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B.C.'s top commodity: marijuana
July 7, 2001 10:58 PM   Subscribe

B.C.'s top commodity: marijuana New police statistics suggest marijuana has become one of B.C.'s largest industries -- even bigger than logging -- with annual production valued at $6 billion.

...Imagine 6 billion in lost tax revenues...
posted by cburton (27 comments total)


 
C'mon, it's all piggybacking on the real Colombian brand. Wait till the IP lawyers in Cartagena hear of this.
posted by dhartung at 11:04 PM on July 7, 2001


I coulda told you that...was they same way in Hawaii for years before operation green harvest. Bigger than tourism. In Hawaii. Probably would be again if legalized, and lemme tell you, Hawaii needs a new industry like I need air to live.
posted by Hackworth at 11:17 PM on July 7, 2001


I'm not exactly a BC native, but if sources like Douglas Coupland's book are to be believed, Vancouver has a roughly one grow-op per city block. I suppose it was a bit naive to think that they were all run by nice, user friendly pot-loving anarchists, rather than organized crime.
posted by pascal at 11:25 PM on July 7, 2001


organized crime wouldn't be involved if it was legalized, if anyone could grow, posses or sell it.
posted by will at 11:30 PM on July 7, 2001


Word on the street had it that Vancouver had a few hash ala Amsterdam bars. We went on a hunt once but found nothing. They are there apparently, I've found on this google search . Anybody been to one?

BC is fantastically progressive. I drool when I watch CBUT here in Seattle and they have their political ads with candidates touting how they will improve BC citizens' health care (even preventative) as though it were a right!
posted by crasspastor at 11:33 PM on July 7, 2001


re: hash bars...

Yup, it's true. I live here in Bogota North and there are a few places that you can openly enjoy the benefits of our world-famous B.C. hydro...

and no, I won't cop for you. The bikers that run it all scare me.
posted by mb01 at 12:55 AM on July 8, 2001


Will - I totally agree with that sentiment, and I am very much pro legalization. I had hoped though that the "grey area" status of pot in BC would mean less organized crime involvement than other places.

From the point-of-view of the BC economy, anything that means less emphasis on logging is probably a good thing - it's a business that to this newcomer's eyes seems to have had it's own way here for far too long.
posted by pascal at 12:55 AM on July 8, 2001


>...Imagine 6 billion in lost tax revenues...

Dude.

Whoa.
posted by sylloge at 1:46 AM on July 8, 2001


Those figures are highly adjustable.

For starters, 6 billion Canadian loonies are worth just 4 billion US greenbacks, so US readers should be a little less impressed.

But my real point is that an illegal industry worth six billion loonies would become a much, much smaller legal industry, and would be nowhere near as big as the legal BC industries they mention: "construction ($5.7 billion), logging and forest products ($5.6 billion), mining ($3.7 billion), manufacturing ($3.4 billion) and agriculture ($2.1 billion). " It isn't that the marijuana industry is so large, but that the cost of marijuana is vastly overinflated.

If BC let people grow marijuana on their balconies and in their gardens, there would be no local market for it at all. If the prudes down south persisted in banning it, there would still be an export market, but even export profits would go way down if any US granny could drive over the border to pick some up from a roadside produce stand without fear of the local law or the local lawless. (Did someone mention bikers? The bikers would be replaced by the same nice folk now selling strawberries and tomatoes.)

If the BC marijuana industry is worth 6,000,000,000 loonies, it's only because the BC and federal governments, instead of legalizing marijuana and significantly reducing the need for police officers and trials and prisons, prefer to continue spending tax money on the police officers and trials and prisons that criminialized marijuana necessitates.
posted by pracowity at 4:08 AM on July 8, 2001


If BC let people grow marijuana on their balconies and in their gardens, there would be no local market for it at all.

That's like saying because people can grow carrots nobody would buy any. Lots of people (I might argue the majority) want to smoke some weed from time to time but don't want to bother doing any gardening. (People buy bottled water for Christ's sake.) There would be a quite healthy local market. Not to mention that lots more people would become occasional pot smokers if the risk of persecution disappeared.
posted by frenetic at 4:50 AM on July 8, 2001


did you ever pay $20 a gram for carrots?
posted by will at 5:10 AM on July 8, 2001


> There would be a quite healthy local market.

