A new study has found B.C. could reap $2.5 billion in tax and licensing revenues over five years if the federal government were to legalize marijuana.
The report was published last week in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Drug Policy. Researchers from SFU and UBC looked at domestic cannabis consumption trends using provincial surveillance data, and found the market could be worth more than $500 million per year.
Dr. Evan Wood, the senior author of the study and Canada Research Chair of Inner City Medicine at UBC, said he launched the study after being repeatedly challenged by reporters about potential revenues from legalization.
“There has been a sense that the majority of the cannabis industry in B.C. is for export and that has borne true by this study,” Wood conceded. “But it does certainly show the fairly substantial tax revenue that could obviously be channeled away from organized crime and toward governments.”
Wood said the study was based on the harm-reduction principle that the best model for regulation is a government-run monopoly, rather than a corporate free-for-all, and the cost of production could be completely offset by licensing fees.
Former B.C. premier and attorney general Ujjal Dosanjh has thrown his support behind Wood’s Stop the Violence BC campaign for marijuana regulation and taxation, arguing prohibition has failed and political leaders need to “wake up.”
Poll results released earlier this month show 75 per cent of British Columbians are now in favour of regulation and taxation, compared to 62 per cent in favour of decriminalization. Support for legalization across the country sat at 50 per cent in 2010.
Dosanjh said in addition to generating new funds for government coffers, legalization could also translate into “huge” indirect savings for taxpayers on policing and legal costs.
“Our jails are bursting at the seams, our police are overworked and under-resourced, and the study says that in 2009 there were over 200 drive-by shootings,” he said.
“How much policing time does it take to investigate those? Just imagine that while police could be doing something different and something better.”