Marijuana: On second thought, keep it tax-free, Justin

Canada’s illegal pot growers and dealers — and big medical cannabis companies — were no doubt breathing a sigh of relief and thanking their lucky stars and the Justin Trudeau government after the arrests last week of two would be-competitors, “the Prince and Princess of Pot.” The two marijuana activists face a slew of charges after boldly opening more of their Cannabis Culture dispensaries in Ottawa and Toronto.

You may recall that Marc and Jodie Emery have been arrested numerous times before, including in Montreal last year, for selling pot in storefront operations. Never mind that they have been putting money into government coffers in the form of taxes.

Despite the fact that Justin Trudeau and the Liberals plan to legalize the recreational use of pot with a bill this spring — at least, this is what they have promised and what helped to get them elected — Trudeau has insisted that police bust storefront mom-and-pop dispensaries opening across the country in the meantime.

Many have questioned the wisdom of this approach, given that court cases against the Emerys and others caught up in the Liberals’ dragnet will probably only be heard long after recreational pot has been legalized — and will therefore be rendered moot and tossed out of court.

And many wonder why the Liberals didn’t decriminalize pot right away, and “use civil penalties and civil remedies rather than criminal remedies,” as criminologist Neil Boyd says in a Global News report with the headline Why are people being arrested for pot if the Trudeau government is looking to legalize it?

The Liberals claim they want to make sure they get legalization right, hence they are taking a go-slow approach — some say they are dragging their feet. They claim they want to be sure marijuana sold to recreational users is not contaminated by pesticides and its sales are carefully regulated. And they point out that storefronts are not authorized to sell pot for medical reasons or for recreational use.

Meanwhile, Canadian legal medical cannabis growers and sellers have been gearing up for recreational sales. And investors are already reaping big profits off the shares of some of the companies, which are soaring on the promise of legalization. These will be the companies supplying the recreational market, and if they can’t sell it now in storefront dispensaries, why should the Emerys and others be allowed to do so, right? No, the Emerys and other budding mom-and-pop operations mustn’t be allowed to get a toehold in the business now while big medical cannabis companies and their investors fill up at the marijuana trough first.

But it appears that at least one of the medical cannabis companies may not have had the growing process right. It is being sued in a class action for allegedly selling weed contaminated by pesticides, which has all the other companies scrambling to reassure everyone that their products are not contaminated.

Contaminated pot is a relatively new issue. Before the era of legalized medical marijuana began, how often did you hear about contaminated pot? Probably never, which is not to say there hasn’t been any contaminated pot. It just wasn’t an issue because it wasn’t making people sick.

So how is it that the people who have been growing and selling pot since the 1960s have managed to get it right all along while big, legal government-endorsed cannabis companies now are still working to get it right?

The growing and selling of illegal marijuana has been an underground cottage industry in Canada, the United States and, no doubt, much of the world for decades. Governments have lost billions of dollars in tax revenues and wasted millions in useless law enforcement, while your friendly neighbourhood pot sellers and growers have been meeting the ever-growing demand of recreational users.

The illegal sellers/growers have proven themselves to be far more astute businesspeople than the politicians, law-enforcement officials and, now, the legal medical cannabis companies. And that is unlikely to change much when/if marijuana is finally legalized for recreational use. They will undercut legal cannabis prices, and they will continue to avoid paying taxes — though, they probably won’t be making as much as they are now because, let’s face it, they will have more competition. And the government will still find itself chasing them.

One doesn’t need a crystal ball to see that try as it might to give a handful of companies a monopoly to sell recreational marijuana, it is not going to turn out that way. The government waited too long; it allowed too many illegal entrepreneurs to establish themselves.

That may be what Marc and Jodie Emery’s mission is all about. They want the mom-and-pop shops to be able to operate openly, and they want to do it now — because people are going to keeping smoking it now, anyway. It’s not like everybody has put their pot-smoking on the backburner while Trudeau and friends dally in the House of Commons. But the Trudeau Liberals stubbornly stick to their corporate plan instead of allowing the little guys to get a legal foothold now.

