Pubdate: Wed, 21 Nov 2012
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Ian Austin


British Columbians spend half-a-billion dollars a year on pot - and a 
new study says decriminalizing the drug could fill government coffers 
with $500 million a year in new tax revenue. Dr. Evan Wood, senior 
author of the study, said this is the first serious attempt to 
calculate the B.C. domestic market for pot - and may help convince 
B.C.ers that decriminalizing is better than the ineffective war on drugs.

"Governments in North America have now spent $1 trillion on the war 
on drugs, but young people have easier access to marijuana than 
tobacco or alcohol," said Wood, who serves as the Canada Research 
Chair in Inner City Medicine at the University of B.C. "These laws 
have created marijuana grow-ops, hydro theft, home invasions and gang activity.

"Huge amounts of money go into the cat-and-mouse game of chasing 
cannabis-users and producers."

Wood is no pot proponent-as a health professional he believes that 
legislating and taxing marijuana will create a revenue stream to fund 
public-awareness campaigns to cut the number of users, especially 
among young people.

"In The Netherlands and Portugal, where it is now essentially legal, 
marijuana use has actually gone down," said Wood. "The reality is 
that most people who are curious about pot have already tried it, and 
most of them don't like it."

Wood admits that trying to nail down the value of the B.C. marijuana 
market is an inexact science - his consumption rate is based on a 
2010 Health Canada survey, and he's given himself a lot of wiggle 
room. Since many people won't admit to doing something illegal - such 
as smoking pot - Wood believes the survey under-reports marijuana 
use. He pegs B.C.'s annual domestic market in the range of $443 
million to $564 million - exporting into the U.S. brings in billions 
more each year.

The Health Canada survey indicates that about 366,000 B.C.ers use 
B.C. bud, almost exactly the number as in Washington state, which 
recently voted to legalize marijuana. Wood said part of the new 
revenue stream could be used for a public-awareness campaign for 
youth, who are now bombarded with a glorified image of pot use.
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