BC’s Business Case For Legalizing Marijuana

The city of Vancouver could generate millions in tax revenue from legal marijuana.The city of Vancouver could generate millions in tax revenue from legal marijuana.I’m writing this on the day marijuana entrepreneur Marc Emery is being taken in handcuffs to the U.S. to plead guilty for selling marijuana seeds from his multimillion-dollar Vancouver-based mail-order business.

Leaving aside all the galling issues about U.S. legal control over a Canadian business, the arrest of a Canadian citizen who has never visited the U.S., the inexplicable length of his expected sentence – five years incarceration in the U.S. for a one-month offence in Canada – the victimless nature of his crime and the self-defeating wounds he inflicts on himself from incendiary pro-pot campaigning, his case highlights the role of pot as the elephant in the B.C. economy.

A 2004 Fraser Institute study roughly estimated the B.C. marijuana crop’s value at around 2% to 4% of the province’s GDP. That was before the recession. Go to any small town in B.C., look around at the pine-beetle kill and the shuttered mills and ask yourself what’s still selling.

As economic cutbacks continue to slice up our social infrastructure, it’s time to look more seriously at the futility of paying vast sums to keep pot illegal: last week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities motion asking for more federal money to fight gangs is only the latest indicator of how our widely-flaunted anti-pot laws are hurting communities financially – as well as generating crime and disrespect for the law. Pot sales are fuelling the franchising of Hell’s Angels subsidiaries in small towns all over the province as other economic opportunities dry up.

Who pays and who benefits from keeping pot possession a criminal offence? Ordinary citizens pay, in police, fire-inspection, court and jail costs, while access to the plant stays as high as ever.

As the Fraser Institute study concluded: “The broader social question becomes not whether we approve or disapprove of local production, but rather who shall enjoy the spoils.” The current beneficiaries are organized criminals, small-time dealers, illegal growers, police, lawyers and related law-enforcement industries.

Legalizing and taxing pot would immediately save money. An open letter signed by 500 U.S. economists, including Milton Friedman, suggested that replacing pot prohibition with taxation and regulation in the U.S. would save $7.7 billion annually and generate $6.2 billion a year in new revenue if legalized marijuana were taxed like alcohol or tobacco. The Washington legislature is looking at a 2010 bill that would reclassify possession from a crime to a civil infraction with a $100 penalty. A legislative committee estimates a net financial gain of $17 million a year if the bill passes.

Tobacco-like controls, regulations, age restrictions and warning labelling would mitigate abuse. Police could cut back forces and focus on real dangers.

There are a multitude of barriers to making this happen, not least of which is jeopardizing our relationship with our American neighbours. But how long are they going to hang onto anti-drug laws that have turned their southern flank into a drug state run by warlords? Pressure to decriminalize is very much alive south of the border. As far back as 1972, a bipartisan Congressional commission recommended decriminalization. Fourteen states representing a third of the U.S. population have since decriminalized marijuana use. Cities like Seattle have officially made adult marijuana use the “lowest law-enforcement priority.”

B.C. has an edge in the pot business. Give Emery credit for putting Vancouver on the international map as a pot hot spot. Canada already has more than 2,000 federally sanctioned medical-marijuana growers – some in grow-ops near you. We have expert growers in every municipality in the province. Just think if they could grow in greenhouses instead of converting wood-frame homes into agricultural fire traps.

The current economic crisis adds financial punch to the already strong arguments for ending this harmful charade and spending our scarce public dollars on creating benefits, not breeding crime.

– Article from Business in Vancouver on October 6, 2009.



  1. vansartone on

    I have done some studies and it shows that legalizing the plant would benefit everyone that uses and the government in regards to taxes but the under ground business will still grow as the cost to get premium product from legal sale will be pricey vs. what you pay for on the street. legalizing the plant will cause an ugly war with the existing gangs and criminal organizations that run the business and use the plant to run theirs. The largest players will still continue to make money regardless how you cut it. I am pro to working towards legalizing it but people need to remember that the illegal business will never go away as the argument will now be, to pay the inflated government regulated price or the dealers price. Food for thought and remember there is allot to consider with all avenues. Have a great 420

  2. Dan-o on

    While your post was an entertaining foray into name calling, it is a bit short on anything else. Creative adjectives will not end the war on cannabis users, in fact the BEST it can do is make a prohibitionist hold onto their false beliefs even longer. Fact and reason is needed in this fight rather than childishly calling people the intellectual equivalent of “poopyhead”.

  3. Brian Kerr on

    Steven Harper (the evangelical Christian whack job) will not in any way legalize cannabis. He is the most evil piece of fucking Nazi fascist putrid pig shit in Canada.

