25 February 2009

Here's an idea: tax marijuana

California is in deep financial trouble. Like many states across the U.S., its coffers are almost empty. State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has a solution. He has introduced legislation in the California legislature that would legalize and tax marijuana. He would have growers and wholesalers charged a $5,000 franchise fee with a $2,500 annual renewal fee, and would levy a $50 per ounce fee on retailers. He estimates this would contribute $13-billion a year to the government's revenue. "It is simply nonsensical that California's largest agricultural industry is completely unregulated and untaxed," said Marijuana Policy Project California policy director Aaron Smith. The bill probably won't pass, even if it gets out of the committee stage, but what an idea. And proponents haven't even included the huge costs to the justice system that will be saved by legalizing the drug.

Canadians should take note. Marijuana is B.C.'s biggest cash crop, making up over five per cent of the province's GDP and employing around 100,000 workers in full or part-time cultivation, distribution, smuggling, and retailing -- almost double the employment in logging, mining and oil and gas combined. Estimates suggest that in Nelson as many as 30 per cent of households are involved in grow ops. I doubt many of these citizens are reporting their pot revenue on their income tax.

Here's an opportunity for Canadian governments to jack up their revenues in these deficit days. Think of what B.C. could do with franchise fees, retail licenses, and income and business taxes on an industry that makes up over five per cent of its GDP, while at the same time relieving itself of the major legal expenses of prosecuting marijuana crime. These are times for innovative thinking on the economic front. So come on Canadian legislators, Assemblyman Ammiano has offered you an idea. Go for it.


  1. Keep banging on that drum, Bill. Sooner or later they're going to have to listen.

    Side point. In the Incarcerated States of America, cash-strapped legislatures are looking at purging their unaffordable prison systems of non-violent offenders.

    When you've got an opportunity to make some significant revenue, stop giving harmless people criminal sentences, wallop criminal gangs and slash spending on corrections, isn't this the ultimate no-brainer?


  2. You're right on the button Bill. Ive been advocating the same idea for years. Legalize it, sell it in liquor stores to minimize it from getting into the hands of minors, tax the hell out of it and gone is our health woes along with social housing etc.

    Keep the faith, there is many people onboard with the same idea.

  3. The polls here (South of the Border) are moving in that direction. Although at this rate it won't be long before we're in a position where we can't afford to incarcerate users and badly need the tax revenue to the point where our government leaders can say they had no choice but to legalize it. I, for one, can't wait.