Washington state marijuana vote won't affect BC pot prices: Experts

Credits: REUTERS/Cliff DesPeaux


VANCOUVER -- BC bud lovers shouldn't prepare just yet for a joint celebration with Washingtonians who voted Tuesday in favour of legalizing marijuana, according to experts who predict the new legislation won't affect the price of weed in the province.

Werner Antweiler, an international trade expert at the University of BC's Sauder School of Business, said BC gangs - not pot smokers - would be most affected by price fluctuations.

"If somebody in Washington state has a choice between buying a product legally, even if it is of slightly inferior quality, they would probably go for the legal product," he said.

Canadian gangs reliant on exporting the crop will take a major financial hit as pot's street value drops dramatically in that state, he added.

He said the high price of the drug is derived from its illegality, which means the price in B.C. would only drop if the substance were also permitted in Canada.

But Vancouver Island University criminology professor John Anderson cautioned BC gangs might simply move business to an unexploited market if Washington is closed off.

Dr. Evan Wood, a UBC medical professor and co-founder of Stop the Violence BC, has been campaigning for the legalization of pot in an effort to curb the bloodshed in the province from the illegal drug trade.

He agreed prices are unlikely to drop in BC in the short term, but expects Washington's legislation to serve as an impetus for politicians in Victoria to reshape their policies.

"What we're faced with, essentially I believe, is the beginning of the whole house of cards coming down."

Even if pot is legalized in Canada, heavy taxation would keep prices the same, he said.

Although pot is banned under the federal Criminal Code, provinces can direct police not to enforce possession laws.

Vancouver-based marijuana advocate Dana Larsen said Washington's new legislation serves as a boon to his own campaign, Sensible BC, which aims to put forward a provincial referendum to decriminalize pot possession.

"If Washington can have a vote to change the cannabis laws in the US, then surely we can accomplish that."

-- with files from Jim Morris

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