Pot laws create environment for violence

Although an appeal remains a possibility, the guilty verdict against Roy Fraser on first- and second-degree murder charges has brought an end to nearly five years of trauma for the families of Damien Marks and Ken Yaretz Jr.

Fraser was given a life sentence, with no chance of parole for 25 years after being found guilty of murdering the two men and burying them on his property.

While the Crown did not have to provide a motive for the killings - in a case built on circumstantial evidence - it nonetheless theorized Fraser killed Yaretz Jr., a gang associate and bully, out of a mix of fear and anger.

Prosecutors said Fraser then killed Marks, the only witness.

Fear and anger were the motives, but the economics of marijuana underpinned the events of five years ago.

The Conservative government continues a war on drugs mentality originated in the U.S.

Ironically, as the U.S. moves away from the model - evidenced by legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado - the Stephen Harper Tories steadfastly continue to foster the black market on pot.

The trial heard that Fraser, who called himself a small-time grower, made $180,000 in little over a year at the Knouff Lake property. It was equipped with an underground bunker. Not far away, Yaretz Jr. and Fraser planned another grow-op.

How many grow-ops are in Knouff Lake and rural Barriere today? Tens more? Hundreds?

With the kind of profits made by Fraser, and in a world where the newest generation is paid less than their parents and housing costs are at an all-time high, it's no wonder grow-ops populate our cities and towns. Unfortunately, the suppliers, brokers and security guards are violent gangsters who take the profits.

During the trial, the underpinnings of the marijuana economy came up again and again: bypassing B.C. Hydro, renting rural properties for grow-ops, and loans of grow-op equipment from gangsters.

While the trial heard that Yaretz Jr. and Marks dabbled in cocaine, it's clear that marijuana provides the fuel for that drug through cross-border trade and easy money.

If marijuana were legal, licensed and controlled by government, the underground pot economy would disappear. With it would go much violence, including the kind that killed buddies Damien Marks and Ken Yaretz Jr.

Thus far, only the federal Liberals under Justin Trudeau are promoting legalization, a policy, while just and smart, leaves them open to the kind of smear politics the Conservatives have used with success.

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