Pubdate: Sat, 11 Nov 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Tonda MacCharles
Page: A23


$1 per gram plan revealed, but premier says provinces will carry an
unfair burden

OTTAWA- The federal government formally rolled out details Friday of
its tax plan for legalized marijuana, proposing a combined
federal-provincial excise tax capped at 10 per cent, or $1 per gram,
with the revenue haul split equally with provinces.

In documents that urge a "co-ordinated approach" between federal and
provincial/territorial governments, Ottawa implicitly acknowledged
that provinces could move to set excise taxes higher, but said that
would fail to keep black market producers out.

And for the first time, the Liberal government provided its own
estimate of what the combined tax take could be.

At the high end, the total haul - excise taxes plus the GST/HST or
goods and services tax - could add up to $1 billion on a legalized
market estimated at 400,000 kilograms of marijuana a year, said Bill
Blair, the Liberal parliamentary secretary for justice and the point
man on pot.

Blair downplayed that estimate as "very high," but he did not provide
a lowball estimate. He said overall, taxes - excise plus GST/HST -
would add up to about 24 per cent or 25 per cent of the retail market,
but until pot is legalized, the government can only speculate.

Based on the pricing scheme proposed, one gram of dried cannabis might
be priced at $8 before taxes. The excise duty would add $1 to that
cost, to be paid by the producer, for a subtotal of $9 before GST/HST
is added. In provinces like Ontario, the 13 per cent HST is on the $9
subtotal, meaning the price goes up by $1.17, for a final price of
$10.17 per gram at the cashier.

If the licensed producer is selling cannabis oil - a 60-millilitre
bottle would cost $130 before taxes, but based on a 10 per cent excise
tax plus GST/HST, the final price would be $161.59, documents say.

Ottawa says it wants to see medical and recreational marijuana
products taxed equally, saying lower taxes for one system would drive
consumers there and defeat the purpose of a comprehensive scheme.

However, the finance department also admitted the possibility that
provinces - which argue they bear the brunt of enforcement and health
costs of a new legalized scheme - may want to levy higher taxes on

A background document released by the finance department urges
cooperation and co-ordination on pricing.

The Ontario government said the federal proposal was a

Premier Kathleen Wynne said she's already made clear to the federal
government that its tax regime doesn't work for Ontario because "the
burden of expense is going to be felt at the provincial and municipal

"We made it very clear that the proposal for a one dollar and split
50/50, that that wasn't going to work for provinces because it's the
provinces and the municipalities that are incurring the costs. So
there's going to have to be a lot more discussion about what that tax
regime would look like.

Ottawa says that where provinces and territories agree, federal
legislation could implement the co-ordinated excise tax, and the
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) would be responsible for administering the
new tax regime. Pot producers would have to be licensed first by
Health Canada, and then by the CRA "to promote compliance with the
cannabis duty regime."

Canopy Growth Corporation, a big weed producer based in Smiths Falls,
Ont., said Ottawa's proposal falls "within the limit of an acceptable
tax framework" that will allow it and other producers "to compete with
the black market on price point." But it lamented the tax on medical
cannabis, saying it's "an unfair tax burden on chronically ill Canadians."

The equal-split proposal angered provinces when it was first floated
in October.

The proposed duty would apply to all cannabis products available for
legal sale, including fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oils, and
seeds and seedlings for home cultivation, according to the finance

- - With files from Robert Benzie
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