Pubdate: Tue, 03 May 2016
Source: Southern Gazette, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2016 Transcontinental Media
Author: Russell Wangersky
Page: 6


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 speed ahead to establish 
their own marketing and distribution arms.

It's not reinventing the wheel - but it is putting a licence plate on it.

And the process should involve full vertical integration. To reap the 
best financial return, provincial governments should be involved from 
the seed on up, right to licensed 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 seizing.

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