October 7, 2017 6:11 pm

Don’t expect legal pot to cripple organized crime: SFU criminologist

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined the proposed excise tax on legalized marijuana presented to the first ministers'. The tax would be $1 on prices up to $10 per gram and 10% on prices over $10 per gram.

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While police agencies are hopeful the legalization of marijuana will lighten the load when it comes to organized crime, one criminologist from Simon Fraser University says things won’t be so simple.

Some pot growers and distributors will likely go straight, transitioning into the legal market, Rob Gordon said.

READ MORE: Too early to gauge impact of pot legalization on criminal market, RCMP notes say

But others, who already see the writing on the wall, have taken the opportunity to switch up their product, he says, moving into newer markets like the opioids fueling B.C.’s overdose crisis.

“That, almost certainly, is related to changes affecting the marijuana market as they try to push another commodity,” Gordon said.

LISTEN: Dealing with the black market after marijuana legalization


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It’s a transition Gordon hopes officials are tracking closely, and one he expects to accelerate with pot legalization in the wings.

“They’ll move away from cultivation and more towards the synthesizing of new drugs.”

READ MORE: B.C. launches public consultations on pot legalization

In the period of uncertainty and transition surrounding legalization, Gordon also warned the ongoing gang violence in the region could even heat up.

“Where there is turmoil and uncertainty, people try to either hold on to their profitable angles, or try to butt into what’s going on. There’s going to be dispute.”

WATCH: B.C. premier reacts to excise tax on marijuana

Even with legal pot, Gordon said police will likely still find themselves chasing some marijuana dealers who are looking to make a buck by carving out a new black market.

How that shapes up will largely depend on the amount of taxation governments will impose on legal pot.

“The price of B.C. bud may be higher in the legal market, but the illegal operators will be undercutting it,” he said.

“It has happened in the past in other jurisdictions with tobacco.”

That’s a concern that the federal government has signaled it is well aware of.

READ MORE: Legalized marijuana taxes must be set low to deter black market: study

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau have stated that, with regards to a marijuana tax regime, squeezing out the black market is a top priority.

Last week, Trudeau unveiled his government’s proposed marijuana excise tax, which would be $1 on prices up to $10 per gram and 10 per cent on prices over $10 per gram.

Back in April, a C.D. Howe report suggested that 90 per cent of the illegal market could be knocked out with pot priced at $9 per gram, should Ottawa apply only existing sales taxes.

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