Marijuana Revisited

Vastet's picture

Before reading this, know that I am aware of most if not all faults found within. Constructive criticism is always welcome, but as I'm already aware of the problems in this case I likely won't respond to it as it has already been accepted. I always post the original and uneditted forms of my works, so that they are particularly easy for me to trace back to myself should someone decide they wanted to claim my work as their own.

I had actually thought I'd already posted this here, but found to my surprise that I hadn't when I went to link to it. Basically, I took my previous post regarding marijuana, and gave it some much needed adrenaline. Enjoy.

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In 1923, without parliamentary debate, marijuana became illegal in Canada(2). It took more than 10 years before someone was convicted related to marijuana, but it’s all gone downhill from there(2). Today, close to 60,000 people a year are thrown in jail per year for marijuana related offences(3). A drug that has less affect on a smoker than alcohol has on a drinker puts about that many people in front of the court system every year. Especially when there is a much better alternative than continuing to fight such a losing battle.

In 2005, there was approximately 2.7 million criminal code violations committed by the 33 million people in this country. There were 92,000 incidents regarding drugs in general. 59,973 of those were cannabis related(3). Clearly, cannabis is the preferred illicit drug of Canadians. But that merely deals with those who get caught.

In fact, a 2002 StatsCan poll determined that 41.3% of the population over 15 years of age had tried marijuana at least once. Excluding one time users has little effect, dropping the percentage to 32 for recreational smokers out of the Canadian population of approximately 33 million(5). 32% of 33 million is about 1,031,250 people. After sifting through piles of information, a couple of interesting things were found. 10% of marijuana smokers are daily smokers, while another 10% smoke weekly(3). The remaining 80% smoke less than that. Due to their lack of a contribution to the total of marijuana smoked in the country (less than once a month), and the sheer difficulty of coming up with a scientific method of calculating their contributions, they will be discarded for the purposes of these calculations. Keep in mind that they do exist though.

A daily smoker and a weekly smoker will obviously smoke significantly different amounts. For the weekly smoker, we will estimate a single marijuana cigarette per week is smoked, at a net weight of 1 gram of marijuana. A daily smoker however will smoke significantly more than that. Perhaps two or three 1 gram "joints" per day. A brief compiling of data shows that with these calculations: A daily smoker will consume between 730 and 1095 grams of marijuana per year; and a weekly smoker will consume about 52 grams per year. Taking the two combined, you have a grand total of between 80,643 Kg and 118,284 Kg (rounded down) of marijuana being smoked a year in Canada.

According to the RCMP, marijuana has street values of $10 per gram, or $1000 per marijuana plant(1). These figures are not quite satisfactory, as the laws of capitalism runs just as much (if not more due to the risks involved) in the black market as it does in the regular one: The more you buy, the cheaper it is. However, since this is the best figure available, it will suffice.

Using these figures, the estimated street value of all marijuana smoked by daily and weekly smokers in Canada adds up to between $806,430,000 and $1,182,840,000 per year. Interestingly, the federal government estimates that between 7 billion and 18 billion dollars per year is made in the black market in Canada on marijuana. Obviously a significant amount of this marijuana must be exported, since there aren’t enough Canadian marijuana smokers to smoke it all. I would ignore the federal estimate, since most of that product is the problem of other countries and not Canada itself, in favour of the estimated value I projected above; however there is a problem with doing so. Even though that money is made by exporting, the money stays in Canada and contributes to the Canadian economy. It is also used to finance further illicit activities in Canada.

So far the only thing that has been discussed is the illicit money made and the amounts of marijuana that is consumed. It’s time to take a hard turn into some facts on the federal side of the equation.

"Eleven federal departments and agencies are involved in the effort to control illicit drugs at a cost of about 500 million a year." - Shiela Fraser - 2001.(7)

That 500 million can’t be split up to isolate exactly how much is spent on marijuana alone in comparison to other drugs. However, since marijuana is by far the most used illicit substance in Canada, logic suggests that the majority of the money spent controlling illicit materials would go to the substance that is used by the majority. Since marijuana convictions make up approximately 2/3rds of all substance abuse cases(3), an estimate of 2/3rds of the 500 million would seem to be fair. 2/3rds of $500 million is approximately $333,333,333.

To be honest, however, this isn’t actually a good picture of what taxpayers really spend. In fact, that figure is mostly education, health, and police services spending. The real kick to the taxpayer comes when someone goes to jail for marijuana. The average cost of incarcerating someone in Ontario is $52,000 per year. Federally it gets worse: From $70,000 per year for minimum security institutions all the way up to $150,000 per year for maximum security institutions(4). Even if you figure that all these marijuana offenders are incarcerated provincially, you still have a good $3,120,000,000 spent in 2005 on nothing more than marijuana offenders. Is 3.1 billion dollars spent confining people in cement and metal cells, without jobs, an effective strategy for taxpayers?

It gets a lot worse than that though. When considering the government strategy on cigarettes, it seems down right foolish. According to the CBC, between 63% and 79% of the cost of a pack of cigarettes is taxes(9). Each cigarette contains one gram of tobacco, and there are generally 25 cigarettes in a package. While the prices for cigarettes can vary significantly these days, the average cost is usually about $8 a pack. Taking the low end of 63%, the taxes on an average pack of cigarettes amounts to $5.04. If a similar strategy for marijuana were tabled as the strategy for cigarettes, and the prices for tobacco and marijuana were considered interchangeable, then a pack of marijuana cigarettes would net about $5.04 in taxes as well.

When number crunching the figures laid out above, Canadians smoke between 3,225,720 and 4,731,360 packs of 25 marijuana cigarettes a year. If taxed and sold as cigarettes are, the government would receive between $16,257,628.80 and $23,846,054.40 in the tax coffers every year. Simultaneously, the government could refocus the $3.1 billion spent each year on incarcerating individuals for a harmless crime, and also the estimated $333,333,333 spent on things like police services. Not to mention eliminating some of the projected billions that the black market retains (though admittedly much of this profit comes from exporting to other nations, and would not be seriously impacted by a change in legislation in Canada). Altogether, the difference to taxpayers could be as much as 4 billion dollars a year.

There are a lot of arguments against decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana, however, and rarely do any of them touch on what has already been presented. While people may not know the extent of the figures above, they are generally aware of the potential of turning a black market product into a taxable one. Instead, most arguments against marijuana jump straight into fiction. As a perfect example, the U.S. government has classified marijuana - a drug never directly connected to the death of any individual in history - as one of the most dangerous drugs in the nation(10). The United States government believes that marijuana is a "gateway drug" that leads its users to try more potent and harmful substances. They ignore the fact that marijuana’s very position as illegal is what leads users to the cultures that more harmful substances live within. Marijuana has also recently been fictionally tied to terrorism, where the same problem arises. Terrorists could hardly utilize the substance for financing if it were legal in the first place, now could they?

In fact, there is very little reality when discussing the potential harmful or beneficial effects of smoking marijuana. Only in the last 5-10 years have any real scientific studies been started, and it is still too soon to take much of those studies findings as being on solid ground. While some studies suggest that marijuana contains more cancer causing elements than tobacco, those same studies show that THC could be a miracle drug for a great number of afflictions; such as cancer, arthritis, and HIV to name a few. Some studies show psychosis, while others show the opposite(11). As with anything else in the medical industry, it can sometimes take 50 years before a real understanding is found regarding a substance or product. Some products are distributed only to be recalled 30 years later due to some chemical or another. Since very little to nothing is solidly known about the harmful and the beneficial effects of marijuana use, leaving it out of the argument is the only logical path to tread at this time.

To make a long story short, we currently have a black market that is thriving on a product which was made illegal without the government even having a parliamentary debate on the subject. We the same government spending ridiculous amounts of tax payers money, which ironically isn’t even a fraction of the amount the black market makes, on a problem that has never been proven to exist in the first place. We have a product which could be sold and taxed like cigarettes and alcohol, but is thrown into a culture which promotes the use of harmful substances like cocain and heroin. All of this could be fixed in literally less than a year with a simple act: legalize, tax, and sell marijuana beside alcohol and cigarettes.

 

References:

(1) RCMP Estimates $10 per gram; $1000 per plant.

http://www.rcmp.gc.ca//drugs/pdf/drug_situation_2006_e.pdf

(2) 1923: The year marijuana became illegal in Canada. No parliamentary debate was held. First marijuana related charges were in 1937.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/marijuana/statistics.html

(3) Total criminal code violations in 2005; Approximately 2.7 million criminal code violations. 59,973 cannabis violations. Majority of 90,000 drug offences are marijuana.

http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/85-002-XIE/85-002-XIE2006004.pdf

(4) Cost of incarceration: In Ontario, 52,000 per year. Federal inmates cost more, from about 70,000 per year for minimum/medium security prisons; up to 150,000 per year in maximum security.

http://www.cbc.ca/canadavotes/realitycheck/crimetime.html

(5) Population: 32.9 million people in 2007.

http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/demo02a.htm?sdi=population%20canada

(6) In 2002, 41.3% of the population over 15 had tried marijuana at least once. One time users excluded, the number drops only to 32%. Estimates are 10% smoke daily, 10% weekly.

http://www.statcan.ca/english/studies/82-003/archive/2004/15-4-c.pdf

(7) "Eleven federal departments and agencies are involved in the effort to control illicit drugs at a cost of about 500 million a year." Shiela Fraser: 2001; Office of the Auditor General.

http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/med_mr_20011204_e_15264.html

(Cool In Canada, the government's estimates of black market marijuana sales range from $7 billion to $18 billion, though estimates for B.C. alone have topped 7 billion. http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/aud_ch_oag_2001_11_e_11832.html/P

(9) In Canada, in 2007, average tax on pack of cigarettes is between 63% and 79% of price.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/smoking/cost.html

(10) The U.S.A.’s Controlled Substances Act has marijuana listed as Schedule I, the most dangerous category.

http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/scheduling.html

(11) Random search of marijuana studies shows varying and occasionally contradictory findings, suggesting that a lot more need to be done.

http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&q=marijuana+studies&meta=

 

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

nikimoto's picture

Very good. Thanks. The

Very good. Thanks.

 

The Schedule 1 listing of marijuana by the U.S. Controlled Substance Act is really strange.

 

I didn't see alcohol on any of the lists and Cocaine, including "crack" was Schedule 2.

 

Someone in our governement must be on crack.

Thanks indeed Vastet. Your

Thanks indeed Vastet. Your points are well made, regardless of getting the dollar figures precise. Damn crazy this war on drugs, and especially on pot. The massive 'Prison Industry' would play into this craziness as well. Earth, planet Stupid.

  Your words make for a good email to send around .....

U.S. -  Drug War Clock -  http://www.drugsense.org/wodclock.htm

 

Vastet's picture

Bump for relevance in

Bump for relevance in current topics. Some people need to read this.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

geirj's picture

As much of a libertarian as

As much of a libertarian as I am, I still can't bring myself around to agreeing with the legalization of marijuana.

Comparing marijuana to alcohol to cigarettes, the classic marijuana-legalizing argument, is not necessarily comparing apples to apples to apples. All three have very different histories, and probably very different futures.

Cigarettes are on their way out. More and more communities in the U.S. are passing ordinances forbidding smoking indoors in public places. Once those ordinances have been in place for a few years, they tend to get stronger. U.S. cigarette companies are relying more on foreign sales as the American market collapses.

Alcohol is a different beast altogether. My fear about legalizing marijuana is that there is a large segment of the population that would be irresponsible with it. Alcohol has the same problem, except that it's already legal. But I don't think that's a good argument for legalizing marijuana. Drunk driving/driving under the influence laws in the U.S. are not nearly strict enough. It's like nobody wants to restrict a person's right to have fun and then drive. The state I live in, Wyoming, currently has a bill in front of the legislature to make the laws stricter. But it is widely considered unpassable. Legalizing marijuana in the States would just give people another chemical with which to impair their driving.

I do agree that current enforcement efforts are misplaced (in the U.S., anyway, though it sounds likes it's similar in Canada). Possession with no intent to distribute should certainly not be jailable offense. Even after 20 offenses. Penalties should be light on the jail time and heavier on the financial and community service penalties.

Nobody I know was brainwashed into being an atheist.

Why Believe?

triften's picture

geirj wrote:As much of a

geirj wrote:

As much of a libertarian as I am, I still can't bring myself around to agreeing with the legalization of marijuana.

Comparing marijuana to alcohol to cigarettes, the classic marijuana-legalizing argument, is not necessarily comparing apples to apples to apples. All three have very different histories, and probably very different futures.

Yes, very different histories. In the U.S., tobacco was making various powerful citizens very rich so it was kept legal, while opium and marijuana were being imported by "lowly" immigrants. (If there's one constant in the U.S., it's how much the rich dislike immigrants... or perhaps they just try to keep the lower and middle classes hating them so the rich can keep making money unencumbered.)

-Triften

Vastet's picture

The only reason marijuana is

The only reason marijuana is illegal in the US is because of a trade war that took place in the 1800's that centred around hemp. I don't remember all the details, but I think it was the British that the US was at "war" with at the time. Whichever country it was, it was not made illegal because of it's position as a drug. Therefore any arguments against it automatically flop in the US, since the trade war has been over for a century or so now, and was the only reason it became illegal in the first place.

It's different in Canada. In Canada, marijuana became illegal at about the same time that prohibition failed in the US. Hence, my post destroying the legitimacy of its status as illegal in Canada.

I might also point out that I have recently read a study which says that people drive better when stoned on weed than they do perfectly sober and awake. I can't remember where I saw it though...

Regardless, you will note that the only use of tobacco in this essay is soley for the taxation possibilities of marijuana. I did not use tobacco as a reason to legalize marijuana in any way.

Alcohol is a different story. There isn't a single valid argument for having alcohol legal and marijuana illegal. Attempting to seperate them doesn't fly. They are both recreational drugs, that is their highest purpose. They are both bad for you, though both have some beneficial effects if used properly and in moderation. The only differences arise in calculating how bad the effects are when not used properly and in moderation. In that case, alcohol kills people and fucks up their lives. Marijuana doesn't. Case closed.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

geirj's picture

Vastet wrote:The only reason

Vastet wrote:

The only reason marijuana is illegal in the US is because of a trade war that took place in the 1800's that centred around hemp. I don't remember all the details, but I think it was the British that the US was at "war" with at the time. Whichever country it was, it was not made illegal because of it's position as a drug. Therefore any arguments against it automatically flop in the US, since the trade war has been over for a century or so now, and was the only reason it became illegal in the first place.

But the question is not the basis of the illegality - it's the consequences of making it legal. And I'm not just talking about the effects of the drug on people. What about setting up the retail infrastructure? Who will the retailers be? The sales of tobacco and alcohol is strictly regulated in the U.S. (I would assume the same in Canada?). There are some states that have the sale of hard alcohol as a state function (no independent retailers).

Assuming pot was legalized, would established dealers stop dealing if it was too much hassle to jump through the hoops of becoming a retailer? I think there would still be a significant black market. Some dealers might drop pot and move on to dealing harder drugs.

 

Vastet wrote:

I might also point out that I have recently read a study which says that people drive better when stoned on weed than they do perfectly sober and awake. I can't remember where I saw it though...

I find this hard to believe. You're going to have to find that study and post it.

 

Vastet wrote:

Alcohol is a different story. There isn't a single valid argument for having alcohol legal and marijuana illegal. Attempting to seperate them doesn't fly.

But it does, because alcohol is already legal. Look at guns, for example. We can probably agree that 99.999% of people outside of law enforcement and the military do not need guns in any way to live their lives. And we know that guns get into the hands of some people illegally, and many of those people use those guns to injure or kill other people. However, we know that guns will never truly be controlled to the extent that they need to be. It's just not practical. The best we can do is make it as hard as possible for people who shouldn't have guns to get them.

Marijuana legalization follows this same pattern, but from the opposite perspective. Marijuana use doesn't result in a lot of people getting sick or injured. But it will never get legalized. The best things to do is reduce punishments and redirect enforcement resources elsewhere.

I don't disagree with marijuana legalization per se, but it's just not really practical.

Nobody I know was brainwashed into being an atheist.

Why Believe?

Vastet's picture

geirj wrote:But the question

geirj wrote:

But the question is not the basis of the illegality - it's the consequences of making it legal. And I'm not just talking about the effects of the drug on people. What about setting up the retail infrastructure? Who will the retailers be? The sales of tobacco and alcohol is strictly regulated in the U.S. (I would assume the same in Canada?). There are some states that have the sale of hard alcohol as a state function (no independent retailers).

Assuming pot was legalized, would established dealers stop dealing if it was too much hassle to jump through the hoops of becoming a retailer? I think there would still be a significant black market. Some dealers might drop pot and move on to dealing harder drugs.

A few things to start with for foundational purposes.

