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.
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.
(1) RCMP Estimates $10 per gram; $1000 per plant.
(2) 1923: The year marijuana became illegal in Canada. No parliamentary debate was held. First marijuana related charges were in 1937.
(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.
(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.
(5) Population: 32.9 million people in 2007.
(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.
(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.
( 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.
(10) The U.S.A.’s Controlled Substances Act has marijuana listed as Schedule I, the most dangerous category.
(11) Random search of marijuana studies shows varying and occasionally contradictory findings, suggesting that a lot more need to be done.
Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.