The Economics of Canada's Coming Marijuana Legalization
By David Henderson
Bill Bewick, whose bio identifies him as “an Edmonton-based political consultant and public policy analyst who served as the Wildrose Official Opposition Director of Policy from 2010-2017,” has written an excellent analysis of the coming legalization of marijuana on or about July 1, Canada Day, which is as close as Canada has to July 4. Cannabis Day?
C2C’s unabashed bias is in favour of free markets, democratic governance and individual liberty. We strive for balance, fairness and accuracy in our reporting and commentary. Our mission is to explore and develop “Ideas that Lead” by encouraging writers to push boundaries, challenge orthodoxies and advance arguments rooted in the values and principles of classical liberalism and western civilization.
On the issue of marijuana regulation, C2C has earned its stripes.
Some excerpts follow.
Canada’s Liberal government has earned heavy criticism for neglecting or abandoning numerous campaign promises, but this year they are poised to deliver on a big one – the legalization of cannabis. On or about July 1, nearly a century after suffragette Emily Murphy badgered Parliament into making pot illegal, prohibition is set to finally end. Before you celebrate, or lament, this historic event, however, consider this: the welter of provincial laws designed to regulate the production, sale, storage, and consumption of cannabis suggests that when the stuff is technically legal, there will in fact be more ways than ever for Canadians to run afoul of the law.
Government versus Private Competition
One of the primary goals is to snuff out the multi-billion-dollar black market. But it won’t be easy to replace the existing mature, efficient and competitive illegal retail system with government-run stores that have to charge various sales taxes and price-in unionized staff costs, and likely offer limited hours, locations, and product variety. This is especially true in Ontario and Quebec, which are only planning to open 40 and 20 government-run stores this year, respectively. For context, the legal pot state of Colorado – with half the population of Ontario – has 800 private cannabis retail outlets.
Criminal lawyers like their odds in defending clients against charges based on such shaky science, and police and prosecutors know it. Last November the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP) published an open letter pointing out that roadside testing is fraught with uncertainty: “The science related to impairment due to cannabis use is unresolved, and the Federal Government has yet to approve instruments that would objectively measure roadside impairment.” That same day, however, Alberta’s Transportation Minister Brian Mason introduced legislation prohibiting anyone with 2 ng/ml from getting behind the wheel. When asked if this was a true measure of impairment, he airily suggested that anyone who consumes cannabis should probably wait 24 hours before driving. If the same rule was applied to alcohol, half the population would be forced to park their cars.
Mason was an Edmonton bus driver before he became a politician, so he may be seeing opportunities to get more people to use public transit. But chances are some of his former colleagues occasionally smoke pot to relieve the pain of another Oilers’ defeat and then go to work the next day, evidently no worse for wear.