Colorado case study: What legalizing marijuana could mean for Canada
Published Friday, October 2, 2015 6:49PM EDT
Possibly one of the most dramatic changes coming from a Liberal government, if elected on Oct. 19, would be the legalization of marijuana in Canada.
Earlier this week on the campaign trail, Trudeau said his party is “committed to legalizing and regulating marijuana,” which would “remove the criminal element” linked to the drug and make it more difficult for youth to access.
To see what that could mean for consumers and tax collectors alike, voters can look no further than Colorado. In early 2014, it became the first U.S. state to legalize marijuana.
Colorado Rep. Jonathan Singer told CTV’s Power Play on Friday that following the legalization of cannabis in the state, “things have gone about as smoothly as can be expected,” and the “sky hasn’t fallen.”
Singer said while there is a lot more data to gather, a regulated cannabis environment is seeing some positive results.
“I can’t say that we’ve killed the black market here in Colorado, but I can say that we’ve put a serious dent in the cartel activity in marijuana,” Singer said.
Centers for Disease Control in Colorado has shown that teen cannabis use has “stayed about the same,” as what it was prior to legalization, Singer said.
In terms of crime reduction, the Democratic representative said “it depends on who you ask.” However, overall crime has stayed the same or gone down in many situations.
“When you’re looking at serious violent crime, it’s actually gone down, drunk driving has gone down, (but) not significantly.”
Singer said when he speaks to beat cops in his community, they tell him “they never wanted to be the bad guy out there stopping the person with the dime bag.”
“They were much more worried about the cartel activity and they’re happy that we’ve been able to take a bite out of that,” he said.
The Liberal Party isn’t currently banking on tax revenue from the legalization and regulation of marijuana, and has not factored it in to their spending plans.
Colorado does put a tax on marijuana, and it is “considerably higher” than the tax on alcohol, Singer said.
“Our tax revenues in Colorado on marijuana have just actually as of last month, exceeded our tax revenues from alcohol for the first time in history,” Singer said.
He added that the state has received approximately $80 million in tax revenue from marijuana, and approximately $40 million is to go towards school construction.
The legalization of marijuana has also spurred so-called cannabis tourism in Colorado, Singer said, as many people purchasing and consuming cannabis are not actually from the state.
“As a matter of fact, if Canada decides to legalize, you’re going to take a bite out of our economy, so I guess the greedy side of me could say, absolutely, keep it in the criminal market,” Singer said.
In Canada, the Conservative government has been steadfast on its anti-marijuana stance, saying among other things, that legalizing the drug would have serious health impacts on children.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has said that most Canadians “do not want the full legalization of marijuana.”
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has said, in the past, that he supports decriminalizing marijuana. However, he has not committed to legalizing it.