Montreal, March 15, 2005 • No 152




Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.




by Harry Valentine


          The recent tragic shootings of four police officers in the town of Mayerthorpe Alberta is an example of how government behaviour can ultimately cause unintended results over the long term. Residents of the town near where the shootings occurred revealed that over a period of several years, they'd lived in fear of the accused killer, a person who had previously been convicted and jailed. The nation's justice system failed to protect the public in this case. Even the manner in which police supervision had handled the situation between young police officers and a known offender elicited public criticism from a retired police superintendent, whose viewpoints were aired on national television.


          The 46-year-old accused killer's background revealed that his parents divorced when he was a pre-teen, after which he had been placed under foster care prior to being allegedly rescued by his mother. This claim of being rescued indicates possible problems. Evidence from Ontario revealed that children as young as 5 year old who had been wards of the state during the 1950-1970 era, had actually been placed in residential reform schools for misbehaved boys. Sexual abuses of boys were known to occur at such institutions. Several former reform school residents had subsequent run-ins with police. An inquiry may discover what happened to James Roszko while he was under foster care and how it may have affected him, unless there are reasons to keep this covered up.

          During this time, Roszko was forcibly compelled by law to attend a state school institution that usually had one or more school counselors on staff. But most of these staff members were counselors in name only. The state school system was in the ideal position to have provided the help needed to rehabilitate problem youths or give support to children from broken homes. Literature existed at that time detailing some difficulties and behavioural problems of children from broken homes. Except that the state school system failed to provide the help and guidance to those who needed it most. Many teenagers at that time found school to be boring and irrelevant, but spent time there until they were old enough to go out to work. James Roszko evidently may have been in this category.

Anti-establishment youth sub-cultures

          This time period (late 60's and early 70's) was the era of America's Vietnam nightmare, an incomprehensible political horror that divided America and demoralized the mainstream of American youth. Many protested on college and university campuses while others turned to drugs like marijuana and LSD, perhaps to cope with the emotional impact of corrupt and authoritarian Vietnam-era American politics. Anti-establishment youth sub-cultures emerged across America and spread into Canada, smoking (or toking) marijuana to "get high" as one of their social activities that got participants accepted, validated, acknowledged and accorded recognition by anti-establishment youth peers.

          James Roszko had his initial marijuana-related encounters with police during the height of America's Vietnam era, when he was entering the age group that began to use marijuana. In its expedient shortsightness to achieve something politically acceptable over the short term (regardless of the long-term consequences), the state had criminalized the peaceful use and possession of marijuana. During an earlier period, ownership and use of marijuana by peaceful people was regarded as a private matter. If a parent at that point in time found one of his children to be in possession of marijuana, the matter would likely have been dealt with privately, perhaps behind a wood shed. A few other parents may have sought help from professional counselors.

"Shortsighted state policies ultimately made Roszko into the monster that he became and cost four police officers their lives."

          By the time that the then young Roszko was found by the older Roszko to be in possession of marijuana, the latter had the choice of either being an accessory by keeping the matter private, or becoming an informant by calling in the RCMP to deal with a situation that may otherwise have been resolved privately. Subsequently, the already troubled younger Roszko began to have ongoing run-ins with law enforcement authorities. His behaviour resulted in a prison sentence, giving the state an opportunity to re-habilitate the repeat offender who hated law enforcement personnel. The state had not only failed to re-habilitate Roszko, it released him back into a community where most residents were terrified of him and unable to depend on the state to protect them from him.

          Shortsighted state policies ultimately made Roszko into the monster that he became and cost four police officers their lives. Had marijuana ownership never been made a criminal offence in the first place, it is highly probable that Roszko's life would have taken a different path. The current initiative to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana may in fact be a step in the right direction, except it will have come many decades too late to have prevented a needless tragedy. A few European countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland that actually allow for the legal trade of marijuana and a few mind-altering drugs, have very low rates of drug-related crime.

State-imposed shortage

          When the state acts to ban a product for which a high market demand exists, the laws of economics go into effect and the state-imposed shortage sends prices escalating. Rigorous law enforcement may quickly push the casual entrepreneurs out of the banned market, but such action also invites more sophisticated elements to participate in a more lucrative market. Marijuana grow-ops exist at the present time because of a burgeoning underground market demand that exists for their product. As long as market demand for the banned product remains high, suppliers will seek more sophisticated means by which to grow the product and supply the market. That greater sophistication could lead an underground drug lab to use genetic engineering to transfer the active THC gene that produces the euphoria when marijuana is smoked, into the leaves of other plant species.

          A high demand for the products of marijuana grow-ops and of underground drug labs exists in the United States. America's War on Drugs seems to be steadily increasing the amount of money circulating in the drug trade. Much of America's gang crime is drug related. Many American and Canadian high-school students know how to obtain marijuana or a drug like methamphetamine that can actually be made by a high-school chemistry student using easily obtainable ingredients. A great deal of political prestige rides on America's War on Drugs. Despite political claims that the War on Drugs is being won, the recreational drug trade has taken on the behaviour of the mythical hydra that grows two replacement heads after one has been lost. The solution to the drug addiction dilemma ultimately lies with private people peacefully and independently offering private programs that help or guide other people to achieve meaning and purpose in their lives.