales – according to researchers in Norway and the USA (Economics Journal, July 19, 2019). It may be early for Canadians to draw such optimistic conclusions, but this study looked at the legalization of medical marijuana, which has been in effect in many places since the late ‘90s. California legalized medical use back in 1996. We can be forgiven our optimism if we project these benefits into recreational uses – a more massive market than for the medical herb.
What the researchers found was a sharp drop in general crime rates nearest the cartel-dominated pot markets in US states along the border with Mexico. From break-and-enters to homicides, all connected by police to the illicit trade, crime declined. Homicides dropped almost in half, 41%. As the distance from the border grows, this effect declined.
It will be most interesting to note anything similar in Canada, with much of the industry now legal and regulated. While Canadian cannabis had been supplied by criminal elements, we never reached the violence of the cartel-dominated market; Canada was supplied in a big way, depending on the area, by the private enterprise of many small producers.
This connection to organized crime might raise our suspicions of Quebec’s motivation in banning all home growing. Who, we wonder, is being protected – the young, nearby non-consumers, or Quebec’s notorious gangs? This suspicion alone ought to cause our government to re-examine its home-growing ban. There are many ways to protect the young, other than the outright ban which benefits organized crime. Why would the CAQ willingly assist them?
And as more US states join Colorado, California, and Washington in the Canadian approach, will the cartels and their gigantic networks just roll over and die? Unlikely. Therefore, there’s a need to continue studies such as these, as the situation evolves. Canada is one leader in legal production, and creating this technology will give Canadian companies a leg-up, as much of the world moves towards legalization. And American money is already flowing into the Canadian pioneers. We may be repeating our sorry experience with oil: Canada has the goods, but non-national investors bought the keys to the door (and the massive profits). In other words, is Canada again not following nations such as Norway, which used their oil resources and expertise to bring massive funding into the public purse? Will we, good hewers of wood, turn the cannabis keys over again to corporations with head offices elsewhere? By “keys”, we understand “future national profits”.
That raises an interesting speculation: while the government fulfilled its promise of legalization, did it fulfill any mandate to maximize benefits for Canada, say the funding of our entire health system? Wouldn’t that require nationalizing the industry? Or are we again watching the horses as they bolt out the stable door?