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Why is Canada fast-tracking cannabis legalization?

 

Cannabis legalization


Why is Canada fast-tracking cannabis legalization?

In 2015, during the run up to Canada’s general election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a campaign promise that, if elected, his government would ensure the full legalization of cannabis.

Not only is the Canadian Prime Minister making good on this promise, but his government appears to be fast-tracking the program.

Removing the criminal element

Trudeau has justified his position by stating that legalization of marijuana will allow for proper controls to be enacted. Not only would controlled legalization provide a safer environment for recreational users, but it would also free up valuable state resources.

Research shows that Canadian police currently deal with marijuana possession incidents at an average rate of one every nine minutes. Once legalized, less time would be spent prosecuting individuals, and police could be used more effectively in combating serious issues. At the same time, such a move would take money away from organized crime and generate tax revenue that would boost state-controlled coffers.

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Money talks

Surveys conducted by Statistics Canada reveal that around 12% of the population admits to smoking marijuana. Marijuana consumption in British Colombia alone has an estimated value of around $400 million per annum. Using these figures, the amount spent on marijuana across the entire country stands at around $3 billion.

A recent report, released by CIBC World Markets, places the potential value of the industry at a much higher value of $10 billion per year.  If one were to use the Colorado legalization process as a model, then the following will be seen.

In 2014, marijuana sales across the state of Colorado totaled a whopping $700 million. Tax and licensing revenues generated $75 million for the government. If we look at the current situation for 2016, then Colorado’s marijuana sales are well on track to reach the $1 billion mark. Once prices are adjusted to Canadian currency, and taking the national population into account, the actual value of Canada’s cannabis market could easily be as much as $10billion.

Sin Tax

The Canadian government currently levies a hefty 50% tax on alcohol and tobacco products. With this in mind, there is little to no reason why the government would not profit financially if they were to implement similar levies on cannabis products.

Although such a situation may be the ideal, it would only be viable if underground sales of marijuana were completely eliminated. As it stands, only 30% of Canadian cannabis is sold locally. The remaining 70% would not be taxable.

Support for legalization

Industry experts were initially skeptical as to whether or not marijuana legalization would receive any support. However, as society’s attitude towards the drug soften, so too has the move seen a wealth of support from the general public. This is particularly evident amongst a younger generation and those recently eligible to vote.

Industry organizations have also rallied behind the move. In an unusual show of solidarity, the B.C.  Private Liquor Store Association and the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union joined forces in expressing a desire to see recreational cannabis being made available in provincial liquor outlets.

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Word of caution

Police chiefs across the country have been reporting a spike in the number of pot possession related incidents. It appears that people are deliberately flouting the legal code as it stands and are finding themselves in hot water with the law.

Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, has issued a cautionary statement to anyone who wishes to take immediate advantage of the ambitious legalization plans. According to Blair, until the new legislation is in place, the current laws and penalties will remain.

“The only control that is currently in place is the criminal sanction and the laws … those laws must continue to be respected and upheld right across the country,” he said

Blair was also scathing in his criticism of the current legislation and pointed out that it affects minority groups and aboriginal people disproportionately. He raised concerns about the access to marijuana that children have to marijuana through the black market.

“We believe that a strict regulatory regime will do a far better job of enabling us to control the access that kids have to marijuana, it will enable us to eliminate the black market and get organized crime out of this and thereby make our communities safer,”

Closing remarks

Legalization of marijuana is indeed a controversial subject. That said, the arguments in favor of such a move are indisputable. Perhaps, if the proposed system is correctly implemented, there should be nothing to fear.

If one considers the massive boost legalization will provide to the state coffers, the taking of money away from organized crime and ensuring safer communities, then maybe the Liberal government might just be onto a good thing after all. Only time will tell if the move is to prove successful or not. Do you agree with cannabis legalization in Canada?

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