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BC's Marijuana Crop Worth Over $7 Billion Annually

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Release Date: June 9, 2004
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 spoils.

"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 time.

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 from rebuilding.

"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.