Pot taxes won’t go into general revenue: Bill Blair

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WATCH: The clock is ticking for the government to fulfill its promise to legalize pot. Among the many details to be sorted out is who will be consulted on the new law and where all the tax revenue will go. Vassy Kapelos looks into that – Apr 27, 2016

OTTAWA — Toronto’s former top cop turned Liberal pot czar, Bill Blair, is laying down the gauntlet on any money pot brings into federal coffers, ahead of legislation next year.

“There will be a reinvestment of any revenue generated to government in helping us keep our communities safe,” Blair said in an interview with Global News.

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Blair said Ottawa will only use revenue from sales or excise taxes on marijuana for crime prevention, addiction treatment, prevention and education.

“Those are really important investments,” he said.

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How much money could marijuana sales generate for provincial and federal governments?

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A recent study from CIBC looked at that exact question.

Because marijuana isn’t yet legal, data on Canadian usage is hard to come by. But the study’s authors used data from Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, and adjusted it for the Canadian population. The study estimated marijuana could rack up as much as $10 billion in Canada a year.

If the provinces and Ottawa take half of that in taxes, it would leave the governments with $5 billion annually in government revenue — if the underground market is concurrently eliminated.

Whatever the revenue, Mike Serr, the deputy chief of police in Abbotsford, B.C., is glad to hear some of it will go to crime prevention.

“A lot of people think once it’s legalized… police can just wash their hands of the issue. But, it’s quite the contrary,” Serr said. “We’ll have to get compliance with the new legislation and do our best to eliminate the black market.”

READ MORE: Organized crime ‘may infiltrate’ pot regime, federal paper warns

Pouring pot revenue into policing , prevention and treatment isn’t without precedent.

The majority of marijuana taxes in Colorado, Washington State and Oregon go to the same things.

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In Canada, provinces can still throw a wrench in the plan; they can use their portion of pot taxes for whatever they want.

Revenue from marijuana taxes will be part of the discussion between provincial health ministers and their federal counterpart this summer.

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