Meanwhile, your friendly neighbourhood pot grower/seller is laughing all the way to the bank. Keep delaying legalization, Justin. Keep busting the storefront dispensaries. Keep making the sale and use of recreational pot an underground, under-the-table business. The longer you do, the more tax-free money there is to be made.

Indeed, derail legalization altogether. The only people who will lose money from it will be the corporate world, investors and, oh yes, the government. But the government was never really interested in profit from marijuana, right? Otherwise, they would have legalized it a long time ago.

So, pot smokers will get along just fine if Trudeau and company renege on their promise to legalize it. There is an abundant supply now, tax-free. Everybody is happy: growers/sellers, buyers. Why should they pay more for the same buzz?

— Jillian

Photo: Field of dreams for marijuana investors. (Photo by Aleks on Wikimedia Commons)

13 thoughts on “Marijuana: On second thought, keep it tax-free, Justin

  1. By taxing retail recreational cannabis the entire community benefits from legalization not just the people who use and process it. In Colorado taxing cannabis has been of huge benefit to the whole state. Why wouldn’t we tax this new source of revenue?

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    1. I agree with you. If I recall correctly, Colorado decriminalized it before it was available for recreational use, right?

      The fact that Trudeau & co. refuse to decriminalize it and continue to have people busted is a bone of contention in Canada. It seems very hypocritical. It looks like they are more interested in catering to corporate interests, some of whom have allegedly botched the growing process.

      Meanwhile, the little guy keeps being punished with archaic and unjust laws — and the illegal growers/sellers keep doing their thing.

      I’m with you on the benefit to society, but I don’t trust the Canadian government. And I seriously doubt we will see the legalization and sale for recreational use during their first term in office. Maybe the second term, but I wouldn’t count on it.

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  2. Trudeau & the LPC have broken many election promises already, in only 17 months. Think electoral reform, honouring peoples’ indigenous rights…Why should we believe he is going to legalize marijuana?

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    1. Even if the bill gets through the House in the spring, it still has to get through the Senate, at the earliest in the autumn — but that may be too optimistic.

      The Liberals have been hinting recently that it will be quite a while before Canadians can actually buy recreational pot because the government has to make arrangements with each province, and yadda yadda yadda.

      Meanwhile, the Emerys and others like them will still get busted for trying to sell pot (and pay taxes on it) in storefront businesses, while underground dealers will continue to profit without paying any taxes.

      There is also the chance that something could derail passage of a marijuana bill.

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  3. 1. Contaminated marijuana rarely heard about? Look up paraquat.
    2. If it’s legal, tax it. Same as everything else. Spreads the tax burden around more evenly.
    3. Prime Minister Good Hair not keeping his election promises? Old news. The only people who are surprised are the ones who voted for him (oops, that is a majority of the voters).

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      1. Yes about the paraquat “news,” but it is (or was) a commonly used weed killer. Do you expect that Canadian marijuana growers have some mystical virtue that they (a) don’t use weed killers, or (b) label their wares to indicate that they do?

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      2. We would have heard about it by now: there would have been health problems. I have known growers over the years, and they didn’t use stuff like that. They would have no customers if they did (and they smoked the stuff, too).

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      3. Fine if you have a backyard grow op, and know all your customers. Quite different if its a larger and illicit commercial operation. The former is the romanticized hippie-dippie view (yes, I know to whom and what I’m writing 😀); the latter is probably a bigger source of product today.

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      4. I have never heard of tainted weed coming from large, illicit operations. If it was tainted to the point of making people sick, they would be busted in no time at all, because it would be easily traced back to them. If they use chemicals on pot plants, they are probably no worse than the ones used on vegetables etc.

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    1. As much as I respect the Emerys, Jodie is not being very objective — with good reason. I do think that once pot is legalized, it will be sold by dispensaries like the ones she envisions.

      But the government is dragging its feet.

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