Pubdate: Tue, 11 Apr 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Jim Bronskill
Page: B3


OTTAWA - It's too early to know how pot legalization will affect
criminal involvement in the illicit marijuana market, the RCMP said.

The Mounties add they will work with the federal government "to the
extent possible" to ensure policies are in place to prevent crime
networks from taking advantage of a newly legal marijuana trade.

The cautious RCMP assessment - spelled out in December notes recently
obtained by the Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act -
stands in contrast to the Trudeau government's mantra that
legalization will remove pot profits from criminal hands.

The Liberals plan to introduce legislation Thursday to put
legalization in motion. The government wants to decriminalize
marijuana consumption and incidental possession and create new
sanctions to more severely punish those who provide pot to minors or
drive under its influence.

The Liberals said the current system of prohibition does not stop
young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with
criminal records for possessing small amounts of pot.

But the legislation will be just a starting point, as the federal and
provincial governments sort out myriad questions about the
availability, sale, pricing and taxation of pot, as well as penalties
for misuse and the resources needed to implement the new regime.

A federal task force on legalization and regulation of cannabis has
recommended maintaining criminal offences for illicit production,
trafficking, import and export, along with administrative penalties
for breaches of licensing rules on production, distribution and sale.

But the task force acknowledged there would still be attempts to
operate outside of the legal regime.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Monday the new system would
regulate the marijuana trade to "keep it out of the hands of children
and the proceeds out of the hands of criminals."

The internal RCMP notes indicate the Mounties aren't so sure. "The
RCMP is concerned with the involvement of organized crime in the
illicit cannabis market," the notes say. "It is too early to determine
what potential impact the government of Canada's commitment to
legalize cannabis may have on the involvement of organized crime in
the illicit market."

The notes advise the Mounties, if pressed on organized criminal
activity, to say the national police force would work with the federal
government "to ensure - to the extent possible - that appropriate
policies and safeguards are in place to prevent organized crime
networks to profit from upcoming legalization efforts."

A study to be released today by the C.D. Howe Institute estimates
legalized pot would generate about $675 million next year in combined
revenue for federal and provincial coffers through existing sales taxes.

Under this scenario, the think-tank says, about 90 per cent of
Canada's pot market would be legitimate.

The report adds that if authorities want to raise more money through
additional taxes, they risk fuelling black-market sales.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt