Jumped the Synapse: Thoughts without sponsors!

These are my thoughts that don't fit in my other blogs. They'll eventually cover a large range of topics.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Grow-Ops hurt the community. Here's how ...

Are all law-abiding citizens of this province subsidizing the growing strength of biker and other gun-toting gangs in their $6 billion marijuana Grow-Op drug business?

Let us consider how the law-abiding will subsidize these gangs, in just three inter-related instances: increased rents for existing tenants, inferior economic growth, and declining property values.

Firstly, it is reported that there are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 grow-ops in Lower Mainland residences (July 2001, Vancouver Sun story). Even if we assume that one-half of these residences are owned by the gangs and their collaborators, this still leaves up to 10,000 residences subject to the damages caused by a grow-operation. How many times will the owner of a residential property willingly suffer the $5,000 to $30,000 in damages commonly reported?

I’d suggest that the majority of them will do so only once, or perhaps twice. After that, a real estate agent will be called to dispose of the property, and promptly. With a dwindling pool of willing landlords, we know by the laws of supply and demand that all rents will begin moving up. We can anticipate the negative spin-off effect on young families and just graduated university students. As the rents move up, some of them will move out of the province with their hard work, and subsidized educations’.

This leads me to the second point regarding inferior economic growth. Not only will B.C. have a reduced pool of talented and youthful labour, but we also have to consider the reduced desirability for entrepreneurs to begin businesses in this province. We also have the specter of top quality managers in large corporations refusing transfers to this province.

Both entrepreneurs and top-quality managers are far-sighted enough to envision at least three effects in the medium term future. This would include the prospect of the various gangs violently battling for monopoly power in the drug scene. Obviously, these job-creating entrepreneurs, managers and their families would rather live in a peaceful and safe province. The probability also exists that these numerically and economically growing gangs will seek to increase their criminal enterprises.

As has happened in other areas, some of these gangsters will threaten to destroy existing businesses or physically harm these small business people, unless “protection” money is paid. Many entrepreneurs may avoid this altogether by starting businesses in a more secure region. Finally, entrepreneurs and managers will see the potential harm for having their children placed directly into a supportive drug culture, and the attendant problems.

Therefore, we can see the possibility for inferior economic growth, and higher than needed tax rates to offset the talent pool leaving, or refusing to come to, this province.

Thirdly, we must consider the effect on property values. I believe that property values will be negatively impacted in three ways. As anyone who has tried to sell a house next to a derelict or unkempt drug property knows, this influence often reduces the sale price, so that the owner of the adjacent properties end up subsidizing the business activities in the drug houses. Also, as the damaged former rental properties enter the market, they can create a downward spiral in a neighbourhood, if the new owners do not quickly restore them to their prior condition.

These dual influences can result in the often overlooked consequence of lower assessed values and, therefore, lower tax revenues to the province. Finally, the upper end of the market may weaken, as talented entrepreneurs, business-owners, and top managers begin leaving the province, thereby providing a chilling “trickle-down” effect in the entire B.C. housing market.

While I believe that the existing laws and enforcement regime have proven to be a failure, I think it’s nonsense to think that this is a benign industry in its present form. The effects I have mentioned are only a partial list of the ways in which this business (in it’s present form) is harming others.

Therefore, I call on both federal and provincial political leaders, to facilitate a mature but expeditious discussion regarding the drug laws and enforcement in both B.C., and Canada. In my view, the discussion needs to be informed by as wide a viewpoint as possible, but with particular emphasis on those who have some first-hand knowledge of the issue. Particular emphasis should be placed on ensuring that the views of judges, police officers and officials, prosecutors, defense lawyers, social workers, drug counsellors, current and former drug users, and business and community leaders are heard.

It’s clear to me that if we don’t begin to discuss and understand this problem, and craft a mature solution fairly soon, we are ceding a good portion of our future to some very bad people.

... another random musing


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