Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Break the mould: legalize pot

If the Conservatives really wanted to break the mould, they would take Milton Friedman’s advice and legalize pot.

Milton Friedman leads a list of more than 500 economists from around the U.S. who today will publicly endorse a Harvard University economist's report on the costs of marijuana prohibition and the potential revenue gains from the U.S. government instead legalizing it and taxing its sale. Ending prohibition enforcement would save $7.7 billion in combined state and federal spending, the report says, while taxation would yield up to $6.2 billion a year.

Let’s face it, prohibition does not work. It did not work for alcohol in the 1920s and it has never worked for pot. By keeping marijuana illegal, we are only enriching the criminal organizations that supply the demand.

There is a strong conservative tradition supporting the legalization of marijuana. The economists endorsing the recent report from the Marijuana Policy Project merely add to the chorus. The Economist has long argued the case for legalization. Even Canada’s Fraser Institute, while not officially endorsing the position, published a report last year by Simon Fraser University economist Stephen T. Easton advocating the end of prohibition.

Admittedly, it would be a bold move for the Conservatives to come out in favour of legalizing marijuana. But in a stroke, it would cause a fundamental shift in the perception of the Conservative party on so-called social issues, as well as on its alleged willingness to take orders from the United States.

There is a large constituency of fiscal conservatives uncomfortable with elements of the Conservatives’ social agenda who would welcome a new approach to Canada’s marijuana laws. Many baby boomers still partake on occasion. Moreover, pot consumption among young adults, many who would not otherwise vote Conservative, is at all-time record highs.

One particularly interesting effect of supporting the legalization of pot is it would make turncoat, moderate Belinda Stronach look like a hard liner. Stronach is a staunch opponent of decriminalizing marijuana, largely out of concern about U.S. disapproval. By supporting a policy that is true to conservative principles, the Conservatives would neutralize the effect of Stronach’s defection, while encouraging Canadians to take a closer look at an agenda which is neither hidden nor scary.

1 comment:

P. M. Jaworski said...

Nice post, Steve. I agree wholeheartedly. Take a look at my interview with Milton Friedman where the man reaffirms his position on marijuana.

I also agree that this issue is a BIG winner for the Tories. You're right to think it would immediately change most Canadians' impressions of the Party, especially as hard socially conservative.