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Crooks, Killers, and Butter Replacement

September 3rd, 2007

This commentary by Joel D. on the recent seizure of margarine from a Wal-Mart in Quebec highlights the connection between stupid laws, black markets, and government inefficiency. After procuring the rights to publish this article, I did a little research on this story and discovered that there is a silly law in Quebec that prohibits manufacturers of margarine from making the color of their products appear too much like the color of natural butter. Apparently it was this “butter colored” margarine that prompted this seizure of some 72 tubs of Becel margarine back in 2005. Joel’s observations on the issue seem pretty funny in this instance, but they also remind us of the insane consequences of attempting to ban the peaceful use of substances that people actually want to buy.


Often we hear people say things like, “Oh, crime is on the rise”, “It’s beyond the police’s ability to handle”, or “I don’t feel safe out at night”. More often than not, we feel more than a bit bitter towards the politicians, feeling that they do not put the personal safety of the citizenry first, that they spend money on things of little importance. This is, of course, ridiculous; after all, if a politician runs an area full of deaths and crime, then he gets a pay cut! Still, one must admit that there seems to be little evidence of quick, decisive action on the part of the folks that solve the crimes, and even those that enforce the punishment. Where is the criminal? Where is justice?

Well, this should put your minds at rest that the coinage given by we, the taxpayers, has not been wasted. A little while ago, there was a heroic raid depicted in the Ottawa Citizen, in which Quebec officials swarmed a local Wal-Mart, confiscating… margarine. That’s right. Becel yellow margarine to be more precise, several crates of it that. To quote from the article, “had a street value of $200″.

Street value. It almost makes it sound as if they’ve confiscated cocaine from a Columbian drug lord, rather than margarine, whose only health risk is increasing your cholesterol level to dangerous highs. Why did they take the yellow margarine? Because the Wal-Mart was in Quebec, and it was attempting to sell margarine made outside of the province (Quebec produced margarine, you see, if white). This was a nefarious crime that had to be stopped!

Personally, I would have loved to have been at one of those Wal-Marts when the Quebec officials “advanced upon it”. I can’t shake the image of SWAT teams bursting through the automatic doors, rifles raised, heavy armor in place. The security squads would attempt to counter with nightsticks and pricing guns, but the massacre would be brief and decisive, at which point the triumphant law enforcement officials would grab the crates of yellow margarine, drive the half a mile distance to the Ottawa bridge, and then chuck it over the provincial border, perhaps pointing and barking “HA!” at the neighbouring province.

Shouldn’t they be doing something more useful with these investigative skills, such as, I dunno, stopping crime? Yellow margarine is hardly a menace, and the only reason the Quebec government doesn’t want it sold in Quebec is to prevent anyone else from clogging up your arteries except them.

You can see where this will inevitably go, right? Whenever public sales of a substance becomes illegal, the black market swoops in. The next thing you know, you’ll find people with trench coats huddled on street corners, trying to sell pot, crack, and yellow margarine. As parents twenty years from now, you’ll be worried that your children are being tempted by the bad apples of modern society. At parties, your innocent child will be approached by the yellow junkie, and secretively offered those little plastic cups of yellow margarine… soon he’ll be hooked, not on the product, but on the danger behind it!

This is almost as bad as the time Canadian toilets were smuggled over the border into the U.S., because ours has a bigger tank. What’s next? No red M&Ms? That would be the last straw, ladies and gentlemen, the last straw.



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