BC's annual marijuana crop, if valued at retail
street prices and sold by the cigarette, is worth over $7
billion, according to a new study Marijuana Growth in British Columbia
released today by The Fraser Institute.
Among issues considered in the paper are whether marijuana could
be decriminalized, treated like any legal product, and the
revenue taxed. Using conservative assumptions about Canadian
consumption, this could translate into potential revenues for the
government of over $2 billion.
The study's author, Stephen Easton, professor of economics at
Simon Fraser University and a Senior Fellow at The Fraser
Institute, estimates that there are roughly 17,500 marijuana grow
ops in BC.
Marijuana is produced extensively and over 23 percent of
Canadians admit to having used it. Easton points out that the
broader social question has become not whether we approve or
disapprove of local production, but rather who shall enjoy the
"If we treat marijuana like any other commodity we can tax it,
regulate it, and use the resources the industry generates rather
than continue a war against consumption and production that has
long since been lost," said Easton. "It is apparent that we are
reliving the experience of alcohol prohibition of the early years
of the last century."
Indoor marijuana cultivation and consumption appears to be higher
in BC than in the rest of Canada. Easton points out that the most
striking difference is that only 13 percent of offenders in BC
are actually charged while that number climbs to 60 percent for
the rest of Canada. In addition, the penalties for conviction in
BC are low: fifty-five percent of those convicted receive no jail
While police resources are spent to destroy nearly 3,000
marijuana grow-ops a year in BC, the consequences are relatively
minor for those convicted. The industry is simply too profitable
to prevent new people moving into production and old producers
"Unless we wish to continue the transfer of these billions from
this lucrative endeavor to organized crime, the current policy on
prohibition should be changed. Not only would we deprive some
very unsavoury groups of a profound source of easy money, but
also resources currently spent on marijuana enforcement would be
available for other activities," said Easton.
Note that the authors of this study have worked independently and
the opinions expressed by them are their own.