Pubdate: Mon, 05 Feb 2018
Source: Labradorian, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2018 The Labradorian
Author: Thom Barker
Page: 5


I've been publicly advocating legalization of marijuana as long as I
have been an op-ed writer, approximately 16 years.

Since that battle is won, I will not rehash all the reasons. Now that
it is upon us, just a few months from implementation, the time has
come to move on to practical considerations.

Let's start off with what I am not. I am not a pot user. I am not an
advocate of people using marijuana. I am not in favour of minors
having access to it, legally or not. In terms of helping people not to
start, or to use it responsibly, or, more importantly, get off it if
they are one of the people who cannot use it responsibly, it has
always been my contention regulation should not fall under the purview
of the criminal justice system.

That being said, I am not opposed on principal to people using
mind-altering substances recreationally. Frankly, it's none of my
business what other people do as long as it does not negatively impact
others and/ or society in general. In terms of negative impact, I have
always believed, based on the preponderance of evidence that, on
balance, legalization will reduce harm. Also, harm does not include
offending other people's moral sensibilities; I'm talking about
second-hand smoke, related crime etc.

I will also refrain from dwelling on all of those arguments because as
of July 1 of this year, the debate over whether or not it should be
legal will be moot- although there will undoubtedly continue to be
prohibitionists working toward overturning the legislation.

Now the question is: What should be done with all the public

Although independent estimates of the potential annual tax revenue
range up to $5 billion (probably inflated), the federal government is
operating on a prediction of approximately $400 million (probably too
conservative). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has consistently promised
pot revenue will not be used as a cash cow, but will be funneled into
research, education and addictions programming.

At $400 million, he is right on the first part of the promise, as that
amount represents a cash calf. He is also unlikely going to have
nearly the control over how the money is spent he might have initially
anticipated as the deal struck with the provinces ended up being a
25-75 split.

Furthermore, cities are fighting for revenue-sharing, anticipating
they will bear the brunt of associated regulatory and social costs. I
have little doubt that is true although the argument has been made
those should be offset by reduced costs of policing the illegal trade.
Nevertheless, I agree cities should get a guaranteed percentage of the
income. Local governments tend to know better what they need and
should be free from the political strings often associated with

Finally, the feds will spend $700 million over the first several years
to get the system running smoothly.

Given all of these factors, it seems unlikely the Liberals can deliver
on part two of the promise, research, education and addictions
programming, at least not in the short term and probably not directly.

It also remains to be seen what kind of spinoff revenues may be
coming, particularly from cannabis-related tourism.

Legalization is a big change to Canadian society. Big change does not
come without risk, but this change is long overdue.

There remain many unanswered questions, questions that will take many,
many years to answer. We must not become complacent. Rather, we need
to focus the ongoing debate on the correct issues, primary among them
how to ensure maximum benefit to Canada as a whole.

That starts with following the money.
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MAP posted-by: Matt