By Marina Gendi
Bill C-45 is underway: the legalisation of cannabis throughout Canada. However, it is still too early to evaluate how exactly the legalisation of cannabis will be regulated. One thing is for sure: Trudeau is in a hurry to get the bill settled by July 2018. But what’s the rush? He argues that “criminal gangs and street gangs are making millions of dollars of profits off the sale of marijuana, and we need to put an end to this policing that does not work.” But is that the real reason he is in such a hurry, or could it be that he cannot wait for the extended revenue the government will receive? Is legalising marijuana going to eliminate the use of the black market? Other countries around the world have already adopted or will be utilising different types of legalisation, and all of them have had their various issues.
California is ready to adopt the legalisation of marijuana. However, the citizens living in California might not be too happy about the taxation laws that will be enforced. Some of the issues that California might be facing in January 2018 pertaining taxation, according to Grace Donnelly, include a 15% levy on all cannabis sale in the state (including medical marijuana). This could mean a 70% increase in the price of cannabis. Another issue is a tax as high as 45%. She argues that the agency has the potential to collect $1 billion in tax revenue per year. The legalisation of marijuana in California will not ensure that the black markets will go out of business; they will rather magnify their rise due to the integration of cannabis now being seen as socially acceptable. It is too still too early for Canada to evaluate the taxation of cannabis, but California’s predicament could be a stark parallel to ours. Five other states have begun the process of creating the proposed legalisations, some being set for summer 2018. Donnelly mentions that Nevada will receive a 15% revenue from taxes on wholesalers and a 10% tax on local state’s rainy day fund. She also mentions Washington levying a 37% tax on adult-use weed purchases, which was enforced at the beginning of July 2014. Individual states in the United States are legalizing the regulation of cannabis using different approaches. What will this mean for a country like Canada, which has ten different provinces?
South Africa, like Canada, is in the process of legalizing marijuana. In fact, South Africa is “the first African country to grant a license for medicinal marijuana.” South Africa’s adoption of legislation stems from the standpoint that marijuana will be influential to the country’s revenue, since “Lesotho’s decision to view marijuana as a source of national revenue rather than a petty crime marks a shift” in the economy as well as the revenues attained for the country. However, South Africa still has a long way to go before the legalisation will become official: “the ruling still has to be solidified by parliament and pass through the constitutional court, which could take years.” Could Trudeau’s rush to legalise cannabis be due to this example witnessed in South Africa and the fear that the legalisation will be prolonged?
Netherlands is a country that is also in the process of legalising Cannabis, but not in the same way as other countries. Marijuana is already legal in coffee shops, as the Government of the Netherlands has a “toleration policy regarding soft drugs.” That being said, the conditions that these coffee shops are under are strict. Furthermore, the Public Prosecution Service does not “prosecute members of the public for possession of smalls quantities of soft drugs.” The common misconception is that pot is legal in the Netherlands, but that isn’t quite true–authorities simply turn a blind eye to the usage of cannabis. The actual process of growing weed itself is illegal and coffee shops get the weed from growers in the black market, drawing a murky line between the usage of weed and how legal/tolerated it is. The good news is that “[a]fter 50 years of a semi-prohibition like legal situation, a bit has finally passed.” This bill entails the proper growth of marijuana through commercial growers, recognised by the state. Growers will also be “tolerated,” making the legalisation of cannabis very loosely regulated by the government.
Will the legalisation of Cannabis be heavily taxed in Canada just like California? Or will take a few years for the bill to be instated? It is still up for debate. However, I think it is safe to say that we will not be adopting the Netherlands’ toleration policy, even though it seems to be the most liberal approach.