Don't Keep Off The Grass, Tax It

Don't Keep Off The Grass, Tax It
Posted by FoM on May 05, 2000 at 08:19:55 PT
By Michael Stone
Source: Globe & Mail
At a recent dinner party with friends, we'd just polished off a lovely dessert when our host, a translator, capped the evening off with a big fat joint, some high quality hydroponic. Throughout the dinner we'd joked and laughed and discussed everything from Elian Gonzalez to art -- and now that our heads were floating in a stinky sweet cloud of bud, the talk turned to pot.
It was the usual small talk at first -- where one could score good grass, costs, availability -- when the architect at the table piped in: "I dream of the day when I can step into a corner store and purchase a quarter-ounce, just like a pack of cigarettes."A librarian then asked: "When is government going to get off its high horse and recognize cannabis for the natural plant it is?"I said that what amazed me was how much money government wastes trying to keep cannabis in check."What amazes me even more is how much money they're losing in potential tax revenue," remarked a web-designer."Funny you should say that," said our host. He said he had just translated something for Statistics Canada about how illicit drug sales in this country account for as much as $18-billion of underground revenue. "That's a lot of tax-free currency," said our host. And most illicit drug use in Canada is cannabis related. "The figures speak for themselves," he said. "All the government needs to do is legalize it and start collecting a 40-per-cent tax, like they do to on gas, cigarettes or alcohol. They'd be looking at billions."At the table there was a house painter, who had been an independent marijuana grower until he was threatened by a gang. "The only people who benefit from keeping marijuana illegal are the criminals who control the supply and distribution," he said. "The peace-lovin' pot heads of the world are keeping a violent criminal underworld rich. And these criminals spray their plants with dangerous pesticides and herbicides, without concern for the health effects on people smoking the stuff."A doctor at the table, the only non-smoker, pointed out that no one knows the long-term health implications of daily marijuana use. It could be as dangerous as tobacco, he said, and at least with tobacco, there's a level of quality control. "As a doctor, it seems irresponsible not to legalize it; people are eventually going to develop health-related problems because of grass consumption." He wanted to tax marijuana and throw that revenue back into the health-care system to handle the eventual onslaught of cannabis-related problems.This raised the question of how many Canadians smoke grass. My host said that a conservative guess is that as much as 23 per cent of the population has tried it."That's insane," said the doctor. "Who's going to pay the costs if and when that 23 per cent develop marijuana-related health problems? If it's not the criminal underworld, then who? The taxpayers?" The government would serve the people better if they saved the money they wasted on policing the drug trade, he said. Legalization would not only eliminate the criminal and violent element currently attached to grass, it would also create the necessary tax dollars needed to ensure higher-quality health care for all."But legalization will drive up prices," insisted another guest.Ah, I replied: "Once it's decriminalized there won't be any fear of growing in your house. Light and a little water, and anybody with a green thumb can keep themselves in supply -- free of charge." Michael Stone is a freelance writer and artist living in Montreal.Published: Friday, May 5, 2000Copyright  2000 Globe InteractiveRelated Articles:T.O. Cops Wary of Token Fine for Drugs Just Say No, Cannabis To Stay Illegal Pot Smokers To Keep Courts Clear 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: