Biblitz delivers advise

ASK Biblitz about Marijuana.

'If a country supports prohibition, it is also guaranteeing that on the supply side all profits will accrue to underground networks; and on the demand side it is guaranteeing that any social or public health problems ... will ... only come to light once they are out of control.'

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How does the intelligentsia view the U.S. prosecution of Canadian cannabis activist Marc Emery?

More on Emery's extradition to the U.S. from Canada - who's next? More on medical marijuana in Canada.

Emery pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana in Seattle federal court May 24/10 after extradition to the U.S. two weeks before. He was arrested in 2005 for selling marijuana seeds by mail to U.S. residents from his Cannabis Culture store in Vancouver, B.C.. Two of his employees were also arrested. U.S. attorney Jenny A. Durkan said that 75 per cent of Emery s seeds sales were to Americans. U.S. prosecutors agreed on a five-year sentence in return for Emery's guilty plea and two years' probation for his co-accused. His wife, Jodie, said she and their supporters will try to get her husband home to Canada to serve his sentence, which he can apply to do once he's been convicted in the U.S. and with approval from both governments. Emery's sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 27. He remains at a federal detention centre in SeaTac Washington, about 20 kilometres south of Seattle. (See Marc Emery pleads guilty to pot charge in U.S. Court by Laura Braziuk, The Province, May 24/10.)

What are the stakes and where's the harm, really?

Biblitz replies:

The question is, who profits from prohibition. Follow the money!

Update Oct. 25/10:
... Do you think your bill to legalize marijuana will ever pass? Yes, in the next five years. Will that expand the tax base? As a nation, do you think we could smoke our way to solvency? I want to be clear; that's not my major motivation. My major motivation is personal freedom. When we outlaw marijuana or online gambling, all you do is create more criminals and deprive us of revenue. From Questions for BARNEY FRANK, regulation and when it makes sense to team up with a libertarian, by Deborah Solomon, The New York Times Magazine, Aug. 1/10, p. 14)


A Journey through the Global Criminal Underworld

By Misha Glenny

From an economic point of view, a person's decision to enter into the drug trade as a producer, distributer or retailer is entirely rational because the profit margins are so high. ... In most countries, traffickers can call on combined resources of billions of dollars where national police forces have access to tens of hundreds of millions (and are further hamstrung by a complex set of regulations constraining their ability to act.) ... (Prohibition) distorts the economy because it denies the state revenue from taxes that might accrue from the purchase of a legal commodity. ...

... "The growth of funds available to the drug business," he (Lev Timofeev, former Soviet dissident mathematician turned analyst of Russia's shadow economy)argues, "along with its enhanced managerial capability, make it possible to diversify their risk assets by transferring capital to other markets. ... In the 'hot spots' across the world (such as Afghanistan or Chechnya) drug dealers invested a considerable proportion of their income into illegal arms shipments."

Prohibition is also a godsend to terrorist networks. Organizations such as the Taliban and al Qaeda fund their activities through the narcotics trade. ... Cultivation of the opium poppy had skyrocketed by more than 1,000 percent within the first year of Afghanistan's occupation. It was not long before the Taliban was rearming itself by taxing this opium harvest. ... The only way you can prevent the Taliban and others from sustaining their military capacity through drug sales is to legalize narcotics. ...

If a country supports prohibition, it is also guaranteeing that on the supply side all profits will accrue to underground networks; and on the demand side it is guaranteeing that any social or public health problems associated with drug taking will in the great majority of cases only come to light once they are out of control. If the UN is right and drugs account for 70 percent of organized criminal activity, then the legalization of drugs would administer by far the deadliest blow possible against transnational organized criminal networks. ...

Lev Timofeev argues that prohibition tends to distort the market, favoring cartels and monopoly tendencies. This is because, he continues, larger organizations are more efficient at enforcing their monopoly than smaller. Translated into the vernacular, this means that big criminal groups can beat the shit out of smaller ones. (From McMafia, pgs. 225-227)

The U.S. marijuana challenge:

Rolling Stone


From California to downtown Detroit, there's a green revolution sweeping across the nation - and it's changing the weed business forever

By Mark Binelli
April, 2010

Thanks to the ambiguous wording of Proposition 215, the 1996 ballot initiative that allows for the possession and cultivation (but not the distribution or sale) of medical marijuana in California, the weed business has expanded exponentially over the past decade. Most of the medical pot in California is sold through dispensaries: Some, in cities like Oakland, are massive places that see hundreds, even thousands, of patients every day, whereas in Los Angeles, storefront pot clubs - up to 1,000 of them by some estimates - have crept into mini-malls and commercial strips all across the city. This has so embarrassed the L.A. City Council that, in January, it passed an ordinance that could slash the number of shops to 70. All told, the state's annual marijuana crop is estimated by some to be worth about $14 billion, "dwarfing," in the words of a recent Associated Press story, "any other sector of the state's agricultural economy."

