Pot Biz No Gamble

The Ontario government’s decision to enter the world of online gambling had me confused.

Isn’t gambling an addiction? Won’t that just encourage more people to gamble, creating more gambling addicts with all of the problems that entails? Isn’t online gambling a gateway to worse addictive behaviour? Won’t it turn every house into a virtual casino?

But then I realized the government is doing little to nothing to enforce the existing laws that prohibit online gambling.

Many people flout current gambling laws. Indeed there’s an estimated $400 million being spent by 400,000 to 500,000 Ontarians each year on illegal online gambling.

If the government enters this business it could provide a safe and regulated option for online gamblers and raise tax revenue at the same time. Jobs could be created. They could use some of the money raised to educate the public about how to gamble safely in a purely recreational manner.

Sure there’d still be problems, but wouldn’t we have the same problems whether or not the government enters this business?

So then I began thinking about our marijuana laws.

Save for restricted medicinal purposes, marijuana is an illegal product. But can’t every argument in favour of the Ontario government getting into online gambling be used to argue it or the federal government should also get into the business of cultivating and selling marijuana?

Illegal? Check.

Law being ignored by many? Check.

Plenty of money being spent by users? Check.

The government could provide a safe and regulated outlet for users? Check.

Tax revenue could be generated? Check. Jobs could be created? Check.

Actually, there are more and better reasons why governments should enter the marijuana business.

We could eliminate some of the police and prison resources we waste in our futile attempt to enforce prohibition on marijuana and we could reduce the profits generated by criminals in their distribution of the drug.

OK, but isn’t marijuana a so-called gateway drug to harder and more destructive drugs?

Based on my admittedly limited knowledge — no, I’m not a user — I’d say it isn’t a gateway drug anymore than alcohol is a gateway drug. Many experts agree.

Also, recreational drug use is similar to recreational gambling in the sense both are often victimless crimes. Indeed, recreational drug use is likely less risky and harmful than recreational gambling.

What you may not know is marijuana was a lawful product in Canada until 1923. That’s when our prohibition on pot began.

Prohibition didn’t work south of the border for alcohol between 1920 and 1933 and it certainly isn’t working for marijuana now. Even the U.S. law professor who prosecuted Marc Emery, Canada’s “prince of pot” — recently sentenced to five years in prison for the sale of marijuana seeds — south of the border has now accepted marijuana laws endanger the public and are “dangerous and wrong.”

Earlier this month he came out in favour of regulating sales of marijuana to adults saying, “we need to honestly and courageously examine the true public safety danger posed by criminalizing a drug used by millions and millions of Americans who ignore the law. Marijuana prohibition has failed — it’s time for a new policy crafted by informed policy-makers with the help of those in law enforcement who have risked their lives battling pot-purveying drug cartels and gangs.”

Our governments are already heavily involved in the vice business with their heavy taxation and regulation of alcohol and tobacco products, running casinos, operating lotteries and other assorted ventures.

Ending the prohibition on marijuana and permitting its sale via government regulation is the next logical step.

– Article from Toronto Sun on September 19, 2010.