Liberal policy paper weighs pot's economic benefit

A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle.

Credits: REUTERS


OTTAWA - There's a pot industry ready to grow if the drug is legalized, an internal policy paper by the B.C. branch of the federal Liberals says.

The draft report - released in January to stimulate discussion on legalizing marijuana among Liberal members and MPs - highlights the drug's economic potential for creating jobs across the country in everything from tourism to retail.

"The economic impact of legalizing marijuana in Canada would be very positive for the government and taxpayers," the report states.

"Thousands of Canadians will also find direct and indirect employment."

The report builds on a policy adopted a year ago by almost 80% of party members to legalize and regulate marijuana.

The party has yet to adopt ending prohibition as official policy - but all nine federal Liberal leadership contestants support at least modest reforms to Canada's pot laws.

While some - like Montreal MPs Justin Trudeau and Marc Garneau - are in favour of decriminalization - others including Vancouver MP Joyce Murray - strongly support legalizing, taxing and regulating pot.

"The evidence is clear prohibition isn't working," Murray said Monday. "The clear thing (the report) is saying - and I agree - is we want to put the criminals out of business and not to put our youth in jail."

But Murray doubts legalizing pot will create a new industry in Canada. With some estimates pegging pot's current Canadian retail market at up to $4 billion a year, she figures the jobs in industries like growing and selling the drug are already there.

"They'll just come out of the woodwork," she said.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae is leaving it up to whoever wins the leadership race in April to pave the way for the Grits on the marijuana file at the party's next biennial policy meeting.

"There will be debate and discussion on this issue - legalization, decriminalization, how we go forward with respect to drug laws in the country, particularly with marijuana," he said.

"And I assume the new leader will want to create a process that will allow us to come to some conclusions at the policy convention in 2014."

Liberal leadership candidates will likely be debating pot laws next weekend as they gear up for their second debate in Winnipeg on Saturday, with crime prevention among the topics up for discussion.

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