When California voters passed Prop 215, it seemed like typical behavior from the people who brought us Scientology and the career of Gary Busey. But now, as the economy has cratered and millions of Americans have found themselves forced to rethink their livelihoods, there's a growing feeling that the country can no longer afford its longstanding prohibition on marijuana - a sense, for the first time since the '70s, that pot could soon be decriminalized in many states, or even made fully legal. Fourteen states have already approved medical marijuana, and 14 others have some form of marijuana legislation pending. And that doesn't include Massachusetts, which last year effectively decriminalized pot for recreational use, making possession of up to an ounce punishable by a $100 ticket. On the national level, a Harvard economist has estimated that legalizing pot could save the government $13 billion annually in prohibition costs (including cops and prisons) and raise $7 billion in annual revenues if marijuana is taxed - a potent argument at a time when local municipalities are being forced to slash services and cut public-sector jobs. "In past years, people have interpreted legalization to mean liberalization to mean condoning marijuana and letting it get out of control," notes Ethan Nadelmann, the founder of the Drug Policy Alliance Network, a nonprofit group devoted to ending the War on Drugs. "Now, more and more, people are interpreting it as taxation and regulation."

The complicating factor is ... Pot remains illegal on a federal level ...

... the financial success of growers in the Emerald Triangle (an area in Northern California comprising the adjoining counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Tryinity), however niche, is a ... classic story of can-do frontier spirit ... Whereas cheap, mass-produced weed from Mexico and South America once dominated the U.S. market, about half of the marijuana sold is now high-quality domestic product. ... homegrown bud often comes from "small-scale operators who painstakingly tend greenhouses and indoor gardens to produce the more potent and expensive product that consumers now demand." (THC levels of Mexican weed, while improving, howver around seven percent, whereas high-end weed in Northern California can reach THC levels of 20 percent.) ... Marijuana farming is exactly the sort of semi-skilled, labor-intensive work that in any other (legal) industry, would have long ago been outsourced to Mexico. But its very illegality has made growing weed NAFTA-proof. (-- pgs. 63-68)


Biblitz at the annual Emerald Cup in Mendocino County, Calif. enjoying the nose of an especially savory Kush. Not inhaling, though. Nuh-uh.

"Strains of marijuana are generally named by the original breeders, who then sell their "genetics" to growers ... for anywhere from $5 to $100 per pack of seeds; a strain that becomes trendy, say by winning the Cannabis Cup, can fetch top dollar on the open market. At this year's Emerald Cup, there are 100 entries, all sampled over a period of only a few weeks by a distinguished panel of eight judges. ... Each entry is graded on a scale of one to 10 in various categories, including smell, taste, look and "effects"; points awarded for the latter category count, reasonably, as double. ..."

Annual revenue of California's weed industry: $14 billion.

Number of states in which marijuana is the top cash crop: 12.

Percentage of all drug arrests that are marijuana related: 49.8.

Estimated annual cost of marijuana prohibition to taxpayers: $42 billion. (From Marijuanamerica, pgs. 67, 82, Rolling Stone, April, 2010)

At the beginning of the 1990s, the best yield from indoor grow ops was about three-quarters of a pound per one kilowatt lamp. The most recent advance in cultivation techniques has more than doubled this to over two pounds per harvest cycle. Aeroponics is a still more efficient way of channeling nutrients to the plant than hydroponics. "If you circulate the nutrients through liquid, which is what hydroponics is, you lose efficiency, because not all the particles are small enough to enter the roots. But by misting the roots - and it's a very fine mist - the intake of nutients is still higher. This cultivation is without peer." (From McMafia, p. 217)

Wacky weed from Canada's Left Coast:

Fifty pounds of bud is worth $55,000 (U.S.) in British Columbia at wholesale prices. In Spokane, two and a half hours from the border, its value had almost doubled to $100,000. ... the trip to California added another $50,000 to his haul. If he drove to Kentucky, he could sell it there for $200,000, almost four times the value in British Columbia. And if he took it as far as Miami ... The turnover ... was $100,000 a week with minimal capital outlay ... slightly less than $20,000 per harvest. With four harvests per year, gross revenue is $80,000. ... For the ordinary folk of western Canada, nothing competes financially. ...

