Pubdate: Tue, 10 Nov 2015
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Dan Fumano
Page: 6


As Canada's new government moves toward acting on its commitment to
legalize and regulate marijuana, policy-makers should look south to
learn the ups and downs of legal highs, said an expert behind
Colorado's framework for legal pot.

Andrew Livingston is a policy analyst from Vicente Sederberg LLC, a
Denver-based law firm focused on the business and law of marijuana.
Livingston helped craft the laws for the first U.S. state to allow
regulated recreational pot sales.

Livingston, in Vancouver this week to speak at a cannabis policy forum
Thursday evening at UBC Robson Square, discussed the topic at length
in an interview Monday with The Province.

One key consideration is figuring out the best pricing and tax
structure, Livingston said; if taxes make the price of legal pot too
high, consumers might stick with the black market.

Consumers are willing to pay a premium for legal product, but only to
a certain price point, he said, adding: "Maybe's it's 10 per cent
higher than the black market price, maybe 20 per cent, but it's really
kind of hard to know."

Livingston, an economist by training, favours starting with a lower
tax rate, thus attracting as many consumers from the black market as
possible and hopefully putting criminals out of business, and then
increasing taxes over time.

Colorado and Washington state both passed laws in November 2012 to
legalize marijuana.

Colorado's legal sales were up and running seven months before
Washington's, and Livingston said Washington had more early hiccups
than Colorado, including initial sky-high prices and distribution problems.

Colorado had a smoother launch for recreational sales, Livingston
said, because the state had a medical marijuana licensing system in
place, unlike Washington. This made Colorado "the epicentre of
regulated marijuana commerce," he said.

The situation is comparable in some ways to Vancouver, Livingston
said, which this year became the first jurisdiction in Canada to
regulate retail pot stores.

Last month, the city announced 11 dispensaries from among 176
applicants were being given the green light to move on to the next
stage of the licensing process.

"Vancouver is a great example," Livingston said. "By taking the lead,
they'll be able to show the rest of Canada the best ways to license."

Livingston will take part in a panel discussion at Thursday's event,
hosted by Lift, a Canadian cannabis news and reviews website.
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