Pubdate: Fri, 29 Apr 2016
Source: Cape Breton Post (CN NS)
Copyright: 2016 Cape Breton Post
Author: Russell Wangersky


In Newfoundland and Labrador, the latest budget brought huge debt, a
two per cent increase in the HST and shutdowns of everything from
seniors' dental programs to more than half the province's public libraries.

In Prince Edward Island, the HST's up one per cent, while Nova Scotia
has gone through public sector wages to eke out the barest slender
slip of a balanced budget. New Brunswick? It also raised HST by two
points to 15 per cent and is talking about public sector job cuts.

All in all, governments seem to be fixated on cutting their way to
success, a model businesses already know is more about mitigating and
delaying decline than it is about making a company stronger.

Nowhere in the Atlantic region does anyone seem to have anything more
than the usual chant of "we need to diversify" without ever having
seen or heard of a diversification model that actually worked. And all
it really shows is that no one is willing to look ahead to much more
than the next provincial election. Here's a date: April 2017. That's
when the federal government has announced it will introduce
legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, something that's
already been done in states like Colorado and Washington.

You could, of course, simply operate like those states: regulate
private sellers and reap tax on sales. Or you could do much more.

Right now, provincial governments should be moving full

To reap the best financial return, provincial governments should be
involved from the seed on up, right to licenced sales. They should
plan to grow, process, ship, package and sell cannabis - and in the
process, maintain the same types of regulatory oversight used for
cigarettes and alcohol. Newfoundland's liquor corporation is expected
to bring in $183 million this year, merely on the basis of a tax levy
on other people's products; cigarette taxes in Nova Scotia are
expected to bring in $227 million - once again, by merely adding a tax
to someone else's profitable product.

Plan it, be vertically integrated and have it firmly under provincial
control, both to have the revenues benefit people in the Atlantic
region and to have the same kind of sales oversight that the provinces
already have over alcohol and tobacco. You can of course, simply say,
"Governments shouldn't be in a business like that."

Sure. And that's why our governments aren't in the lottery business,
aren't benefiting from addictive VLTs, and aren't depending on smokers
and drinkers for huge sums of revenue. We've already established what
we are; we're only quibbling over the unseemly nature of particular
individual vices.

Legal or not legal, marijuana sales are already happening, and
millions upon millions of dollars are being spent. Having the
government move into this particular business also has the huge
benefit of not cutting off established, legal businesses at the knees.

I've said myself that there are still concerns to be dealt with about
legalizing weed, right down to establishing a simple test to see if
drivers are impaired by drugs. But once it's legal, it's a revenue
opportunity that all four Atlantic governments should be well into

If it's going to happen anyway, let's all get ahead of the weed curve.
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MAP posted-by: Matt