Treasury: Government can save $400m, even make money off legalised marijuana

Marijuana plants grow under artificial sunlight in one of the many climate-controlled rooms at Tweed Marijuana in Smiths Falls, Ontario. Tweed is one of about 20 companies that are licensed to grow medical marijuana in Canada. Credit Dave Chan for The New York Times

Credit Dave Chan for The New York Times

Decriminalising cannabis could save the Government $400 million a year and even generate tax revenue, a Treasury report has revealed.

A report uncovered by Nelson lawyer Sue Grey has revealed the Government could be making $150 million a year by legalising the drug for medicinal and recreational purposes.

Ms Grey uncovered the 2013 report this month while trying to work out the savings people could make taking medicinal cannabis instead of prescription drugs.

The document for an internal Treasury forum indicates reforming drug policies would save money, ease pressure on the justice system and result in fewer convictions for youth and Māori.

“We spend about $400 million per year enforcing prohibition, and we could generate $150 million a year in revenue from taxing cannabis,” it says.

It was released by Finance Minister Bill English after an Official Information Act request, but he denied it is Treasury’s official position.

“The document was not official advice or a recommendation from Treasury. It was a document prepared by a single staff member for an internal forum and did not come to me,” Mr English said.

The report also suggests “palatable reforms” including swapping criminal drug penalties for civil penalties including rehabilitation while keeping drugs illegal.

A half-billion net benefit to the government accounts if we stop trying to enforce the unenforceable.  It isn’t if, but when the government will take a step in this reaction.  The current government won’t.  It may require the next generation of politicians to do it.

And that doesn’t even put a value on the intangible benefits from medicinal and recreational use without the risk of ending up in court or prison.


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