The US market for marijuana was $6.1 billion in 2016, a 34% increase over 2015. While 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized it for medical use, only 8 have approved it recreationally, which is at least partially keeping growth in check. However, now Canada, of all places, with its Canadian Cannabis Act, is primed to become the world leader in the growth and distribution of this once heavily controlled substance. In doing so, I fear we’re on the verge of unleashing the ‘hounds of hell’ to wreak destruction for generations to come.
Canopy Growth Corp. is traded on the Canadian Stock Exchange with a value in excess of US$1 billion. It has a 350,000 square foot greenhouse less than 10 miles from the US border. Another, even larger, facility is being built by Aurora Cannabis, Inc., also publicly traded, with a market cap of over US$500 million. It is a greenhouse the size of 16 US football fields, inside the perimeter of the Edmonton International Airport. Those are two of the largest, but there are numerous other producers who, just like them, are all looking to grow and expand operations.
For the past 20 years or so, marijuana has been approved for sale in Canada for medicinal purposes, with more specific control implemented by each of its separate provinces. That has seemingly worked relatively well in keeping the growth of the drug in check. However, under the new legislation, anyone over the age of 18 will be able to buy pot directly from one of the country’s 43 licensed producers. Government officials point to theoretical numbers to explain their support. They claim the measure will reduce ‘gang’ revenue by $10 billion and dream of all the increased tax revenue legal pot will generate. They conveniently omit any discussion of the increased medical costs and social destruction that will come from creating a country rife with addiction.
With a population of around 36.29 million, Canada is primed to replicate the experiment now being conducted by 8 US states, but will be doing so on ‘steroids’. While smaller countries like Uruguay have already legalized weed, it has never been attempted on this grand a scale. US Federal Law makes marijuana illegal and that conflict with state law has at least kept the US experiment from getting out of control, because large corporations are staying out of the fray, for now. However, as the genie continues to escape from the bottle, I fear monstrous repercussions will only continue to mount.
The Growth of Gambling & Taxes
The growth of gambling in the US started almost the exact same way. 50 years ago, there were no lotteries and the only place you could legally place a bet was in Nevada. Things continued that way until the 1970s when Atlantic City was allowed to open casinos, with the promise of job growth and prosperity for the local community. That bounty never arrived. Next came the riverboat casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi and those popping up on Indian reservations in and around New York and Florida, among other places. Elsewhere, state sponsored lotteries began to become popular, as a major regressive tax on the poor who predominantly waste a higher proportion of their income on those games of chance. Gambling is now available in some form or another in 48 different states. Why did growth explode out of control in such a short period of time? It’s an easy thing to tax, and politicians quickly gorged on the revenue. Raising conventional taxes causes outrage and gets politicians voted out of office. Taxing sin is popular, even as families are destroyed by addiction to gambling.
Long-term Effects of Marijuana
We are setting ourselves up for the same folly with legalized weed. “There are a lot of questions about the long-term effects of marijuana,” notes Susan Weiss, PhD and a Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. We already have statistics proving that marijuana increases the likelihood of several different types of cancers, leads to more emergency room visits as a result of accidents while impaired, and significantly reduces people’s performances both in school and on the job. Adolescents and young adults are particularly susceptible because the brain is still under development until the age of 25. “Starting young and using frequently may disrupt brain development,” according to Ms. Weiss. These sentiments were echoed by Staci Gruber a neuroscientist and Director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery Program at Harvard Medical School, who noted “early-onset smokers made twice as many mistakes on tests of executive function, including planning, flexibility, abstract thinking and inhibition of inappropriate responses.” According to a study reported by the American Psychological Association (APA), a team from Duke University found that frequent marijuana use was linked to a decline in IQ, with the most persistent users experiencing a drop of nearly 6 IQ points. That’s in the same realm as you see with lead poisoning. This is serious stuff. So, my obvious question is – what are the Canadians thinking? Are the people proposing the legislation simply getting high on their own supply?
A few horses are already out of the barn, but we need to very seriously consider shutting the door before we lose the entire stable. The harsh war on drugs has not been effective, but the answer can’t be found in simply giving up by legalizing problematic drugs and blindly seeing what comes of it. As I’ve said before, legalized marijuana will prove to be a failed experiment that even dwarfs China’s ‘one-child’ policy, which was finally abolished. We need to focus more money on treatment and education and make better use of contacting our political leaders to let them know how we feel (please go to Change.org for contact information). Opening the floodgates with permissive legislation is counter-productive. It will undermine everything we are trying to accomplish with increased awareness. Hopefully other countries do not follow Canada’s lead. Marijuana may be considered a ‘soft’ drug, but there’s nothing soft about its consequences. The world needs to wise up before there’s no turning back.