Opinion Column


On marijuana, let the provinces keep the cash

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

File photo

File photo

The federal government plans to legalize marijuana this summer and they say they want their fair share of tax revenue.

A dollar tax on anything up to $10 - and a 10% tax on anything above that amount – to be split 50/50 between the federal and provincial governments. But wait, Trudeau says, it’s not about the money.

“Nobody’s mindset on this approach is about bringing in tax revenue on this. The mindset with which we have approached the legalization and control of marijuana from the very beginning has been from public health and safety standpoint,” Trudeau said during a press conference flanked by premiers at the first ministers meeting in Ottawa this week. What they want to do is, “Remove the black market from accessing the billions of dollars of profit that they do every year off of this.”

So wait, is it or isn't it about the money? As several premiers have already pointed out, the provinces have the lion’s share of work when it comes to regulating and policing marijuana. The feds have come out with a 131-page bill - Bill C-45 - that is basically the legal equivalent of “we don’t know, you figure it out,” but they want legalization to happen and they want the tax money that comes with it.

How legalizing marijuana is going to stop black markets from making money from drugs in the first place has not been comprehensively explained by the feds. When it comes to policing costs, provinces have already warned that legalization will require more police resources and not less. If Trudeau wants tax money from pot to go towards policing, health and safety, he should put his money where his mouth is and let the provinces keep the cash.

If there are problems with health or policing, it’s up to the provinces to pony up the resources. What does Trudeau want to use the tax money for? Well, likely to help pay the interest on some of that monstrous mountain of debt he’s accumulating. But why should the provinces suffer to pay the prime minister’s credit card bill?

Marijuana legalization is a massive undertaking and each province will have to figure out how to set a minimum age, limit the possession amount, regulate how and where to sell the stuff, and dictate how many plants people will be allowed to grow at home. All those rules once established have to be enforced.

Meanwhile, Trudeau is pulling the provinces' resources out from under them and practically salivating at all those “billions” of dollars he thinks he’s going to take away from the black market.