Legalize marijuana and tax it, study says

Publication Date: June 9, 2004
Published by: News Staff

While the Fraser Institute has released a report calling for marijuana's legalization, it now says it doesn't endorse the report's views.

A headline on a press release quoted the right-wing think tank as saying pot should be legalized so governments could tax the revenue.

However, the institute later said that was wrong and the report only reflected the view of its author, Steve Easton, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute.

Easton, an economics professor at B.C.'s Simon Fraser University, estimated that legalizing and taxing marijuana could infuse $2 billion in revenue into federal coffers.

He it was time the government profited from marijuana sales rather than organized crime rings.

"If we treat marijuana like any other commodity we can tax it, regulate it, and use the resources the industry generates rather than continue a war against consumption and production that has long since been lost," he said in a news release.

"Unless we wish to continue the transfer of these billions from this lucrative endeavor to organized crime, the current policy on prohibition should be changed. Not only would we deprive some very unsavoury groups of a profound source of easy money, but also resources currently spent on marijuana enforcement would be available for other activities."

The study estimates that there are about 17,500 marijuana growing operations in British Columbia alone, but only 13 per cent of offenders are charged and a majority (55 per cent) of those convicted receive no jail time.

"It seems to me a far better use of our resources is to use those resources to make it legal, tax it in an appropriate way and, to the extent it causes certain kinds of social problems, then we can deal with that as part of the revenue," he said.

Prime Minister Paul Martin said last week that if the Liberals are re-elected, he plans to reintroduce legislation decriminalizing the possession of less than 15 grams of pot. That means offenders would be fined rather than receiving criminal convictions.

Previous decriminalization legislation died last month when Parliament was dissolved for the federal election campaign.

The Fraser Institute says some 23 per cent of Canadians have admitted to using marijuana.

Opponents of looser marijuana laws say it could promote usage of harder drugs.