    That goes for every member of his party and every one who voted for that NeoCon fascist ass hole.

    If you smoke weed you must vote Green there is no other choice. Period. End of story.

  4. Brian Kerr on

    Cannabis will most likely be legal in 5 years or less in at leased 2 American states. There is a good chance that California will legalize Cannabis next year by Citizen insinuative an if not next year then in 2012. We might be surprised and find that it happens in another state first.
    Cannabis is actually sort of legal in Alaska because their Constitution has a strong privacy section which allows Cannabis use in ones own home. When the older generation who is in charge now, dies or retires from politics, the younger and more knowledgeable people who have had experience with Cannabis use personal and with medicinal cannabis will end this stupid drug war. There is no other choice we need Cannabis to save the planet from our environmental destruction too. Cannabis is the most important plant for human use for everything from food to fuel to building materials and plastic and medicine.

  5. Charlotte, NC FoosMaster on

    I believe that the only reason that marijuana is not legal in Canada now is because of US threats of severe economic sanctions from the Bush administration the last time the issue was considered by Canadian politicians. It should not have made a difference to the Canadians but I believe it did. I also believe that the reason that the DEA is being allowed to treat Marc the way they are is because Obama is severely distracted by 2 wars that Bush started and the healthcare issue which Bush didn’t care anything about. Hopefully the severe damage done by the Bush administration can begin to be reversed soon and things can begin to improve. I believe the Canadian people are smart, conscientious, level headed people for the most part and now that the issue of legalization has been brought up again the people have a chance to do the smart thing because Obama will not threaten the Canadian government over their choices the way that Bush did. I hope Canada will soon show the US how much good can come from legalization of marijuana and maybe the US will finally stop prosecuting and destroying the lives of people who would otherwise not be criminals. Go Canada!

  6. Anonymous on

    Yeah, they accepted the tax money alright. Unfortunately, it seems that doesn’t make them guilty of conspiracy or laundering. The US prosecuted Al Capone for tax evasion, so they apparently would have accepted his taxes if he had sent them in and stated that they came from illegal liquor sales. Your tax forms are supposed to be confidential anyway, and can’t be used as evidence of a crime.

    Here’s the weird thing about Cannabis seed sales, 2 of the G12 countries allow it and are thereby making money from the other countries that the seeds are sold to. Those countries have never prosecuted a person for exporting Cannabis seeds, to my knowledge, so they are willingly reaping those foreign funds. Since the Single Convention doesn’t mandate control of Cannabis seeds, there is no reason for any UN country to control them. Any country that does so is simply throwing their money away to the two countries that don’t.

    The UK and Netherlands have a monopoly on international Cannabis seed sales and they didn’t have to do a thing to have that monopoly. The stupidity of the other countries’ governments resulted in them voluntarily granting those two countries their monopoly. They’re laughing all the way to the world bank. It’s like if every other UN nation besides Canada decided to outlaw wheat. Canada would have it pretty sweet, huh?

  7. sexbomb on

    Will cannabis be made legal in my life time probably not ,
    maybe by 2109 when the plant freedom act says:
    no living organism can be made illegal , and eradicated
    a)based on its genetic ability to produce chemicals ,or
    b) what any animal may want to do with those chemicals.
    and the previous lawmakers jailed for their attempted genocide of the cannabis species.

  8. Anonymous on

    I just smoked a nice cone, and I am having a little trouble getting my thoughts around this whole thing? You mean to tell me the Gov collected the taxes on the filing of Emery and his business of selling marijuana seeds. So then should the US not be seeking the names of all the Canadian politicians who allowed Emery to sell seeds in the US, as accomplices. I wonder if any of Harper crew would have to be extradited to begin there US prison terms?

  9. Anonymous on

    No Canadian seed company should pay one cent in tax on seed sales while it is still illegal. That’s just rewarding the government for oppressing you. Emery paid probably over a million in taxes, and then look how he was thanked. He could have put that money in an offshore bank account where it would have done some good. He just threw that money away.

    No seed company keeps records and invoices anyway, so how could the government prove tax evasion? Maybe give them a token amount, like say you sold $100 worth of seeds that month, just to be able to say you did pay taxes. As it is, the government is deriving financial benefit without having to make one change in legislation. Seed sellers would have to be complete idiots to keep paying while Harper just laughs at the suckers and then either throws them in jail and/or fines them here or extradites them without question to other countries. Where’s the give and take in that? It’s all take and no give. It’s not even like paying protection money because they don’t even protect you. They’re worse than the mob.