Conservatives Don't Need Weed
I support the decriminalization of marijuana, but I would never base my vote on it. It's sad that we've come to a place where legalizing a plant that gets you high for an hour seems to be the ultimate human rights cause of the 21st Century. It's fucking pathetic really. Canada still has hate speech laws on the books and the national debt is higher than it has ever been—but let's free the weed, or something. So-called liberals and libertarians just want to get high! That's all that matters. With three federal parties that support legalization in Canada, the Conservative Party made the right decision by voting against legalization last month. I'll tell you why.
Just over two years ago, in May 2015, I wrote about how the Conservative Party and conservatives should get with the times and accept legalization. I'm going to walk that back a bit, but not really—just kind of. I supported decriminalization then and I support it now. Harper's majority should have at least decriminalized marijuana to help blunt this persistent political issue. As a result, Trudeau was able to obliterate Harper's majority—in part—by promising to legalize marijuana.
As a follower pointed out on Twitter, the time to end this issue was long overdue last year. I couldn't agree more, but we have to look at the strategic advantages involved in the Conservative Party's refusal to support legalization in 2017 under a Liberal majority.
It's Legal Now, So Shut Up
Libertarians took to Twitter to complain about how horrible it was that Conservatives voted against legalization. This is similar to the Paris Accord motion that Liberals tried to bait Conservatives with last Summer in the House Of Commons. Small C conservatives lost their shit when Andrew Scheer's Tories voted to support a meaningless climate change motion that would have passed no matter what. This time, libertarians and Bernier supporters lost it when Tories voted against legalization—which would have passed no matter what.
The strategy in supporting a non-binding, goofy motion and opposing a serious piece of legislation that legalizes weed is similar. Both times, the Conservative vote meant nothing. However, the vote either sent a message or staved off the consequences of falling into a Liberal trap.
Had Conservatives voted against the Paris Accord motion, they might have faced endless attacks in 2019 about their denial of climate change. With more than 60% of Canadians believing in anthropogenic climate change, it was a good choice to support the motion. It was also buffered by the Conservative Party's stand against carbon tax.
Despite what a lot of conservatives believe, supporting the symbolic Paris motion was not the equivalent of supporting a carbon tax. Both Harper—whose government originally agreed to the basic tenets of the early accord—and Scheer have opposed a national carbon tax. Any smart conservative knows that a carbon tax won't change the weather. The Conservatives have thus far opposed a carbon tax.
As for the legalization bill, Conservatives sent a strong message to their base by opposing the bill. In an Angus Reid poll from April, 37% of Canadians opposed the Liberal plan to legalize marijuana. A slightly higher number (42%) thought legalization would do more harm than good. Unlike the meaningless Paris motion, this was real legislation with real consequences.
As they did with the carbon tax, Conservatives opposed legalization. It may seem antithetical, but as long as Conservatives don't threaten to repeal legalization, no real harm will have been done. The party's socially conservative base can rest easy knowing their party opposed the bill and they can go on to blame Justin Trudeau in 2019, while the 63% of Canadians who support legalization can also rest easy knowing that it's done and that it won't be repealed by Conservatives.
37% might not seem like a big number, but in Canada elections are won with 37-39% of the popular vote. That same 37% is close to the number of Canadians who oppose a national carbon tax. At the end of the day, both a carbon tax and marijuana legalization have become a reality in Canada, but the Conservative Party was able to represent the 40% of Canadians who oppose both.
That's how democracy is supposed to work.
One Less Card To Play
If I were a Liberal, I would have delayed legalization until summer of 2019. Under the Liberal Party's current scheme, it'll be legalized by summer of 2018 and voters will have more than a full year to forget who freed their green messiah. You know, forget—that thing pot-heads do on a regular basis. Come 2019 or the winter of 2020, the novelty of free weed will have begun to fade.
In 2019, the Trudeau government will have one less card to play.
This is the part where I walk back what I said in 2015 when I wanted conservatives to consider legalization. Letting the Liberals play their final wildcard might have been the right thing to do in hindsight. Had the Tories decriminalized, it probably wouldn't have been enough to stave off the Harper derangement syndrome that overwhelmed the electorate in 2015. Harper was destined to lose no matter what. Decriminalization would have been a wasted play that might have alienated social conservatives.
