Stuff co.nz 15 March 2019
Family First Comment: Excellent article. A reality check!
“Gangs will continue to supply 24/7 home delivery tax-free with free samples of harder drugs. But it will be worse than that. Replacing the war on drugs with a war on marijuana tax cheats will mean gangs will continue to supply most of the market tax-free, including to teenagers with offers of harder drugs but the police will have less incentive to chase down what is now a grey market rather than a black market. Do not underestimate the entrepreneurial ingenuity of criminals.”
OPINION: Never let a bunch of anti-capitalists design a legal market for cannabis.
Their consuming hatred of Big Marijuana and the profit motive would create such an ineffectual legal market that the gangs will still supply most of the marijuana along with offers of free samples of harder drugs that even voters will work out how awful the legal model is and vote it down at the coming referendum.
The Greens and the Drug Foundation not only want to decriminalise marijuana, they want to legalise it with government controls on who can supply, and checks on quality. They seem to want to limit access to social supply and consumer co-ops so that Big Marijuana is kept out of the market. No for-profit supply seems to be their ideal.
The Greens seem to want to imitate the monumental screwup in Canada. Not only did Canada forget to legalise production before supply, so they ran out of inventory within a week, but each province decided for itself how marijuana was to be legally sold.
One province chose a government monopoly. Others allowed private retailers but they had to have a clean record and pay tens of thousands of dollars in annual registration fees.
Most of the current marijuana dealers in Canada did not qualify and already had an established network of customers so they stayed in business offering tax-free marijuana. American states also continue to have black markets in marijuana.
What the Greens will set up is a legal supply that is hopeless at competing with existing gang suppliers. The legal shops will be so far away from schools and other sensitive locations, open 9-to-5 in a remote warehouse district, paying a living wage that they will end up asking for a bailout from Shane Jones’ Regional Growth Fund because they attracted so few customers.
Gangs will continue to supply 24/7 home delivery tax-free with free samples of harder drugs. But it will be worse than that.
Replacing the war on drugs with a war on marijuana tax cheats will mean gangs will continue to supply most of the market tax-free, including to teenagers with offers of harder drugs but the police will have less incentive to chase down what is now a grey market rather than a black market.
Do not underestimate the entrepreneurial ingenuity of criminals. Some UN bureaucrats had a cunning plan; occasionally hold a lawful sale of previously confiscated ivory to collapse the price of poached ivory and drive the poachers out of business.
Elephant poaching soared because criminals worked out that they could pass off their illegal ivory as legally acquired and sell it to people who otherwise would not buy it, much less show it off to their friends because it was illegally obtained. A large market in counterfeit legal ivory developed in China and other places off the back of an earnest attempt to collapse the price of illegal ivory.
I’m a recovering libertarian. I support decriminalisation because if adults want to get high, more fool them as long as they do not harm others. But I know that argument will never sell at a referendum.
The reason dope-smoking-on-Saturday-night successful middle-class parents oppose decriminalisation is that when they are feuding with their kids over bad grades, they still want to tell them that marijuana is illegal. They want that argument in their back pocket because they know that, unlike themselves, more than a few mates drifted off into a cloud of dope at university and failed.
They want every possible persuasive tactic available to them to stop their kids going the same way.
The best argument for decriminalisation that will work at a referendum is that it pushes gangs out of the supply chain so kids will not be offered samples of harder drugs. That pragmatic argument and better-quality control could win a majority.
Right now, the maximum penalty is three months for possession of marijuana. Three were sent to prison last year for possession of marijuana as their lead offence for their sentencing. Another 15 were sent to prison for possession of harder drugs, which carries a maximum of six months. A good guess is most were gang members on the receiving end of well-deserved police harassment.
As the illegal trade is offering samples of harder drugs and supplying teenagers, the rationale for suppressing the illegal trade is stronger. Penalties for illegal supply and even marijuana possession through an illegal supplier might have to increase after legalisation.
Colorado quickly found it had to regulate marijuana packaging strictly because little kids thought edible marijuana was a lolly and ended up at the emergency department.
If advocates of legalisation want a legal market that drives the gangs out of marijuana supply, the Greens and others on the Left will have to swallow a big dead rat and embrace capitalism.
Big Marijuana might end up developing an app that ensures that adults and only adults buy marijuana delivered by Uber Eats. Marijuana legalisation will be full of the unexpected.
* Jim Rose blogs at Utopiayouarestandinginit.com