Harper's War on Pot Growersby James E. Miller
Jan. 28, 2013
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Last fall, Health Canada announced the national government will be leaving the marijuana distribution business and privatizing the whole affair. For a conservative administration like Stephan Harper's, this can be seen as a welcome step in taming Leviathan's reach over the country. But as with any program that still resides fully within the grasp of the state, the result will be far from laissez faire. The federal government will still maintain authority to issue permits to pharmacies that wish to sell marijuana to prescribed patients. That will mean higher prices due to the decreased supply that unfettered competition would normally offset and licenses dispensed only to those firms willing to jump through bureaucratic hurdles. In other words, Ottawa, not consumers, still remains the dominating force within the medicinal marijuana business.
And it doesn't stop there. Under a new proposal, private horticulture of marijuana would be legally forbidden. Like the issuing of dispensary licenses, the prohibition is being implemented to protect Canadians from the ominous threat of pot dealers. In an official statement, Health Canada announced the measure “will protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and their communities by eliminating the production of marihuana in homes.”
The underlying message is easy to spot: the people, in their infinite capacity to destroy their property, must be saved from themselves. That equates to the forceful removal of plants deemed harmful to personal health. The lowly peons are to be told they are not deserving of the full, unadulterated use of their bodies. But while humanity may be working toward its own destruction through the philosophies of statism and forceful egalitarianism, this head-first dive into societal collapse is still not an excuse to further undermine the rights of man.
As anyone with personal experience will attest to, marijuana is far from a dangerous substance. Its greatest enthusiasts, which are typically young males, might be profoundly indolent but they certainly aren’t out robbing convenience stores to get their fix. When's the last time you heard of a stoner beating his wife to death? Though marijuana may be implicated in some crimes, in the vast majority of cases it's typically found with alcohol or harder narcotics.
Harper's proposal, should it go through, will only create a new class of criminals whose only transgression is growing a plant on their property. According to the Canadian government's official newspaper, the Canada Gazette, home producers of marijuana can produce the substance for $1.80 a gram. Under the new ban, the cost would shoot up to $7.60 a gram to purchase at a pharmacy. For those in need of marijuana's naturally remedial effects, the jump in cost would be too much of a burden to cease home cultivation. At the risk of a criminal sentence, home growers would likely continue to skirt the law for their own health.
As Craig Elder write in the Globe and Mail,
If the proposed medical marijuana legislation proceeds, thousands of medical marijuana patients will be forced by economic pressures to grow their marijuana illegally.Even more sinister, the measure will likely provide a great tax windfall to local and provincial governments alike. As journalist John T. Flynn wrote at the time of the United States' kibosh on its disastrous policy of liquor prohibition:
Salvation was in the air. Repeal, also, was in the air. Two weeks before, the lame-duck Congress had turned a somersault and voted the amendment to the Constitution ending Prohibition. The wets were making merry with applejack, bathtub gin and prohibition hooch. "Beer by Easter," they cried. Forty-one legislatures were in session for the chance to approve the wet amendment and to slap taxes on beer and liquor to save their empty treasuries"¦ The country, the states, the towns needed money -- something to tax. And liquor was the richest target.The idea that governments act out of pure benevolence is as naÃ¯ve as the adolescent belief in the tooth fairy. By prohibiting the home-growing of marijuana, governmental entities all across the Great White North will have free reign to tax the sale of drug to fund their operations. Domestic cultivation is a great means to avoid the taxman. How the money grubbers in Ottawa kept their mitts off this easy source of revenue for so long is real wonder.
If the Harper administration was serious about privatization and increasing safety (governments never are), it would abolish state controls on not just marijuana but all narcotics. The unapologetic call for ending prohibition on drugs is simple in reasoning: human beings own their bodies and thus reserve the right to ingest whatever they please. Whether it be ham sandwiches, red wine, or cocaine, the natural right to one's self is absolute. Denying this law is tantamount to nullifying someone's humanity.
Often times, supporters of any state initiative which requires suppression through violence will declare the issue at hand "is much more complicated" than to be dismissed through a declaration of rights. But a drug prohibition isn't a complicated matter. Either people own themselves and the consequences of their actions, or they don't. No amount of sophistry can avoid this pure truth.
Philosophers will often speak of the good life as something to be obtained through social tranquility. The Harper administration claims to be cracking down on personal marijuana cultivation in order to promote safety and security. Yet there is literally no good that will come of this measure. To enforce the prohibition on domestic marijuana cultivation, jack-booted thugs called police officers will need to monitor the premises of every Canadian. Should they detect any traces of the plant, then what follows will be the typical police operation of breaking down doors and shoving little Johnny and grandma against the wall with the barrel of a gun- all to shut down an incredibly small-time farming operation.
The government's new proposal to criminalize domestic cultivation of marijuana isn't just misguided policy based on sanctimonious ethics, it is a clear attempt to create another state-directed industry. The beneficiaries will be the police, politically-connected marijuana dispensers, and criminals who peddle the drug on the street at an inflate price. The losers will be the rest of the country as their bodies and actions will continue to be viewed by the state as no different from that of a stock of farm animals.
As Ludwig von Mises wrote in his magnum opus Human Action:
Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments._
James E. Miller holds a BS in public administration with a minor in business from Shippensburg University, PA. He is the editor-in-chief at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and a current contributor to his hometown newspaper, the Middletown Press and Journal. He currently works in Washington D.C. as a copywriter.