Prohibitive drug laws have been in place for over 100 years yet a global movement
is emerging that argues that criminalization is a poor policy option to address the War on
Drugs. Cannabis is one of the most widely used illegal drugs worldwide with roughly 4% of
the global adult population being illegal drug users. Prohibition has resulted in the creation
of illegal markets, and produced greater negative consequences associated with controlling
the production, distribution and consumption of the product. Another issue is the effect that
prohibition has on government spending in terms of enforcement costs, court costs, and
incarceration. As of 2012, the cost of keeping an inmate incarcerated in Canada is $117,000.
Roughly $1 billion is spent annually on drug enforcement in Canada. Policies supporting the
prohibition of marijuana are based in large part on the notion that consuming marijuana is
both a public safety concern, and detrimental to an individual's health, yet there is little
research to back this up.
From a revenue standpoint, Canada is losing out on a large amount of money that
could go to better serve our population rather than remain in the hands of an illegal market.
In the last six months the success of legalization in Colorado has legitimized the notion that
Canada should act on reforming its marijuana policy. Although there are some minor health
implications if marijuana were to be legalized, it is far less detrimental when compared to
alcohol and tobacco consumption.
This paper recommends that marijuana be legalized and regulated in Canada.
Taxing marijuana at multiple stages can produce a large amount of revenue for the federal
and provincial governments. Mandatory licensing for cultivators and retailers will ensure
effective regulation. From a tax policy perspective, Canada has the potential to generate
between $4 to $8 billion dollars in revenue.