Legalized cannabis in Canada could be a bigger industry than forestry.
Legalization could usher in new tax revenue streams in the billions, unprecedented job creation for a nascent industry, and reduced judicial costs for Canada’s overburdened justice system. The economic ripple effects are estimated to be in the tens of billions per year.
There are some who dismiss legalization as a fringe issue: not a big deal. It’s only hippies and potheads who care. The truth is that legalization of cannabis can have one of the broadest economic, taxation and job creation impacts of any new industry in our nation’s history.
In Canada, today, the cultivation of black market cannabis is conservatively estimated at generating around $8 billion dollars per year in revenue. If this market was pulled out of the shadows, regulated and taxed at a 25% rate (similar to Colorado’s tax scheme), it could generate $2 billion in new annual tax revenue; create more than 90,000 jobs, and open new fields of study for universities and researchers across the nation.
The economic ripple effects for construction, services and agriculture would be in the tens of billions, reviving a commitment to technical knowledge and world leadership for Canadian innovation.
In jurisdictions in the U.S., such as Colorado where cannabis is legal and taxed, the impacts have been substantial. Last month, for the first time, Colorado reported more tax revenue from cannabis than from alcohol. This is a big deal.
If we focused these new financial resources on healthcare, it could mean pay increases for hundreds of thousands of nurses, thousands of new doctors, and more hospital beds in desperately under-serviced rural communities.
We could employ this tax revenue for education, shrinking class sizes nation-wide, employing tens of thousands of new teachers and upgrading classroom technology infrastructure to better meet the needs of the next generation in the information age.
Policing cannabis crime in Canada costs more than half a billion dollars per year. This puts first responders’ lives at risk, and diverts their attention from more serious offences. Legalization of cannabis could reduce chargeable drug offences in Canada by more than half.
Increased investment in Canadian infrastructure, reduced taxes and shrinking deficits all at the same time are a real set of outcomes if we regulate and tax an industry that, whether we like it or not, already exists on the black market today.
Canada needs to stay competitive in a changing world. We have an opportunity reduce our reliance on resource harvesting and fossil fuel sectors that fluctuate with an unstable global economy and the price of oil.
Cannabis legalization is the only new revenue stream that can make real impact on a short timeline. Ask your local representative where they stand on this issue, and initiate debate at your water cooler and your dinner table.
Most of all, take half an hour out of your day on October 19, and go vote.
Dan Sutton is the Managing Director of Tantalus Labs, a greenhouse cultivator of sustainable medical Cannabis located in Vancouver. He has a background in finance, technology and innovation in fields such as Nuclear Fuel and High Field Magnetics. He holds a BA in Economics from the University of Victoria, and is an avid snowboarder and design nerd. His views are his own.