No, I don’t mean selling copies of the ( alleged ) Rob Ford video.
Nor do I suggest using magic mushrooms or LSD to transport Torontonians without them leaving their La-Z-Boy.
And I would refrain from selling whatever the Metrolinx brass are smoking? No way. Bad trip, man, as they used to say long ago in my youth. Bad, bad trip. Horrible visions of HST, HOV lanes, gas tax hikes, parking levies, development fees and red monsters with three heads, yellow eyes and pointy teeth.
But we do need to get off the couch and build transit.
Now, inhale deeply and think of this: Canadian Business magazine estimates Canucks spend at least $3 billion a year on cannabis alone. That’s a third of what we spend on our national substance, which flows like Niagara, beer.
A study by two B.C. universities found legal pot would churn out $2.5 billion in licence fees and taxes over five years in that province alone.
The GTA has way more people, but there’s a reason B.C. is called Lotusland, so let’s call it a wash and say our revenue streams would be similar.
You could lay a lot of transit track for $2.5 billion.
Even more if the government actually gets involved in sales, a la LCBO, which had a profit of $1.7 billion last year.
Factor in export markets plus savings on enforcement and prosecution and I bet we’re close to the $2 billion a year Metrolinx says it needs.
We could buy subway cars of solid gold if we also legalize so-called party drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy, though those are trickier, for health reasons.
Regular readers know I’ve preached legalizing pot for years.
The libertarian in me is baffled that we learned nothing from prohibition of nearly a century ago. A victimless crime ought to be no crime at all, but if you make it one, guess who shows up: Criminals.
On Bob Marley Day in February, I urged Mayor Ford to declare:
“WHEREAS…the cultivation, sale and consumption of marijuana do no harm and only make our citizens giggle and also increase sales of snacks at neighbourhood stores.
“NOW THEREFORE, I, Mayor Rob Ford, on behalf of Toronto City Council, do hereby declare Toronto an open tokin’ city. It’s legal, folks. Smoke it if you got it.” I was dumbfounded when Rob took a pass. Little did I know.
( And I hasten to add, I have not seen any crack video, though I won’t be shocked if it’s on Netflix next month. )
Until now, I pegged our new-found legal pot money for debt reduction or general tax cuts, as would any good libertarian.
But except for Mike Harris and Attila the Hun, name one politician who actually lowered your overall taxes.
So better we direct our new dope revenue to something specific, like transit. We could change Metrolinx’s name for the project from the Big Move to the Big Doob.
While Metrolinx insists its levies – $477 per household, and if you believe it’s that low I’ve got a gas-plant to sell you – would end once the Big Move is done ( ha-ha-ha, that’s a good one, Metrolinx! ) the Big Doob would give and give forever.
Times are changing. Colorado and Washington state have legalized marijuana. Canadians think we ought to do the same – for example, 73% of us old fogey baby boomers in a Forum Research poll last year. The Harper government’s tougher pot laws are out of step.
Sooner or later, legal dope will be a big part of our economy, just like booze, gambling and Senate bookkeeping.
We need to strike while the bong is hot. S— or get off the pot, so to speak.
In this era of polarized politics, it’s high time mass transit was rolled into… .a joint venture.
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