- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 28, 2003

Wanna score some government dope? In Canada, the courts recently ruled that patients suffering from AIDS, cancer and other diseases were entitled to enjoy the benefits of “medical marijuana” — and not just any old marijuana, but official government marijuana, supplied to them by Health Canada, the government health system. Health Canada mulled it over and set up a program to grow the court-ordered federal pot in a disused mine in Flin Flon, Manitoba.

Of the first 10 patients to be supplied with the government weed, half claim it’s the worst pot they’ve ever smoked. They’re sending it back to Ottawa, and they want a full refund. “It’s totally unsuitable for human consumption,” says Jim Wakeford, an AIDS patient in Gibsons, British Columbia. “I threw up,” says Barrie Dalley of Toronto.

Health Canada insists their dope contains 10.2 percent THC, the main active ingredient. But the respected pot lobbyist Philippe Lucas says the government weed is only 3 percent THC and full of contaminants like lead and arsenic. Aren’t lead and arsenic dangerous? To modify Nancy Reagan: “Just say no to government drugs.”

One reason I’m in favour of small government is because there’s hardly anything the government doesn’t do worse than anybody else who wants to give it a go. Usually when I make this observation, I’m thinking of, say, Britain’s late unlamented nationalized car industry. But when the government of a G-7 nation can’t run a small marijuana sideline as well as a college student with a window box, that seems to set an entirely new standard for official underperformance. Big government goes to pot, in every sense.



Instead of its hugely wasteful “War on Drugs”, the U.S. government might have been better just to legalize them, give the contract to the government of Canada, and in three months the entire drug market would have collapsed and guys would be huddled in darkened alleys saying, “Hey, man, do you know where I can get some butterscotch pudding?”

Other plants in the news include the Gentry indigo bush. This rare shrub grows in a few selected parts of Arizona and Mexico, close to a transmission line proposed by Tucson Electric Power to supply electricity to its southern neighbor, so impoverished Mexicans will have better street lighting to guide them as they swarm across the U.S. border to pick up their complimentary drivers’ licenses and free health care from Gray Davis.

But now the whole project is in doubt. Although an environmental study says the Gentry indigo bush would be unaffected one way or the other by the power line, the Center for Biological Diversity is suing the U.S. government to get the bush listed as an endangered species and thus indirectly put pressure on Tucson Electric.

Alas, Jeff Humphrey of the Fish and Wildlife Service says his agency has no money to list any new endangered species because its budget is mostly tied up in court cases brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and similar groups. Got that?

If this keeps up, the endangered species list will itself be an endangered species. And the barrage of litigation on behalf of various beleaguered flora and fauna will have spectacularly increased mainly one species: environmental lawyers.

The Gentry indigo bush doesn’t seem to be “endangered.” True, you can’t find it in northern Maine. But then you never could. This would seem to be yet another example of how every do-gooding cause eventually floats free of whatever good it was trying to do and becomes a self-perpetuating business all its own.

The racism industry, for example, is now so large and lucrative and employs so many highly remunerated people from the Rev. Jesse Jackson down that it has a far greater interest than the Klu Klux Klan in maintaining racism.

Thus, the African-American Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, was recently moved to complain that the naming of hurricanes is racist. Apparently, blacks are being discriminated against because hardly any massively destructive meteorological phenomena are given African-American names. The black community can’t relate to some white-bread wind like Hurricane Isabel. Why are there never any Hurricane Leroys? It’s deeply racist and insulting to imply that only WASPily appellated forces of nature are capable of billions of dollars of coastal damage.

This brings us, as most things do, to Iraq. In the last few weeks, almost all the big Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have pulled out of the country, either partially or totally: Oxfam, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders. … Is it dangerous? Maybe.

When I was in Iraq earlier this year, I detected a good deal of resentment at the NGO bigshots swanking around like colonial grandees in their gleaming Cherokees and Suburbans. But Iraq is a good deal less dangerous than, say, Liberia, where drugged-up gangs roam the streets killing at random, and the humanitarian lobby — Big Consciences — is happy to stay on.

What’s different is the political agenda. The humanitarian touring circuit is now the oldest established permanent floating crap game. Regions such as West Africa, where there’s no pretense anything will ever get better, or the Balkans, which are maintained by the U.N. as the global equivalent of a slum housing project, suit the aid agencies perfectly: There’s never not a need for them.

But in Iraq, they’ve decided they’re not interested in staying to see the electric grid back up to capacity and the water system improved if an American administration is at the helm. The Big Consciences have made a political decision: It’s not in their interest for the Bush crowd to succeed, and that outweighs any concern they might have for the Iraqi people.

Heigh-ho. For six months, their “Chicken Little” predictions of humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq have failed to emerge. If the country gets by perfectly fine without them, that may be a very useful lesson.

Meanwhile, who is staying on? The private sector: Bechtel and Halliburton and all the other supposed Bush cronies invited to help rebuild postwar Iraq. According to the conspirazoids, Dick Cheney planned the September 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. so he would have an excuse to topple Saddam and his old company Halliburton could make a killing. Fine. Let’s take that as read. The fact is, right now, Oxfam and the other do-gooders have fled, and the only folks standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Iraqi people are the wicked capitalists.

So, in a month when the government can’t even be a competent drug dealer, and environmental nonprofit groups have bankrupted the endangered species list, and the international humanitarians have decided the Iraqis can take care of themselves, I say: Let’s hear it for the private sector.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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