The Other Lesson Behind the Toronto Raids

Well, Toronto got raided again.

The city’s medical cannabis dispensaries were raided by police and forced to close, but Marc Emery’s dispensary, Cannabis Culture, reopened a day later.

A Hamilton cannabis consultant brought her kids to the reopening of Emery’s shop to voice her support. She told the media, “I really want to make it clear to Canada that this isn’t a fight against the police… We are fighting against old laws.”

And, when asked why she brought her kids, she said: “I brought them to show them how to peacefully disobey an unjust law.”


But these old unjust laws only exist because governments are made up of people who are prone to mistakes and corruption.

The idea that judges and politicians can truly be impartial is a metaphysical belief that does not jive with reality.

Take cannabis laws for example.

Politicians can try to represent their constituency, while lawyers can argue facts from both sides to a judge who will attempt to rule impartially.

But the idea that there is an objective “correct” answer to the debate presupposes that normative ethics are akin to the positive sciences.

In other words, saying that, “cannabis prohibition is wrong” is fundamentally different from saying, “the planet revolves around the sun.”

The latter is a statement of fact, the former is an opinion.

Yet, legal jurisprudence isn’t without its merits. In fact, arbitration services for resolving conflict and maintaining not only order but fairness, are clearly in demand.

For, without fairness and order, how could a market sustain itself? Without someone writing and enforcing the rules, how could anyone play the game?

In Canada, we may have varying degrees of order, but fairness is eroding quickly and I’m not talking about “wealth inequality.”

Fairness implies laws that are both homogeneous and heterogeneous where best suited.  Murder and theft are wrong for everyone, but selling cannabis might be an offence in one place but not another.

And, if I get punished for violating a contract I had with you, I shouldn’t get harsher treatment because you’re the brother of the arresting officer or because your dad is a well-connected politician.

To keep legal jurisprudence fair and orderly, one must accept the positive science of economics.

That human beings purposefully act, that value is subjective, that time preference and opportunity costs are conditions of being human. You can’t wish them away, but you can study and reflect on them. You can build a corpus of economic theory with them.

And, as economics and history clearly demonstrate, markets are at the root of civilization.

Politicians didn’t legislate us out of the jungle and government bureaucracy didn’t implement the Renaissance.

There are solid arguments as to why cannabis, or even alcohol and coffee, should or shouldn’t be in Canadian communities.

And this is precisely why the rule of law is a myth. There is no right answer. “Law and order” is Orwellian doublespeak because it presupposes order is synonymous with law.

But laws can disrupt order, especially when the lawgiver holds a coercive monopoly on the service. How else would you interpret the Toronto raids?

If we learn anything on this long-road from cannabis prohibition to legalization, to a place where, as Marc Emery told the media, cannabis needs no more regulations “than cucumbers or coffee or flowers,” then the sooner we understand this lesson the better.

An “unjust law” is a rule that cannot be checked by economic calculation.