Yes, the sales and production of alcohol and tobacco are strictly regulated in Canada, equal to the U.S. if not greater. In almost all of the Provinces and to my knowledge all of the Territories, the only retailer of alcohol is the Provincial Government run liquor stores.

Quebec is a notable exception, as you can get wine and beer in grocery stores and even convenience stores.

Ontario, on the other hand, has a strictly controlled secondary outlet for beer type products called The Beer Store; and the primary outlet for all liquor products is the LCBO(Liquor Control Board of Ontario), for an example of a more common Provincial standard.

I could get into all of the alcoholic product details more, but for the purposes of this response I don't think it is necessary.

Tobacco supply is something I'm not particularly familiar with. Though I do know that it is of course illegal to grow tobacco without proper permits and such.

To add one more thing, marijuana farms are currently in legal production in Canada for medical purposes. I can't remember how many there are, and there aren't many, but they do already exist.

In the face of this, it's a mere step or two until production is commercialized and taxed. After all, it is already a prescription product with a regulated supply.

The obstacles in the U.S. wouldn't be too much harder to overcome, but they would need to be done at the federal level. Then it would take a generation or so for the trickle-down to affect all of the State laws as well.

 

geirj wrote:

I find this hard to believe. You're going to have to find that study and post it.

No, I'll wait for further studies to be done before I bother looking for it again. To my recollection it was a single study, and of course one study is never enough to make a judgment on something. But I have noted it. And I can say that in my personal experience it is true. But of course that is simply a single witness testimony, and has about equal value to a single study.

 

geirj wrote:

Vastet wrote:

Alcohol is a different story. There isn't a single valid argument for having alcohol legal and marijuana illegal. Attempting to separate them doesn't fly.

But it does, because alcohol is already legal.

That is not relevant to my argument. I don't recognize the illegality of marijuana. My authority is greater than my country's authority on my personal habits, regardless of what it thinks. I prove this every time I smoke weed or observe the smoking of it and do not alert the authorities. Neither are particularly rare occurrences.

geirj wrote:
 Look at guns, for example. We can probably agree that 99.999% of people outside of law enforcement and the military do not need guns in any way to live their lives.

Not exactly. I live in the second largest country in the world, where more than 80% of the land is wilderness. Guns can have their uses. I don't like them, but until we can replace them with an equally effective but less lethal weapon there's a lot of people who do need them. I'm willing to admit that much because it is a simple truth. I am mostly opposed to their existence in urban areas, where wildlife isn't a hazard.

geirj wrote:

 And we know that guns get into the hands of some people illegally, and many of those people use those guns to injure or kill other people. However, we know that guns will never truly be controlled to the extent that they need to be. It's just not practical. The best we can do is make it as hard as possible for people who shouldn't have guns to get them.

Control is simply a matter of culture. 20-25+ years ago my parents smoked in the grocery store and the drug store and at work and in school and...well...everywhere. Planes, trains, everywhere. I remember it clearly, though I was too young to smoke at the time. 14 or 15 years ago I smoked in smoking areas of the mall, almost always at the food court. Planes no more. Maybe specific cars in trains, but not all cars. Not in buses. 10 years ago even that was done. No smoking withing 5 metres of a government run institution's doorway. Restaurants having anything like equal space for smoking sections was a rarity. Tim Horton's coffee houses had put up physical barriers for their smoking sections. 2 years after that you couldn't smoke within 5 metres of any public building's doorway. Today it's 9 metres, and you can't even smoke in a shelter outside. Smoking in a car with children is similarly illegal. Where's the outrage? This would never have worked in the 60 or 70's, let alone a hundred years ago. Culture can change with the times. You simply have to reduce the need or desire for the product in question. With the U.S., much of the desire is based in the high rate of crime, which can in part be traced to drug laws, ironically linking the two subjects.

geirj wrote:

Marijuana legalization follows this same pattern, but from the opposite perspective. Marijuana use doesn't result in a lot of people getting sick or injured. But it will never get legalized. The best things to do is reduce punishments and redirect enforcement resources elsewhere.

I don't disagree with marijuana legalization per se, but it's just not really practical.

I just don't see how it isn't practical. Nothing less than complete legalization and taxation can destroy the black market. Decriminalization can only encourage use and distribution. Controlled legalization can do wonders for many different crimes society thinks it needs to impose.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.