Rethinking Marijuana Prohibition

Commentary, Property Rights, Shaun Fantauzzo

After police chiefs across Canada last week passed a resolution to dedicate additional resources to officers pursuing individuals in possession of marijuana, I was left wondering one thing: Why do Canada’s police chiefs refuse to support the legalization of pot? The question may seem moot to some – policemen are expected to uphold the law and appearing soft on criminal justice is not an option. However, supporters of restrictive drug legislation blatantly confuse correlation for causation. For instance, many advocates of the ‘War on Drugs’ argue that potheads threaten not only themselves, but also society at large. But is this even remotely true?

For starters, police expenditures have risen steadily since the 1970s and currently exceed $2 billion annually, despite no real decline in the rate of addiction or drug-related crimes. Moreover, drug prohibition has needlessly resulted in the proliferation of a violent black market that places the lives of Canadians and those who protect us in danger. To be clear, prohibitive legislation increases the propensity for violence – not the other way around. It is thus more than obvious that the continued stigmatization of marijuana use must end and our laws must reflect scientific consensus, as opposed to ideology. Moreover, treating marijuana as a taxable commodity and dispelling antiquated myths about its use will generate numerous economic benefits, among them additional tax revenue and the transfer of wealth from dangerous cartels and gangs to productive entrepreneurs.

The social implications are even more terrifying. Over 600,000 Canadians have criminal records for ‘minor drug offences’ and in 2010 alone, marijuana-related offences accounted for 50% of drug-related police reports. This means that 600,000 Canadians are now struggling even more than the average Canadian to find employment, from entering another country, and from serving the public – despite the victimless nature of their crime.

Moreover, the continued persecution and incarceration of otherwise non-violent individuals is wrongfully subsidized by Canadian taxpayers. This is particularly upsetting, since the average daily cost of incarcerating an individual in federal prison is estimated to be roughly $350. Not to mention, persecuting individuals for possessing and consuming ‘harmful substances’ is a major breach of individual liberty.

Do the means really justify the ends? It’s clear that existing legislation has failed to alleviate drug-related crime and it’s time for the federal government to look toward alternative policy options if it wants to successfully reduce drug consumption and drug-related crime. Providing police officers with alternative means of persecuting and incarcerating potheads is not the right answer. Diverting resources away from real issues and criminalizing otherwise law-abiding and productive citizens is not the right answer.

The right answer is focusing our resources on persecuting real criminals, preventing violent crimes, and incarcerating harmful offenders. In the meantime, our nation’s potheads can continue to harmlessly expend their resources on munchies at local convenience stores while the federal government begins to reimburse taxpayers.