There would be a small one, sure, that was hyperbole, but it would be relatively tiny in terms of dollars. I don't think many people below the age of 25 or so would be willing to pay very much at all for something they could easily and cheaply grow in large quantities. Buyers would be infrequent smokers who couldn't be bothered growing their own, and they wouldn't create enough demand to make it expensive. If it were to cost anything worth considering, roadside stands and yard sales would quickly undercut those prices. It can be tricky to make your own beer and wine, but grass grows like grass.

The only difficulty would be the tax man: BC and the feds would want a cut of the profits.
posted by pracowity at 5:11 AM on July 8, 2001


Alchohol, gas and cigs are a better comparison then carrots .. and B.C. would become a MAJOR tourist destination like Amsterdam which would pale the $6 billion. Not to mention exports. However I suspect there would be too much international pressure to stop for B.C. to go it alone.
posted by stbalbach at 9:02 AM on July 8, 2001


pracowity has a point - there are only 4 million people in BC, so unless there was a legal export route it is _extremely_ unlikely you'd get anywhere near $6 billion. That's $1500 for every man, woman & child in BC, That's just not going to happen, even at $20/g (which seems a bit high to me, but what do I know.)
posted by pascal at 9:32 AM on July 8, 2001


stbalbach - BC is a major tourist destination! It's a $9.2 billion business.

It's interesting though that you mention tobacco and tourism, because there is a precedent for something that is legal in BC but not legal to export to some of our neighbours: Cuban cigars. Sure enough, there are dozens of places in downtown Vancouver that specialize in Cuban cigars, and they do seem to be aimed at US tourists. I wonder if anyone has done the stats?
posted by pascal at 9:36 AM on July 8, 2001


You'all are making me so homesick! Stop it.
posted by kristin at 10:26 AM on July 8, 2001


One of the major under sold bonues of living in Canada..

Marijuana is cheap, plentyful, and highly tolerated.. Cops won't hassle you as long as you don't create any issues for them..

It's a freaking huge country with not too many people, coast to coast you'll find crops everywhere from fields in rural Quebec to hydro setups in second bathrooms, and maybe 15 grower busts a year nationally..

Really, it's the main thing that scared me out of moving away.. I'm not sure I want to live in a place where I gotta worry my pot habit is going to get my put in jail with criminals..
posted by Leonard at 10:39 AM on July 8, 2001


unless you turn-in 3 or 4 friends then you get out of jail.
posted by stbalbach at 11:00 AM on July 8, 2001


Leonard did you wake and bake this morning? ; )
posted by crasspastor at 11:03 AM on July 8, 2001


I was also quite pleased at a convention of 18-30 year olds that we weren't required to have a bartender or armbands or anything like that. Just hit the con suite where we filled up the tub with LaBatt's ... actually, there were some minors there as well. 'Sall cool.

I've heard tell that BC is some kind of left-libertarian paradise, like the PNW but more so. Left because things like govt. healthcare is supported, libertarian because things like the above. Could someone expand on that?
posted by dhartung at 12:03 PM on July 8, 2001


BC was into marijuana?

I guess that explains the whole thing with Wiley and the portly cavewoman beating up a snake with a club.

Ohhhh, you mean British Columbia?! OK.

never mind.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:06 PM on July 8, 2001


The Fifth Estate produced an interesting program on the DEA's increased involvement in BC's pot industry. Still, as the original article in this thread suggests, most incidents result in confiscation rather than a charge.
posted by spandex at 3:47 PM on July 8, 2001


$20/gram?! You've been ripped off, man.

dhartung: I'm not sure the libertarian influences are that strong in BC, particularly up until the latest election... I suspect those aspects (represented in politics by the Marijuana Party, natch) are more a result of our infamous 'laid-back' attitude rather than any collective effort. Then again, except for the lax attitude toward recreational drugs (ahem), I'm not a fan of the usual libertarian policies, so my opinion is quite likely biased.
posted by jess at 4:53 PM on July 8, 2001


I think Jess is probably right about just how libertarian BC is. Take a look at BC's liquor laws for example - which seem frankly bizarre if you've come from almost anywhere else on the planet (clue 1: most liquor sales are through state-run stores. clue 2: there are something like 14 categories of liquor license for bars and restuarants)
posted by pascal at 5:36 PM on July 8, 2001


For starters, 6 billion Canadian loonies are worth just 4 billion US greenbacks, so US readers should be a little less impressed.

