If the legalization of pot is such a volatile issue, why is our government of the day pursuing it? In a word: revenue. It is estimated that $8 billion changes hands annually in Canada in marijuana sales. That’s a huge number of untaxed transactions, representing as much as $5 billion annually lost to federal and provincial coffers. New sources of tax revenues are not easy to identify without alienating potential voters but since Canadians have been very accepting of tariffs aimed at the weak-willed, this could be seen as another “sin” tax, like that levied on tobacco and alcohol – the burden being borne by those who imbibe. Within the government’s policy paper, the rationale for legalization of marijuana is couched with the following: reducing the burden on the criminal court system, to keep it out of the hands of children, reducing the proceeds that support organized crime and enacting laws that more severely punish those who provide it to minors. All lofty and admirable goals, to be sure, but what about the revenues? How will they be used?
The mind reels at the headline opportunities these brands can use to get at their “tastes great, less filling” messages.
To my way of thinking, there’s a strong argument for branding of marijuana being a disincentive to purchasing from the black market. As consumers who are targeted, we are incentivized to select a brand, and in this case, the reasons should include quality, consistency and safety, which are key elements the black market cannot offer. It could be argued that, although now more restricted, the advertising and branding of alcohol has all but eliminated black market alcohol sales or private distilling, except for the hobbyists.
Our government has pledged that all revenues will be directed to public health and addiction issues, which, if they keep that promise, could be a huge boon to the Canadian health infrastructure. And, how successfully it is implemented in Canada will be an experiential model for other countries. The learning will be immense and I, for one, can’t wait to see how we do.