1. Thomas Walkom’s Column on Canada Wanting to Cash Crop Pot
Thank goodness for common sense. Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is finally privatizing marijuana production.
Cannabis entrepreneurs have long been irked by unfair government competition. How are private-sector dealers supposed to operate in the marketplace if their customers have access to what federal health Minister Leona Aglukkaq justly calls taxpayer subsidized weed?
Aglukkaq’s surprise announcement on Sunday claims the privatization move will affect only the 26,000 people in Canada who use marijuana for so-called medical purposes.
But astute Harper watchers will recognize that, once again, this far-sighted prime minister has identified a booming new Canadian resource industry that — in time — could rival the oilsands.
Colorado and Washington states have just legalized recreational marijuana use. They will have to obtain their supplies somewhere.
Nor is the Canadian reefer market itself stagnant. As Aglukkaq acknowledged, the demand for “medical” marijuana in Canada has experienced an astounding 55-fold increase over the last 10 years.
Ontario’s struggling auto industry could only wish for growth figures like that.
Until now, the minister said, Canada’s fledgling legal marijuana industry has been hampered by red tape and government interference.
Misguided attempts to let users grow small amounts of medical marijuana at home irked local fire departments. More than that, however, the old rules discouraged the economies of scale required to draw investment dollars into this bold new industry.
At the same time, the original decision to let government bureaucrats control cannabis production put a damper on private entrepreneurs — such as the ones operating around the corner from my home who already provide valuable services to schoolchildren and others.
In the marketplace, marijuana sells for roughly $7 to $10 a gram according to the authoritative British Columbia website Price of Weed. Yet unionized civil servants with fat-cat pensions have been providing the same product to consumers for only $5 a gram.
Is this fair? Perhaps in a world run by union bosses and New Democratic Party carbon-taxers, the answer might be yes. But Conservative Canada is not that world.
In Conservative Canada, marijuana is an industry like any other. This government has just eliminated the Wheat Board’s monopoly over grain production. Did anyone think it would fail to do the same for Canada’s struggling weed entrepreneurs?
Clearly, the cannabis decision is closely tied to Harper’s ambitious trade agenda, and in particular his 2011 free trade pact with Colombia.
At the time, skeptics wondered what Colombia might sell to Canada under free trade. Now we know. The market for pharmaceuticals is limitless. Marijuana is only the beginning.
Moreover, Canada can take advantage of highly skilled professionals from nations like Colombia and Albania, who are knowledgeable about this growth industry.
Senior executives will be able to use Canada’s welcoming immigrant investor program, which fast-tracks those with the wealth required to create jobs in our teeming cities.
Lower-level operatives, including security enforcement professionals and payment encouragement officers, can enter the country as temporary skilled workers, thereby providing necessary expertise until provincial apprenticeship programs for servicing the drug trade are up and running.
What’s more, Ottawa’s wholesale adoption of international investor-protection agreements will ensure that this lucrative new industry remains safe from government interference for years to come.
Even in the unlikely event that the Conservatives lose power federally, future governments will be unable to make mischief by, for instance, outlawing the legal marijuana industry.
If they tried, they’d find themselves being sued upside down and sideways by pharmaceutical cartels headquartered in places like Afghanistan.
Doctors are aghast at Aglukkaq’s decision to privatize this important industry and treat marijuana like any other prescription drug. Fie on doctors. What do they know about meeting a payroll?
Thomas Walkom’s column appears Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
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