Actually since the money is being spent and earned (and potentially taxed) in Canadian Dollars, in Canada, by Canadians, the US calculation is completely irrelevant. Should it be more impressive to Mexicans (or whoever's dollar is "weaker" than Canada's) because it is higher there?

Anybody been to one?

Just got back from the aforelinked Blunt Bros, strictly research purposes. It's all nice.

It feels very normal and safe to be smoking in there. There was another place a few years ago called the Cannabis Cafe that would get busted every few months and eventually became the Amsterdam, it was right next door. But, those smoking in Blunt Bros. or the Amsterdam (now closed) are doing so at their own peril (however slight it is). The cafe offers no guarantees.

The legal defence fund, 1 (maybe 2) Hemp product stores and the office of the BC Marijuana Party are all either right next door or just across the street. Cordova/Hastings b/w Richards and Main, the area directly above Gastown, is like "Little Amsterdam". Within five city blocks you will be offered any thing it is possible to shoot smoke, whateve, by countless hard looking folk. Any time of day. There is a police station on either edge of area and the going is always frantic.

The primary reason it would seem to me, the cops don't bust Blunt Bros. (or anybody openly smoking a joint in Van.)all the time, is because less than 100 yards away (from Blunt Bros.) is the city's shameful open wound: its heroin problem. Worst in the world, the papers say.


I've heard tell that BC is some kind of left-libertarian paradise, like the PNW but more so. Left because things like govt. healthcare is supported, libertarian because things like the above. Could someone expand on that?

It has defintely been a union paradise throughout its history, but I would say the recent shithammering the NDP took from the Liberals in the provincial election (77-2), the related tax cut (at the top level to 43%), the province's longest ever transit strike (Day 100 and counting), the so-called health care crisis, nurses, 911 operators, all in work stoppage/interruption situations, the last three premiers (Vander Zalm, Harcourt, Clark) being run out of town for low-rent fixership, and the loss of major companies like Macmillan Blowdell, the once dominant workers of the west untie motif out here is maybe sleeping, dead or dying.

candidates touting how they will improve BC citizens' health care (even preventative) as though it were a right!

I tried to find on the Canadian Gov. site whether health care could actually be classified as a right here. This is the best I could do (again just got back from Blunt Bros.), the the Canadian Health Act, and it is from there that I take this assertion from the Feds (health care management and strategy is a provincial matter):

"The aim of the national health insurance program is to ensure that all residents of Canada have reasonable access to medically necessary insured services without direct charges."
posted by bruyneel at 6:50 PM on July 8, 2001


> Actually since the money is being spent and earned
> (and potentially taxed) in Canadian Dollars, in Canada,
> by Canadians, the US calculation is completely irrelevant.

Not so. The author marvels at how big the marijuana trade is in BC, and states it in terms of "dollars" that are not the dollars most readers here (Americans) think. In US dollars, the claim isn't so extravagant.
posted by pracowity at 10:47 PM on July 8, 2001


"dollars" that are not the dollars most readers here (Americans) think

Dollars, right: that's the same word we use up here. Nobody says "loan me 20 loonies", or "want a buy a five loonie doobie?" I'm not sure where the word dollar came from but it is in heavy rotation. World-wide. To the local economy 6 billion dollars, in context, is not four billion American, but instead six billion dollars. Should the Mexicans (or whoeve.) be more impressed, I ask ya?

Those figures are highly adjustable.

Yeah, I agree with that, I just think of you live, and have lived here your life, you would think they may just as well go up as down. You are talking about an illegal industry, isn't the idea to not let anyone know you are doing it? My guess is that figure is way low. Nobody on that part of Hastings and Carral pays taxes. And there is a much less desperate field of partime workers who can never really be judged either.

If BC let people grow marijuana on their balconies and in their gardens, there would be no local market for it at all

They are letting it happen now. And on a much larger scale even. link.

The hemp stores on Hastings do most of their business in clothes, seeds and "how to grow" books. They sell to a local market primarily. The local pot market industry is still rich (6 bill. Cdn, they say) and it is de-facto legal now. From that same Sun article:

"marijuana growers face such lenient penalties in the courts that it is not worth the time and resources required to build criminal cases against them."


This leads to the living room dealer who buys big quantities from the "bikers" and punts out 1/8's to people not interested in the bother of growing (is it hard to imagine the laziness of someone who smokes pot?).

The massive changes you suggest legalization would bring would be much more subtle, something approaching de-criminalization, kind of where "we" are now.
posted by bruyneel at 10:29 PM on July 9, 2001


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