Pubdate: Wed, 13 Jul 2016
Source: National Post (Canada)
Page: A1
Copyright: 2016 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Ian MacLeod


OTTAWA  - Illegal pot sales are turning into a high earner for governments.

Don Briere's national chain of renegade retail shops remitted 
$688,449 in GST/HST collected from December to May on exploding sales 
of unlicensed marijuana, hashish and cannabis-laced edibles to 
relieve aches and pains.

Briere remitted $286,452 more in federal payroll taxes and employer 
contributions to Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan for 
2015. Then there's personal income tax, corporate tax, store property 
taxes, workers' compensation and more.

His illegal business rivals are expected to generate oodles more for 

"They're not quaking in their boots when the police come, they're 
quaking in their boots when the taxman comes," Briere said from one 
of his three stores in Vancouver, part of the contested 19-store 
Weeds empire rising in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

The apparent contradiction between criminal law and tax law is the 
latest pot hole on the road to marijuana legalization. Weeds is part 
of a budding, illicit industry that believes it has a legal right to 
sell cannabis products to customers who can show they have a 
diagnosed medical ailment that pot is known to treat.

Medical marijuana is legal in Canada but only for patients with a 
doctor's prescription who purchase it from one of 33 growers licensed 
by Health Canada. As a result, Briere is spending "thousands and 
thousands" on legal fees - plus tax.

While governments knowingly profit from rebels such as Briere, they 
condemn the storefront operations. (Licensed growers send the 
medicine by registered mail.)

The Liberal government recently supported crackdowns such as the 
police and municipal bylaw raids in June on the hundreds of 
unlicensed cannabis shops sprouting around Toronto and Vancouver.

Five Weeds outlets closed in Toronto, but days later a chic outlet 
opened in downtown Ottawa, six blocks from Parliament Hill and the 
office the justice minister.

Jody Wilson-Raybould and the ministers of public safety and health 
last month issued a joint statement warning that laws against 
recreational cannabis remain in force.

Another section of the Criminal Code makes it a crime to knowingly 
possess proceeds derived, directly or indirectly, from an indictable 
offence. Unless that happens to be the government, in which case crime pays.

"According to the Income Tax Act and to the Excise Tax Act, all 
income, either from legal or illegal activities, is taxable and is to 
be reported," David Walters, Canada Revenue Agency spokesman, said in 
a statement. "Income earned from a marijuana dispensary/shop is 
taxable, and should be reported as business income."

Taxpayers and GST/HST registrants suspected of deriving income from 
illegal activities are, "risk assessed and appropriate compliance 
actions are taken by the Canada Revenue Agency that works closely 
with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, provincial and local police, 
and other law enforcement."

Briere estimates he'll hit $20 million in sales this year and 
contribute another pile of "illegal" cash to federal coffers. "I'm 
very happy to pay into the system and contribute ... to support the 
police, schools and hospitals," he said. "It's not funnelled to a 
bunch of people who are buying guns and running cocaine."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom