Worried about organized crime links to dispensaries? Why not go further, investigate the whole drug business?

The City of Vancouver’s new marijuana dispensary bylaws have infuriated Vancouver Sun court reporter Ian Mulgrew because they allegedly ignore that “the money made from the low-hanging cannabis fruit pays for the soldiers and street dealers pushing other drugs.”

They are also “mischievous,” a blatant “cash grab” and “simply irresponsible.”

Worst of all, they do nothing to achieve the goal Mulgrew believes is critical: the end of prohibition and the legal, regulated sale of weed “to help the sick and stop the imprisonment of our kids.”

I agree with Mulgrew’s last point, of course, but can tell him straight out that no one on council is naive about the inevitable links between the criminal drug industry and the dispensary business. How could it be otherwise, when the industry is emerging from a chaotic, illegal underground existence?

I have asked VPD, both during private briefings and in the public hearing, whether or not the dispensary bylaws needed further refinement or strengthening to minimize criminal involvement. The answer was always “no.”

In fact, the oversight provisions of the bylaw arguably strengthen police ability to manage a problem that has emerged because of the complete collapse of the Conservatives’ so-called “war on drugs” in the face of Supreme Court rulings. That’s not the city’s fault and the bylaws are an effort, however imperfect, to provide a modicum of neighbourhood protection.

Veteran journalists like Mulgrew and Sun crime reporter Kim Bolan could perform a real service to everyone frustrated by the current state of affairs if they turned their considerable skills away from the symptoms of the drug trade — weekly shootings, gang warfare, lengthy trials, dispensaries — to the political economy of the business.

It is, after all, a widely-recognized major element of the BC economy, worth billions annually, which pays no taxes but must employ platoons of people, from lowly grow-op operatives to lawyers, accountants and logistics specialists.

Who owns the business? How is legalization in the United States affecting prices? What businesses are the focus of money-laundering? Who profits from the current state of affairs?

The power to shut down the trade — along with the political prominence to challenge national policy — lies in Victoria. Why not turn the rhetorical guns on the people who could make a real change, rather than municipal bylaws that seek to make the best of an absurd situation?

The drug trade is literally the elephant in the room when it comes to the BC economy, but many more reporters are assigned to cover the Vancouver Giants than what is arguably a much more significant story.