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Registered: 06/14/08
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Just another casualty in the criminal war on drugs
    #416485 - 05/12/10 05:14 PM (10 years, 9 months ago)

By Dan Gardner, The Ottawa Citizen May 12, 2010 Comments (54)
  It's certainly not the worst crime committed in the name of the war on drugs.

That title probably belongs to the countless innocent people killed in botched raids. Or the police officers who died in pursuit of the impossible. Or the lives lost to easily preventable overdoses, adulterations, and blood-borne diseases. Or the funding handed on a silver platter to thugs, terrorists, and guerrillas, like those killing our soldiers in Afghanistan. Or the civil liberties eroded, the corruption fostered, the chaos spread. Or maybe it belongs to the hundreds of billions of dollars governments have squandered in a mad, futile, and destructive crusade.

Next to all that, the extradition of Marc Emery to the United States is no great travesty.

Emery is the Vancouver activist who has spent most of his life campaigning for the legalization of marijuana. To fund his efforts, he ran a little seed company similar to thousands of other little seed companies, except when Emery's seeds were put in soil, watered, and given sunlight, they grew into cannabis plants.

Showing rare good sense, Canadian officials decided that prosecuting a man for selling the seeds of a common plant is not a public priority. In effect, they permitted Emery's business, and others like it, to operate. Health Canada officials were even known to direct those licensed to possess medical marijuana to Emery, so patients could grow their own medicine in the kitchen window.

But such modesty and pragmatism smacks of heresy to the holy warriors of prohibition. Verily, the plant is Evil unto the last seed.

In 2005, Emery was arrested by Canadian police acting at the behest of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Innocent Americans had been lured into purchasing Emery's wicked wares, the DEA alleged.

Emery fought extradition for five years. On Monday, justice minister Rob Nicholson ordered him handed over. Thanks to the insanely punitive sentencing laws in the Land of the Incarcerated, Emery faced as much as 20 years. He accepted a plea bargain for five.

Emery argued all along that he was a political target, that the DEA was out to get him in order to silence a prominent advocate of marijuana legalization. One might suspect Emery has delusions of grandeur, except the DEA issued a press release in which the agency's chief is quoted saying pretty much exactly what Emery alleges: "Today's DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and the founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement."

Incidentally, the DEA posts all its old press releases on its website,m but that release has vanished. There is, however, a different press release, which makes no mention of the legalization movement.

But let's not get distracted by the mendacity of the DEA or the embarrassing servility of a Canadian government willing to go along with this farce. Let's stand back and ask the only question worth asking.

What the hell is the point of all this?

Marc Emery will only be the latest of millions upon millions of people to be imprisoned for possessing or selling marijuana. The cost of this effort, in liberty and dollars, has been immense. Is it worth it?

Now, please don't wave around this or that study showing marijuana consumption can elevate this or that risk under certain circumstances. Of course it can. Marijuana isn't "safe." No drug is. No substance is. Drink too much fresh water too quickly and it will kill you. Saying that marijuana isn't safe in no way supports the policy of criminalization.

What would support criminalization is evidence showing that by putting nice, tax-paying businessmen like Marc Emery in prison, we so significantly reduce marijuana consumption and related harms that the benefits of the policy outweigh the costs. Is there such evidence? I've studied the issue for more than a decade and I've never seen anything remotely suggesting this is true. In fact, I've seen plenty of evidence that criminalization has little or no effect on consumption rates and, ipso facto, it does bugger all to reduce related harms.

What criminalization does do is generate a long list of unintended consequences, all of them bad. Take the Taliban. It's well known they fund themselves, in part, by "taxing" opium growers and heroin traffickers. Less well known is that the Taliban make big money from Afghanistan's marijuana growers and hashish traffickers -- which means there's a good chance that when a Canadian soldier loses his legs to a roadside bomb, the components of the bomb and the wages of the man who planted it were paid for by the black market in marijuana.

There wouldn't be a black market in marijuana if it were legal and regulated, and the profits of the marijuana trade would go to nice, taxpaying businessmen like Marc Emery instead of gangsters, goons, and medieval maniacs. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? You would think politicians would at least want to study the issue.

But they won't study it. They won't even talk about it. Wrapped in a cosy blanket of ignorance and group-think, they're perfectly comfortable with a policy that funds people who blow the legs off Canadian soldiers and puts guys like Marc Emery in prison.

This is no ordinary stupidity. It's criminal stupidity. Which is, come to think of it, probably the worst of the many crimes committed in the name of the war on drugs.

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/Just+another+casualty+criminal+drugs/3015889/story.html#ixzz0nkgwrKHV

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