Canada's Green Party says legal cannabis needs to be cheaper
Recreational cannabis has been legal in Canada for almost a year now, and while advocates in the US and Canada have worked for decades to make the drug legal, we’re just now seeing what the next steps in the process might be. Canada’s Green Party has laid out a plan for those next steps pretty well already: They claim that in order for legal cannabis to work and stabilize, prices will have to go down.
They’re not wrong. Legal cannabis is great — it provides money in the form of taxes, it gives medical and recreational users a safe and legal way to get access to the drug, and it prevents law enforcement from unfairly targeting minority citizens with trumped-up drug charges. But all of those benefits aren’t cheap, and the biggest problem so far with legal cannabis is that illegal cannabis is still thriving. When people can buy illicit cannabis (cannabis grown and sold without a license) for $3 a gram cheaper than legal cannabis, that market is going to continue to thrive, in Canada and also elsewhere.
So what’s the solution? Lowering taxes is one easy solution — while that does take away from the state’s benefits, taxes are still relatively high (and lowering taxes to clear the illicit market would make it easier to eventually raise taxes later). But that’s not the only idea. The Green Party also suggests that eliminating some expensive requirements for packaging could help, along with eliminating some of the strict requirements on outdoor growing. Allowing more licenses for growing and selling would also help the legal market stabilize (and, no surprise, would likely increase revenues and market size, increasing tax revenue in turn).
For many years, legalization was the main goal of cannabis advocates — the fight was just to release the burden that prohibition was putting, on both the judicial system and on people who needed cannabis for medicine. Now, in Canada at least, that fight has been won, and it’s time to tweak things and make sure that the market for legal cannabis succeeds. If the legal market isn’t given the tools it needs to fight back the illicit market, then the choice to legalize won’t be nearly as effective or helpful as it was meant to be.