... western Canada is home to the largest per capita concentration of organized criminal syndicates in the world. ... Nelson and the surrounding area have been in steady economic decline for a couple of decades. Although its tourist and media industries are growing, these have not yet compensated for the slow demise of the traditional mining sector and the crises that have afficted the logging industry. President George W. Bush dealt the most punishing blow ... in his imposition of a 27 percent tax on Canadian softwood sales into the United States. (And Banana Canada, with no expertise or even much interest in international trade law, put down its dukes and played dead!) ... Many of those who once worked in the traditional industries have moved into marijuana. ...

... Here a majority of the seats in 2006 went either to the *Liberal Party, the traditional centrist grouping, or the NDP, a left-leaning party. Most strikingly, in the key marijuana-growing areas, parties supporting decriminalization or legalization of marijuana won huge majorities. In the southern interior of British Columbia, a constituency that includes Nelson and the Slocan Valley, the parties won 80 percent of the vote as opposed to the Conservatives' 20 percent, whereas in beighboring Alberta constituencies, the latter received an average vote of just under 60 percent.

... In 2003, the then Canadian government announced its intention to introduce legislation decriminalizing the possession of less than 15 grams (about half an ounce) of weed. This would not make possession legal, but the offense would attract a small fine and the recipient would not be encumbered with a criminal record. The U.S. reaction was swift. ...

... The Canadian government welcomed (marijuana fugitive U.S. paratrooper Steve) Tuck (who suffered a serious spinal cord injury when doing a jump in Central America in 1987) and even licensed him to sell marijuana seeds to be used in research. At around the same time, the United States began extradition proceedings against Tuck. ... Canadian police ... forcibly removed Tuck from a Vancouver hospital, with a catheter and IV tubes still attached, before bundling him into a car, hooded and manacled, and handing him over to U.S. federal agents a couple of hours later. ...

... In 2003, he (former Mayor Larry Campbell) sought and received the approval of the federal government to open an injection site at a B.C. medical facility in downtown Eastside where addicts ... receive professional help ... administering heroin. ... David Murray was dispatched to explain to the Canadian government that the United States "would have to respond" ... implying that border traffic between the two countries, which enjoy the most profitable commercial relationship anywhere in the world, may be disrupted. ... "Walters told us that he could shut the border down," he (Campbell) said. "And so I made some offhand comment about it being a shame to see L.A. in the dark." Campbell offers a mischievous smile as he alludes to California's partial dependence on electricity and natural gas from British Columbia. ...

... The purveyors of cocaine in British Columbia are also becoming increasingly interested in expanding into rural areas and competing in the profitable British Columbia Bud market. In British Columbia and Vancouver, the most powerful and visible organized crime syndicate (but by no means the only one) is the Hell's Angels. There are two reasons for the strength of Vancouver's Hell's Angels. The first is common to most chapters of the movement worldwide - organizational discipline. They have a strict hierarchy and place a premium on absolute loyalty. ... The second source of the Vancouver Hell's Angels' power is the group's control over the city's port. ... The Hell's Angels exert that influence through friends, business associates, corrupt officials and unions. ... the money being made by the organized groups, such as the Hell's Angels (in marijuana grow ops), means ... "if the police go and seize a thousand plants in that house, they'll just walk away. Because they are making so much money that they don't care about losing the investment. ...

"It's big news if something like the tunnels are discovered in Canada, but in the last year, they found about 27 tunnels between Mexico and the U.S." (Brian Brennan, chief investigator for the drug squad of the RCMP)

... BC Bud is a $6 billion industry. According to the RCMP, between 75 and 90 percent of marijuana produced in British Columbia makes its way onto the American market. But the United States and Canada confirm in their official Drug Threat Assessment that this amounts to a mere two percent of America's cannabis consumption. ... (From Chapter 10, Buddies, pgs. 213- 231)

A word about B.C. politics:

TeaMan90 In fact, Glenny's assessment of local politics hasn't been true for more than 10 years. Provincial Liberals are now Conservative blue, selling off public assets and resources, including public education, at fire sale prices, busting unions that have priced local industry out of the market and boosting public-private partnerships often involving secret deals now the subject of some ugly litigation revealing corruption at the highest level. (Google 'B.C. Rail plea bargain' for a sample of Liberal policy on influence peddling). The NDP, once the workers' party, has, alas, accepted so many corporate donations, it can no longer provide effective opposition. Former NDP Premier Dave Barrett is now leading the charge to erode universal health care as a director with a big U.S. insurance giant that sells private benefits to B.C. unions. According to its own reports, the company 'proudly' contributed mightily to the last NDP campaign!