Canadian Head Cabbage

Image of Canada flag, weed and money

On October 17th, Canada's laws, with respect to the use and sale of marijuana, changed significantly. The intent of the Cannabis Act, according to the Government of Canada, is to create a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada. The Act purportedly aims to accomplish 3 goals:

    i) to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth;
    ii) to keep profits out of the pockets of criminals; and,
    iii) to protect public health.

I have to call bullshit on those claims, however I will concede they sure sound like plausible justifications for the change in Canadian law. The most compelling reason for the regulated sale of pot in Canada is money. I daresay, there's a hell of a lot more gold than there is Acapulco in the Acapulco Gold industry.

According to a recent report by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Canadians are expected to buy over 800,000 kilograms of weed in the next two years, the vast majority of that being for recreational use. Statistics Canada notes that in 2017, about 5 million Canadians consumed marijuana, spending more than $5.7 billion on it. It is not an insignificant amount when compared to the $16 billion spent on tobacco, the $9.2 billion spent on beer, the $7 billion spent on wine and the $5.1 billion spent on spirits. (The $5.7 billion on weed is also likely a very conservative figure given it was estimated at a time when the commodity was illegal.)

What possible rationale could I have for suggesting there's truckloads of cash to be made through the regulated sale of weed? Significant insight, I'd suggest, may be gained by examining Colorado's experience in the legalized sale of marijuana, having made the move in 2014. Interestingly, Colorado publishes monthly revenue statements which outline the monies generated through the licensing and taxation of marijuana. In 2017, Colorado was taking in an average of $20 million every month based on a 15% tax. I have no idea how weed is taxed in Ontario, but I'd bet half my stuffed armadillo collection and two bottles of Wild Turkey that it's NOT less than the current 13% HST. Colorado has a population of about 5.6 million. Ontario, on the other hand, has a population base of about 14.1 million. Rough math tells me the regulated sale of weed in Ontario should rake in about $56.7 million every single month.

I am not going to entertain any discussion about the dangers or benefits of head cabbage because, frankly, there is simply not enough science on the subject to make an informed opinion. In fact, I'd argue that the demonization and criminalization of the substance is the primary reason there isn't good science. I expect, however, this will change as we move forward. But I will make two assertions which I feel comfortable making notwithstanding the lack of science:

    i) despite any purported benefits of marijuana, the inhalation of ANY smoked substance has detrimental health effects; and,
    ii) if you smoke or ingest marijuana which contains the psychoactive ingredient, you are impaired.

I happen to be in a particularly interesting position because I do not use, nor do I have any desire to use, the product. (The consumption of marijuana raises one's blood pressure and I already take strides to keep mine in check.) That said, I do not have to be a user of the product to have a view on legalization just as I do not have to be a woman to have a view on abortion law. There is no ambiguity in my position on the regulated sale of marijuana in Canada: I support it. But my position is based entirely on the recognition that it's all about the money. If the sale of the product cannot be prohibitted (and in this instance it cannot) then its sale should be regulated and taxed. (A black market will still exist regardless.)

What I find more troubling than quibbles over the justifications for the sale of weed, however, is the debate over it's effects on those who choose to use it and its impact on their ability to drive or function under its influence. Recently, on CBC's Ontario Today, one cannabis user stated that he drove better while he was high because he was more relaxed. My position on this is simple: if you're high, you're impaired, and if you honestly believe that you have to be high to drive safely then you should not be driving at all. Driving is a privilege, not an inherent right, and I find it particularly offensive that anyone would choose to endanger my life when they're blitzed out of their fucking gourd. If you drive high, you're a moron.

So please... if you're speaking on behalf of the state, please don't try to convince me that this is about public health and protecting the little Jeezlers. You're just another dope peddler spreading joy throughout the hood. And if you're a marijuana user, please don't piss down my back and tell me its raining by trying to tell me your performance is in any way enhanced. You're dreaming in technicolor Bud. (pun intended)

Submitted by Norm de Plume, 31 October 2018