The decision by voters in Washington and Colorado to legalize recreational use of marijuana has potential political and economic significance in Canada.
Of course, it remains to be seen to what degree the U.S. federal government will allow or impede state action on that issue. But a lot of pot that ends up in the U.S. is grown north of the border. Interest in decriminalization is widespread in Canada too.
For a long time in Canada a major argument against more liberal drug laws was such a stance would seriously displease U.S. politicians and law officials and further complicate cross-border traffic.
That was then, though. Right now the main barrier is that the current party in power champions “law & order” platforms and does not favor decriminalizing marijuana. The CBC reports that pro-legalization factions in British Columbia are feeling energized by passage of those measures in Washington and Colorado, and hope that province will follow suit.
It’s difficult to gauge the value of illegal activity, but the underground pot market in Canada is estimated at $6-$8 billion in B.C. alone. Within the province new research by University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University has pegged internal sales in B.C. to be in the range of a half-billion dollars. Researchers associated with those studies say data about economic value and possible tax revenue can help determine appropriate legal/social policy.
And article in the Vancouver Sun cites the same studies as offering support for some degree of legalization of marijuana as a preferable tactic for increasing tax revenue and improving public safety:
“This isn’t just a problem because of all the grow ops and home invasions and hydro theft and gang activity,” said the study’s senior author Evan Wood in an interview. “It’s also what fuels the importation of cocaine and guns into Canada.”
Ans what do B.C. growers think about Washington legalizing pot? Samuel Kirz interviewed one anonymous drug industry player, who says “the law’s impact on the overall export market will be negligible”. That dealer says legalization in Canada would be a good thing for a number of reasons, including this quip:
“Another benefit is that the violence would decrease. The people who work for Budweiser don’t shoot the people who work for Coors.”
Do you see the Washington and Colorado votes as turning points on marijuana policy? Or will the DEA continue to use federal law to trump state control of that issue?