The Lucrative Business of Pot

The Lucrative Business of Pot
Posted by CN Staff on June 10, 2004 at 07:51:09 PT
By Mary Lynn Young
Source: Globe and Mail
Ask any of the 17,500 marijuana grow ops in British Columbia about revenue, and according to the results of a new study, the answer would be booming. In fact, the study, commissioned by the Fraser Institute, estimates that the underground B.C. industry is worth $7-billion -- the largest in the country.The report claims that the sector is doing so well -- almost as strong as the province's forestry industry, which posted $9-billion in revenue for 2004 -- that B.C. should legalize the drug and tax it.
The conservative think tank said it doesn't necessarily endorse the political conclusions in the report.But are things really so tough in this officially have-not province that we need to resort to a major social, political and legal re-engineering of how the system deals with cannabis?The issue of legalizing marijuana is much more complex than the report suggests. First, the report's estimates of the size of the underground industry are inflated because of the way the calculations were completed and the fact that they are based on data from a sector not given to filing quarterly reports. Second, marijuana is a controlled substance, which falls under federal law. That means the Canadian government would have to change its laws before anything could happen provincially.Nevertheless, when added to the state of the provincial economy and marijuana use in B.C., there is a certain logic to the report's conclusions. In this respect, by virtue of limited police enforcement, B.C. has de facto decriminalized marijuana use. For instance, according to figures from Statistics Canada, only 13 per cent of offenders arrested in B.C. for marijuana offences are charged compared with 60 per cent for the rest of Canada. As well, the report claims that B.C. has low penalties for conviction of cultivation offences, with 55 per cent of individuals convicted in Vancouver receiving no jail time.Here, the province is implicitly following a trend similar to a number of European nations and some Australian states that have decriminalized cannabis. However, the drug is still illegal in those regions and therefore not traded as a taxable commodity. The Netherlands is the only country where marijuana products can be legally sold and are subject to indirect taxation.There are strong arguments to decriminalize the drug, given the fact that its illegal status is largely a function of poor branding and accidents of history. Marijuana use became a criminal offence in Canada in 1923 at the same time that technological improvements allowed the mass production of another drug, cigarettes, according to Neil Boyd's well-known book on the history of drug policy in Canada, titled High Society. At the time, marijuana was largely denigrated socially and then legally because it was associated with jazz musicians, madness and promiscuity.History also offers some lessons about the economic benefit of allowing the market to regulate morality as opposed to legislation or the criminal justice system. For instance, by the late 1920s when the provinces repealed prohibition laws, alcohol became the focal point of a profitable industry in Canada. This shows that at least from an economic point of view, moving to deregulate or decriminalize certain commodities considered immoral or linked to immorality, such as alcohol and more recently gambling in B.C., can create a powerful economic sector that provides financial benefits for the larger community.Social factors and costs make this economic argument more complex. For instance, critics worry that decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana will encourage tobacco smoking. And legalization raises issues such as age, driving and potency restrictions.So while the report is correct in pointing out that the province is missing out on a large amount of revenue related to the underground drug economy, the question becomes whether the public is ready to see marijuana cigarettes sold at the liquor store.But from a business perspective, when almost one in four Canadians (not some criminal underclass) admit to having used marijuana -- whether they 'inhaled' or not -- that's a hefty market for a budding industry.Mary Lynn Young is an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Journalism.Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)Author:  Mary Lynn YoungPublished: Thursday, June 10, 2004 - Page B2 Copyright: 2004 The Globe and Mail CompanyContact: letters globeandmail.caWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Sees Pot of Gold in Illegal B.C. Crop Institute Says Gov't Should Cash in On Pot
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Comment #3 posted by Virgil on June 10, 2004 at 14:00:46 PT
Journalist writing without a clue
I liked that myself Sam. The sad thing it is true.UK420 does not have much traffic, but there was one thing that applies here on writing by journalist that do not have a clue. In an article about some arrest the author writes like these people were hiding cannabis in soap bars instead of the famous soapbar in the UK that is imported cannabis crap with everything from oil to plastic in it. It drew everyone's attention in the comments.From found 343 nine-ounce soap bars of cannabis resin and 51,514 ecstasy tablets.
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on June 10, 2004 at 13:42:56 PT
representation without representation. 
Ha-ha, great one Virgil.This is another one of those annoying articles where the author, who really doesn't know squat about the subject, tries to claim false credibility merely by acknowledging some of the prohibitionists' arguments and some of the reformers' points. The results is wishy-washy BS, not a persuasive article grounded in facts. There are no secondary issues to legalization around driving, age, potency, etc. Remove the laws that ban selling and possession by over 18's and that's it! It couldn't be any simpler. DUI is already illegal and being enforced. Under 18 possession is already illegal. Potency controls? Oh yeah, like the potency controls we have on alcohol, tobacco, and caffiene, right? (sarcasm)I guess writing a simple factual article wouldn't allow her to come off as some holier-than-thou academic intellectual. 
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Comment #1 posted by Virgil on June 10, 2004 at 08:44:54 PT
 We have representation without representation
the question becomes whether the public is ready to see marijuana cigarettes sold at the liquor store.Well, the politicians are not advancing a referendum to see what the public thinks. The majority of Canadians are for ending CP. The problem is they have representation without representation.
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