Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Dope On Marijuana

Perhaps more interesting than the Liberals- at least their assembled delegates- advocating legalization of marijuana, has been the reaction to said passage. I sense some hostility, revolving around the notion that Liberals are misguided to highlight this issue, when so many other "top of mind" concerns exist with the electorate. That's your big idea Liberals, legalizing pot, really, that's all you've come up with? Fair in one sense, last time I checked legalizing pot doesn't register on the "top issues" front. However, rather than elevate this proposal to centerpiece status, why not look at it as merely a potential plank within a larger narrative, because the position does have tentacles.

Liberals will never best Conservatives on the "tough on crime" question, that's a bread and butter issue for their side. Liberals never win when put in reactive mode, they simply won't persuade voters trying to mirror Conservative approaches. It is here that marijuana legalization provides a clear stepping off point, rather than reacting to Conservative offensives, misinformations, we offer a decidedly different approach, one that actually has some popular appeal. The entire crime question will be debated on this point, on ground chosen by Liberals, this would be the lightning rod question. This debate puts down a clear Liberal marker, we say the war on drugs has failed and here's an alternative direction that addresses that failure in progressive fashion.

In addition, there is an economic argument to be made, one that attempts to take money out of the hands of criminals, into the hands of government, for the betterment of the citizenry. We are not talking about chump change, tax revenue in the billions, we can pivot off this legalization in a positive way. I would argue that marijuana taxation revenue be redirected into drug education campaigns, expenditures to focus on true scourges like crystal meth, rather than a tax grab, demonstrate how this additional money can still assist in dealing with drug related problems. With this type of proposal, you somewhat blunt "condone" criticism, because you use these additional revenues to attack certain problems. Use the tax revenue to further educate on the dangers of drugs, that avenue addresses society validating drug use through legalization. We accept that marijuana is here to stay, you can either continue with the futility approach or accept reality and use the industry to allow for greater focus on other drugs, rehab programs, education, etc. I see a fleshed out new tax revenue allocation proposal as a compelling pivot to completely reset our overall approach.

Philosophically, there is also a "liberty" argument to be made, this issue transfers responsibility to the individual, a notion which clearly has appeal within certain subsets. I think Liberals will be surprised who gets "turned on" by the legalization argument, rather than a sideline distraction, it is a motivating factor that shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. I predict a candidate for Liberal leadership(assuming we actually have a race, not a coronation)waves this legalization flag and in so doing shakes up the race on the "supporter" front. Legalization proponents from all corners would have little hesitation becoming supporters, I guarantee a few motivated individuals could sign up impressive numbers under this signature banner.

Rather than some trivial proposal that fails to address the real concerns of Canadians, I see this marijuana legalization idea as ONE starting off point that can bring true differentiation, as well as add fresh perspectives to an already well defined political entity. Yes, Liberals must craft a credible economic argument, ditto for health care, pensions, taxation, the deficit, etc, etc. Acknowledging this obvious fact doesn't mean the legalization question is a distraction or be abandoned, in fact it can be a demographic compliment that weaves within a greater, coherent direction. I see potentially fascinating days ahead...


Alison said...

Very well put. There is no real downside to the proposal if it is presented as you state. The only issue would be enormous pressure from south of the border.

Steve V said...

Agreed, there are issues with the Americans, although support for legalization is on the rise, and some border states have progressive policies.

Koby said...

Yes, some Liberals were angry that motion to support the legalization of marijuana garnered the majority of the press. They feel that had this not been a tabled the media would have dealt with more "substantive" motions.

Simply put, they are out to lunch. One, the notion that the media would have played more attention to other motions if only the Liberals had not tabled the marijuana motion is wrong. The vast majority of the public has no interest whatsoever in the other motions that were being tabled and it is for this reason they are were ignored by the media. If the other motions had of been newsworthy, the media would have covered them too. The media can walk and chew gum at the same time. Two, the notion the Liberal party should focus its attention only on oh so serious issues, like economy, assumes that the public actually has the capacity to grasp these subjects and wants to only to hear about meat and potatoes issues to exclusion of everything else. This too is plain wrong. The vast majority of the public has little to no capacity to deal, for example, with complex economic issues. They do not have the time, expertise or inclination. Most people find economic related matters hopelessly boring. To cite, but one example it is absurd to think that the public has ability to understand why an income tax cut is more efficient than a cut to the GST. It is also one reason why the Green Shift went down like a led zeppelin. An entirely drab platform, dealing only with oh so serious issues, will draw the attention of no one. The Liberals need to spice things up and a promise to legalize marijuana does just that. Three, marijuana legalization is very much a substantive issue. Turn on the news. Drug profits are feeding low grade civil wars in a whole whack of countries. Having spent some time in South American, I can guarantee you that if Canada were to legalize marijuana it would be all over the news down there. In fact, there is not single issue that will come anywhere close to drawing as much international press. Take the amount of international press the SSM issue drew and magnify it 1000 fold. Canadians loved being "cool" and a legalizing pot would certainly make us cool again. Domestically, the only type of crime in Canada that is on the rise in Canada is drug related. The number of gang hits, for example, has more than doubled over the last decade just all other types of homicides have plummeted.

liberal supporter said...

I still maintain that the Liberals could elect a potted plant as leader and win a landslide with this. I suspect that over 75% of the adult population would support this just on the general belief that pot is not harmful, certainly not to warrant jailing people for using or growing it. All the problems with it are caused by the fact it is illegal. I don't know anyone who doesn't understand that.

We are living in a time where the general public is becoming more aware of things that are not usually well understood by the public. Think about how much we are learning about how banking works, the whole fractional reserve system, the fact that extreme austerity makes economies fail because most of the activity in an economy is consumer spending, and that fueled by access to credit and government spending, though within reason. Similarly, few seriously believe the finger wagging about pot that in Reefer Madness times was enough to scare everyone into prohibition.

Folks, we have a winner here. This makes the Liberals cool again. Though we have to put up with smirking about hippies, the clear facts that the main beneficiaries of illegal pot are gangsters, and that we're not saving people's lives by keeping it illegal makes the case.

Let the CPC be the nanny state party. Remind people which party balanced the budget after the Mulroney years. Show that Liberals are not ideologues with policies in other areas that are both reasonable and innovative.

Let the CPC whine about Adscam, which if it is not ancient history about people no longer in the party, then Harper's past statements about making Canada unrecognizable are not ancient history either, and he's still in charge doing it. Especially after another 3 years of his bullying and divisiveness.