It was right to let Trudeau use up his last big play and to use the Conservative Party's status as official opposition to appease social conservatives. Marijuana legalization was coming whether we liked it or not, and Conservatives got the best of it.
Other Things Matter More
The cultural affects of legal weed will have either a bad, good or immeasurable outcome, which will determine which way Conservatives go in the future. For now, there are other issues that need to be addressed and I'm sure Andrew Scheer is happy that the weed debate is finally out of the way. He's probably even happier that his party was able to stick to its own principles, even though those principles are unpopular among most Canadians. His party was able to do so with very little blowback, as you'll see in time.
Most of the blowback so far has come from the Bernier “liberty lovers” inside the Conservative Party. They're all butthurt because the party didn't give the middle finger to all of its socially conservative members. The Conservative Party is a big, ideologically diverse party and libertarians, so-cons and moderates often find themselves feeling isolated when the party doesn't cater to their every whim. This libertarian hissy fit will pass, just like other internal hissy fits have in the past.
As of now, Canada has human rights tribunals that punish people for telling bad jokes and saying offensive things. We have archaic, vaguely written hate speech laws and a growing national deficit. We have a prime minister who condones corruption and incompetence within his own cabinet, and universities that are actively suppressing controversial views. Let's imagine for a second how much conservatives, libertarians and moderates could accomplish if they put as much effort into changing these things as “liberty lovers” have put into whining about Conservatives voting against legalization.
Legalization Makes Government Bigger, Not Smaller
The most hilarious part about marijuana legalization is that it doesn't really make government smaller or less intrusive. It actually makes the Canadian and provincial governments bigger and more costly. Before legalization, all governments had to do was dole out fines and prison sentences—now they'll have to hire regulators, inspectors, employees, lawyers and various other bureaucratic entities to administer, control and enforce the sale, distribution and production of marijuana. Any costs saved by doing a few less drug busts will go to other aspects of policing and enforcement.
Since homegrown marijuana and distribution will still have limits, governments will need to have judges, police and bylaw officers enforcing these new limits—the same as they did before legalization. On top of it, we'll just be adding more bureaucracy.
If any libertarian anywhere can produce a legitimate graph showing me that government has shrunk in ten years as the result of legalization, I'll dip my own worn socks into motor oil and eat them.
Had we simply decriminalized marijuana, it would be a totally different story. By fully legalizing it, the government's role actually increases and becomes systemically more intrusive. If a user buys weed from an unlicensed, uncertified dealer, he'll be punished along with the seller. On top of that, a massive bureaucracy on both the federal and provincial level will be tasked with making sure everything in the weed industry complies with whatever standards they come up with. Anyone who fails to comply will be punished.
If you're afraid of feeding the beast and are a proponent of “starving the beast”, too bad for you. Shit just got even worse and the beast is about to get more bloated. Both federal and provincial governments will have their own taxes on weed when everything is all said and done. This will drive costs up and revive an underground black market. This black market will require more police and regulators to fight it. Even if the market gets flooded with weed and drives costs down, the weed will need more bureaucracy to manage it and the industry will suffer under low profits. In either scenario, both federal and provincial governments will rake in billions and the government beast will have more money to spend on making itself even fatter.
Congratulations, libertarians. You've scored a real win.
Spending The Money
In a perfect world, weed revenue would be spent on healthcare and infrastructure while other taxes are trimmed to make up for the increase. On a long enough timeline, however, everything turns to shit.
The next Conservative government might cut taxes to equal out the difference from pot revenue, but future governments will just blow the revenues and increase taxes. Democracy is a flat circle and we'll continue to switch back and forth between big and small government parties until our government is so huge and complex that it collapses. That's how it has been throughout history. Any graph of the US or Canadian government over the past one hundred years will show growth in the public sector and in the overall size and number of government agencies. Despite having Conservative and Republican governments, a long enough timeline has always shown growth. Don't expect this to change.
The money from pot taxes will make government bigger. The money will get wasted and taxes will continue to go up along with the size of government. Complexity and obesity both kill—and we're well on our way to cardiac arrest. The legalization of marijuana will have done nothing to stave off our inevitable demise. If anything, legalization was an extra dose of bad cholesterol that will speed up the whole process.
Thanks liberals and libertarians.