Editorial: Lighting up the economy

Legalizing pot isn’t that big a change. It’s already a part of our economy.

Being illegal — for now — makes it hard to pin down just how big the market for marijuana is, but one estimate suggests it’s at least as large as hard liquor sales, about $5 billion annually.

The report, from financial services firm Deloitte, estimates the market for legalized recreational marijuana could give Canada’s economy a $22.6 billion annual boost when you include growers, equipment suppliers and the like.

With that much of an economic boost at stake, it’s a little hard to understand the fear-mongering coming from many levels of society as the date for the promised legalization approaches.

Especially since marijuana is already a big, if underground, part of our daily lives anyway. In a recent column, Dan Albas. Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola MP and former Penticton city councillor, listed off a number of these fear factors, adding that “at this point, there are no answers to any of these concerns.”

That’s not really the case. For example, in the case of youth lighting up, well, they already do, just as they also manage to get their hands on alcohol and cigarettes, also no-no’s for the underage crowd. Legalizing marijuana and taking it out of the hands of street dealers isn’t going to make it easier for youth to get pot; it’s likely going to have the opposite effect.

Higher policing costs? Why would that happen if cops need to spend less of their time hunting down illegal grow-ops? Recreational users getting stoned at work? About as likely as bringing a case of beer to work.

Legalizing pot doesn’t mean it’s suddenly going to be a free-for-all of people lighting up every chance they get and marijuana available everywhere you turn. Like alcohol, it is going to be regulated.

What legalization does do is bring an existing economy into the light of day, generating tax income for governments and taking the profits out of the hands of criminals.

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