The Economy Has Gone to Pot. #NBpoli

Early this month, two US state legislatures were dragged into the present by ballot initiatives ending marijuana prohibition. I never thought that the US would beat Canada to the legalization of recreational marijuana use, but Colorado and BC’s border buddy, Washington, have voted for reefer madness.

Canada needs to accept the reality that legalized marijuana use is no longer an “if” but a “when”; nearly 2/3 of Canadians support marijuana decriminalization for small amounts. 

My foremost concern on this topic is that a sluggish legalization of marijuana will mean many lost economic opportunities. Geopolitical aspects of marijuana prohibition tend to funnel tourism dollars into economies that embrace laissez-faire drug policies; the first North American jurisdictions to realize the end of marijuana prohibition will experience a dramatic competitive advantage in tourism. Fortunately, if Canada acts quickly, we should still benefit from a boom of New England drug-tourists.

Beyond international tourism, marijuana legalization and taxation is actually great for the economy. Ending marijuana prohibition equals huge savings in policing and corrections costs and creates new revenue.

New Brunswick is especially well-suited for a marijuana economy. We make chocolate in St. Stephen and chips in Hartland. Economy stimulated.

Snack economics aside, the established pulp and paper industry and our vast agricultural lands make New Brunswick an ideal hub for industrial hemp production, which uses cannabis strains with low narcotic content and higher yields of fibre, seed, and oil production. Consider that once plant cellulose is turned into pulp, machines cannot tell the difference between it and wood pulp. In addition, hemp is the best biomass producer on planet earth: 10 tons per acre in approximately four months, and it has a higher cellulose yield than wood (77% vs. 60%). One acre of hemp (grown in a single season) yields as much paper as up to 4 acres of trees (which take many more years to grow).

Hemp paper is stronger, acid free, has a longer shelf life and costs less than half as much to process as tree paper, and  hemp paper can be recycled 5 times more than wood-based paper.

Over 25,000 different products could be made from hemp in oil, seed or fibre form. Hemp is currently being used worldwide in industries such as fabric, food, bio-diesel fuel, paper, plastics, rope, building material, molded panels, car components, wallpaper, acoustic baffling and barn bedding for farm animals.

Other amazing attributes hemp exhibits include:

  • The hemp plant is highly resistant to most insect and disease, largely eliminating the need for most (or all) pesticides and herbicides.
  • Hemp textiles are anti-microbial, anti-mildew, naturally UV resistant and readily take on eco-safe plant-based dyes.  
  • Of the 3 million plus edible plants that grow on Earth, no other plant source can compare with the nutritional value of hemp seeds. (View a detailed scientific breakdown of the hemp seed here)
  • HIA (Hemp Industries Association) estimates the total retail value of North American hemp body care sales alone to be at least $50 million.

With $356 Million in provincial deficit an sky-high unemployment weighing on our future, we cannot afford to let outdated, unscientific social policies betray New Brunswick’s economic success. While federal regulations inevitably loosen on marijuana prohibition, the provincial government needs to demonstrate leadership in agriculture and industry by laying groundwork for a prosperous hemp industry.

Our governments should also demonstrate leadership by taking proactive steps to protect citizens from any negative impacts from eventual marijuana legalization. The most legitimate criticism of legalizing marijuana is that there is no roadside test to see if someone is too high to drive. Funding this type of research is a necessary commitment to safety and prosperity during our economic difficulties.

In a time where tax increases (and apparently balanced budgets) conflict with the governing Progressive Conservative approach, we need to look for creative savings and revenue. There is no sense fighting the future; we might as well be using marijuana and hemp revenues to fund the hospitals, schools, and bilingualism New Brunswickers deserve from their government.  

*The hemp facts presented (and many more) were compiled by Ezra Soiferman. List of facts and source materials available here*