Legalized Marijuana Is Long Overdue


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The costly effort to control it has been lost. Let's tax it, sell it at legal outlets and reinvest the cash

British Columbia is fast becoming the only province in Canada where the biggest industry is illegal.

In 2005, forestry ($10 million) was B.C.'s top economic driver and construction ($7.9 billion) ranked second. But what was this, coming up fast on the inside to move into third place? The marijuana industry. Puff, puff.

With annual sales of $7.5 billion, it was worth more than the combined total of hotels and restaurants ($3.8 billion) and mining, oil and gas ($3.5 billion). Construction is booming as never before in B.C., but that won't stop the pot trade from steaming into second spot. After that, forestry industry, watch your behind.

"The amount of marijuana produced each year in British Columbia," said a 2005 study by the University College of Fraser Valley, "is estimated to have increased from 19,729 kilos in 1997 to 79,817 in 2003."

Is this a growth industry or what?

Like the best above board businesses, the marijuana racket constantly improves its equipment and distribution. It invests in sophisticated technology and achieves more and more economies of scale. Between 1997 and 2003, the average amount of harvested marijuana B.C. police got per seizure shot from 2.4 to 7.2 kilos.

As far back as 2000, reported Stephen Easton, an economics professor at Simon Fraser University, the province already had roughly 17,500 "grow-ops." Since then, heaven only knows how many more have taken over recreation rooms, garages, and whole houses in which the window curtains and blinds are forever drawn.

Some say Beautiful British Columbia is the happy home of 100,000 marijuana growers and police claim that so many tens of thousands have set up grow-ops -- to supplement wages and pay off mortgages -- that the business has become nothing less than an epidemic.

Far more lucrative than tending roses, watching birds, running tabletop railroads or building tree houses, growing and selling marijuana is the hobby of choice for youngish couples throughout much of the province.

"They're just regular, entrepreneurial Joes and Janes with good jobs, eager to supplement their income to make a decent living," BCBusiness reports. "Most of their operations consist of just two or three lights and a handful of plants, which don't suck enough electricity to trigger alarm bells at BC Hydro."

Yet many couples are so greedy, they put their own children at risk. After remarking on the weapons, booby traps, explosives, and chemical products that grow-ops often house, the study by the University College of Fraser Valley said, "The likelihood of a marijuana grow operation resulting in fire was 24 times higher than for ordinary house fires. The hazards are of particular concern considering indications that children were present in 21 per cent of indoor grow operations."

The Joes and Janes are bit players.

All over the world, B.C. pot enjoys brand recognition as "gourmet weed," and it's not them but organized crime that sells the stuff for billions on international markets.

Moreover, says RCMP Superintendent Paul Nadeau, "We think they're exporting their expertise. We've heard of it on an international scale."

"A different kind of brain drain is under way in B.C.," the Vancouver Province reports, "as pot growers share their billions of dollars' worth of skills with a worldwide audience."

Ah, yes, distance education. It's a wonderful thing.

In B.C., marijuana is an ineradicable fact of life. Eighty per cent of 19- to 24-year-old Vancouverites have tried it at least once and Dr. Cameron Duff of Vancouver Coastal Health says, "What's really ironic is that we have more people reporting cannabis use than tobacco use."

So it's past time we legalized the stuff and not only in B.C.

"If we treat marijuana like any other commodity," Easton argues, "we can tax it, regulate it and use the resources the industry generates, rather than continue a war against consumption and production that has long since been lost ... We are reliving the experience of alcohol Prohibition of the early years of the last century."

Let's force the crooks out of business.

Let's take the hundreds of millions we'll save by abandoning futile enforcement efforts, plus the billions we'll gain by taxing pot sales at legal outlets and invest all this new money into reducing global warming, improving health care, helping the homeless, or making life worth living for aboriginal children.

Let's put the dough where it will do some good.

Newshawk: CoZmO -
Source: The Hamilton Spectator (Canada)
Author: Harry Bruce
Copyright: 1991-2005 The Hamilton Spectator
Website: Hamilton Spectator: Newspaper in Ontario Canada
It is the US' most profitable cash crop. Not to mention that according to certain connoisseur's say that the best bud is grown in California and Hawaii, if it were legal then the pot vacationers would be coming here giving even more revenue from tourism.
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