My friend and fellow economist Dr Stephen Thornton of Bluegreen Economics has released a report advocating for the legalisation of marijuana for recreational use in Queensland. While the Queensland Parliament has recently passed a law allowing medicinal marijuana use, we could go further and allow its recreational use, as is done in Colorado and Massachusetts, for example. Stephen’s report is timely, following the news earlier this week that Canada is likely to legalise cannabis for recreational use, with some regulations on production and distribution, in the next few years (see this Globe and Mail article).
Stephen provided me the following summary of his report, which I found very interesting reading:
…the Queensland government is likely to receive tax and fee revenue of around $90 million/year in the medium term (three to five years) and achieve significant savings in terms of decreased police, court and prison costs, with new jobs created in a new legalised cannabis industry.
Cannabis consumers would no longer have to purchase from sometimes unscrupulous dealers operating in the black market, with the added benefits of no longer being fined and imprisoned with the associated police record and social stigma limiting their future job prospects. As well, consumers would also be confident of what they were purchasing as products would be tested and labelled for increased safety. They would also benefit as prices decreased over time in a competitive, market environment.
The community would also benefit, largely through a decrease in crime-related activities like break and enter and property theft crimes as the price of cannabis fell and people purchased product legally and more affordably. They would also benefit from government being able to spend more in other areas and/or being able to pay down government debt.
While there would likely be some additional costs to the state government and some consumers in terms of a small increase in mental and physical health issues associated with new consumers or existing consumers who increase their usage, these could be mitigated by a public education campaign.
Is it time to legalise recreational cannabis use in Queensland?