Taxing dope?

A new report has suggested that decriminalising drugs should earn the Government half a billion dollars in benefits.

There is a big push from the government to legalise cannabis. A referendum on this is coming at the next election and, by and large, it is expected to meet with approval from the majority of voters. In fact, this could be a cunning move on the part of the government to get more of their supporters out to vote. If they want cannabis legalised, they have to go to the polling booth, and they will give Labour or the Greens two ticks while they are there.

Is that the government’s modus operandi here? It might get them re-elected. Or is it something else? quote.

Ross Bell of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, after years of agitating for relaxation of the drug laws, is fretting that liberalisation might open the way to corporate domination of the cannabis trade.
Hmmm. Perhaps he should heed the old saying about being careful what you wish for.
Bell has long advocated a permissive approach to so-called recreational drugs.
His argument is that drug use should be treated as a health issue rather than criminalised. So you’d expect him to be thrilled that the Government has promised a binding referendum on decriminalisation of cannabis.

A crucial step has already been taken with the passing of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill, which essentially legalises the use of cannabis by people with a terminal illness. end quote.

Which was fair enough There is no reason why people should suffer any more than they have to. Total decriminalisation is a whole new ball game though. quote.

Change is often justified on grounds of common sense or compassion, as the legalisation of medicinal cannabis for terminally ill people can be.
But each victory serves as a platform for the next. Once change has bedded in and the public has accepted it as the new normal, the activists advance to the next stage. The full agenda is never laid out, because that might frighten the horses.

Now, back to Bell’s misgivings about where the cannabis referendum might lead.
It’s not decriminalisation that worries him. Why would it, when for years he’s been using his taxpayer-subsidised job to lobby for exactly that outcome?
No, what upsets him is the thought of the drugs trade being contaminated by the profit motive. A liberal drugs regime is all very well, just as long as the trade doesn’t fall into the hands of wicked corporate capitalists.
Bell’s vision, obviously, is of something much purer and more noble, although it’s not entirely clear what model he has in mind. A People’s Collective, perhaps. end quote.

So what Karl du Fresne is saying is that Bell thinks decriminalisation is fine so long as corporates don’t profit from it; but think about this: if corporates don’t profit, then the government won’t profit either… at least, not financially.

Is that the endgame for the government? As the tax revenue from tobacco lessens does cannabis represent a whole new revenue source? quote.

If Bell wants the cannabis trade made legal, what difference does it make whether the drug is marketed by DopeCorp Inc, operating from a Queen St high-rise, or by a dreadlocked stoner in Golden Bay?
It could be argued that a public company, subject to corporate and consumer law and with directors who are accountable for what they grow and sell, might be a safer purveyor of cannabis than a backyard dealer.
To put it another way: if a safe, regulated cannabis market is the way to go, and corporates are best-placed to deliver that outcome, what’s the objection? It can only be ideological. end quote.

A lot of dope smokers grow their own crop. Presumably, this will no longer be illegal. For cannabis to become as mainstream as alcohol, corporates are going to have to be involved. Companies will manufacture products, distribute and sell them, and make profits in the process. These profits will be taxed, but just like both tobacco and alcohol, the products could then have special levies imposed, which would provide additional revenue for the government. quote.

But if we’re going to have an honest national debate about cannabis, the important thing, surely, is that it should focus on social wellbeing rather than being distorted by covert ideological agendas.

  Karl de Fresne end quote.

I admit to being amused to think that activists, who hate capitalism, are about to see one of their pet causes go mainstream, in the smoke of the corporate world. However, if the government is looking for more revenue out of legalising cannabis, then allowing corporates to operate the system is the only way. It will be too difficult to try to tax individual growers. The only way for the government to make money out of this is for corporates to take over.

Don’t you just love capitalism?