Why the cannabis tax will only be one small part of government windfall: Don Pittis

Why the cannabis tax will only be one small part of government windfall: Don Pittis
From CBC - February 15, 2018

Governments across Canada are already making money on legal recreational marijuana and they have not sold a gram here.

As governments at all levels bicker about their slice of the pot pie, expertssay the excise tax they are fighting over isonly onepart of thepickingsgovernments will harvest from expanding legal sales.

Yesterday, the country's biggest marijuana producer, Canopy Growth, which was an early entrant into the medical marijuana market,announced its third-quarterrevenue had doubledcompared to a year ago.As of Dec. 31,the company already had701employees,and a Canopy representative says they have hundreds of job openings they are hoping to fillacross the country.

Taxing legal incomes

Unlike people working in the black market, each one of those employees will payprovincial and federal income tax, contribute to employment insurance and their national pension plan.

"Many people are surprised to learn that income from illegal activities, such as income earned from theft, fraud, prostitution, and the sale of drugs and narcotics, is taxable," Rotfleisch and Samulovitch PC, aToronto-based boutique tax law firm, says on its website.

But as the site goes on to say, generally the Canada Revenue Agency only gets to take its cut after criminals have been brought to justice. For some reason, illegal growers, smugglers and dealers have been reluctant toreport their income voluntarily.

In income taxes alone, the growth from the legal marijuana industry will be lucrative.

"Going forward, yes, absolutely, when themarket expands, really grows, it creates new employment," says AnindyaSen, an economicsprofessor at the University of Waterloo, who studies the policy effects of taxation.

At this stage, he says,many employees have merely transferredfrom other legal jobs. But even those jobs help use up the economy's spare workers, meaning other people will fill thejobs they left. New hires will eventually be replacing workers in the illegal sector, who paid no tax.

Sen foreseesCanada, as a global leader in well-regulated legal production, becoming a booming export producer as countries inthe European Union and elsewhere recognize the harm-reduction opportunitiesof Canada's legalized market.

"I think that there will be significant economic impacts from this industry," Sen says. "I mean huge impacts."

All kinds of money

At every level, growing economicactivity,or gross domestic product (GDP), translates into government revenue.

Storefronts will pay municipal taxes. Rural production and storage facilities pay property taxes. Businesses pay taxes on profits. They also pay licence fees.

Now that Ontario has designated Shopifyas the government's sales platform, marijuana money will be going into new technology. The new legality of the drug, expected to be official next summer,will likely spur more research and development on medical uses for marijuana, its derivatives and analogues.

Wiping out competition


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