It’s reefer madness to think marijuana will pay the bills

Legalize and tax marijuana and the budget will balance itself. Marijuana advocates from stoners to recreational users to the prime minister have tried to convince us of this for years. But they’re all wrong. It makes some sense that a product so commonly used should be regulated rather than criminalized, sending its newly-enabled taxation revenues to the public coffers. Unfortunately, recent federal announcements and the examples of two American states tell us that a fiscal boon from legal pot is nothing more than reefer madness. Marijuana legalization opponents say that the long-term health and social costs will create a burden on our health-care system through drug-induced car accidents, brain damage, lung damage and the like. No need to wait – the bill is already more than three-quarters of a billion dollars and counting. Last spring’s federal budget called for $9.6 million over five years for awareness, education and “surveillance activities,” with another $36.4 million announced in the fiscal update. In September, Public Safety Canada announced $274 million of marijuana-related spending. As October ended, the federal government announced a further $548 million would be spent to implement the Cannabis Act. Of this, a whopping $432 million is headed to Health Canada, $68 million to the RCMP, $40 million to border security, and $6 million to Public Safety Canada. Put down your illegal reefer for a moment, long enough to understand that nothing the government does is cheap or efficient. Health Canada’s millions are apparently for “a new regulatory approach, including licensing and inspection, compliance and enforcement, monitoring and research, as well as a national public education and awareness campaign, tracking systems and program support.”

Never mind that this will all have to be done in conjunction with the provinces, which will have their own untold costs. At least some of this health spending seems superfluous, especially regarding marijuana awareness. Anyone who wanted to know the effects already does and everyone else is in ignorant bliss. Besides, if the packaging is forced to look anything like that for cigarettes, it will basically say, “This will kill you,” aided by grotesque illustrations, and people will maintain happy denial anyway.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suggested a 10 per cent pot tax. But Finance Department officials refuse to suggest that this will even provide cost recovery for legalization. It’s far from certain. Colorado, with one-seventh the population of Canada, received $76 million from marijuana taxes and fees in 2014 and that ballooned to $200 million last year. That said, Colorado’s excise and sales taxes on pot add up to 27.9 per cent.

The tax-free status of Canada’s Indigenous reservations will also undermine federal and provincial marijuana revenues. Tobacco tax exemptions amount to an estimated $686 million annually. In Quebec and Ontario, the Akwesasne, Kahnawake, Tyendinaga and Ohsweken reserves, with their own factories, produce a very high percentage of contraband tobacco. Nearly one-third of Ontario cigarettes are contraband. The Macdonald-Laurier Institute estimates the cost to public coffers is $1.6 billion to $3.1 billion in Ontario alone.

If tobacco, forever legal and widely available, can have up to a third of its sales illegal, imagine what the proportion will be for marijuana, widely available yet illegal in Canada since 1923.

As Canada prepares to become the second nation in the world to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, it must hold fast to at least one sober thought: pot consumption and taxation will not relieve our governments’ fiscal headaches.

Lee Harding is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. © 2017 Distributed by Troy Media

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Four Paws Food Bank-Barriere helps area pet owners

Leia Kett (as in Star War’s Princess Leia) has been a Barriere… Continue reading

Dynamic drives and pitiful putting helped even the score

Another Ladies’ Night has come and gone. This season is passing by… Continue reading

(Metro Creative graphic)
BC Liquor Store in Barriere raises $1,026 for grad celebrations

Barriere Secondary is once again a recipient of the annual Safe Grad… Continue reading

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits to failing to supervise his staff and find, report the shortage

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

FILE – Nurse Iciar Bercian prepares a shot at a vaccine clinic for the homeless in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
B.C. scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines

Most Read