Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Author: Chris Nuttall-Smith, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The Ottawa Citizen
Contact: [email protected]
But U.S. magazine's cover story got it all wrong, officials say.
Forbes, the U.S. business magazine, has chosen to celebrate Canada's economy on its latest cover, but it's a segment of the economy that chamber of commerce officials and Canadian law aren't as happy to extol.
The marijuana industry "has emerged as Canada's most valuable agricultural product -- bigger than wheat, cattle or timber," Forbes' Silicon Valley bureau chief writes in a cover feature called Inside Dope: Canada's dirty, well-lit marijuana trade is rich, expanding ... and unstoppable.
"With prices reaching $2,700 a pound wholesale, the trade takes in somewhere between $4 billion (in U.S. dollars) nationwide and $7 billion just in the province of British Columbia, depending on which side of the law you believe."
John Winter, president of B.C.'s chamber of commerce, said yesterday he hadn't seen the Forbes article, but he wondered how the publicity might affect B.C.'s investment climate.
"If you're a potential investor in British Columbia, you're going to look at many factors and, presumably, that is now one of the factors you might look at. Whether it's considered to be negative or whether it's indicative of entrepreneurship -- I'm not sure -- whether it's considered negative or positive."
B.C.'s economy is worth $140 billion Cdn annually; farm produce and livestock sales total just $2.2 billion.
According to Statistics Canada, forestry and logging were worth a national total of $5.7 billion in 2002, while crops totalled $8.66 billion and livestock brought in $3.98 billion.
The Forbes story didn't impress RCMP drug specialists.
"I was flabbergasted when I heard about it," said Sgt. Paul Laviolette, a project co-ordinator with the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada.
Comparing Canadian laws and attitudes toward marijuana with those of Americans, the article says, "The Canadians are even more cannabis-tolerant. Although they have not legalized the drug, they are loath to stomp out the growers."
The facts, however, just don't bear that out. There has been little research on ordinary Canadians' attitudes toward marijuana growers, but what has been done suggests that while Canadians may overlook marijuana possession and consumption, growing is another matter.
The federal Liberals' response to growers has not been lackadaisical. The proposed legislation to ease penalties for possession of marijuana actually increases penalties for growers.
And police forces' response to marijuana growers has grown tougher. In Ontario last year police made 1,340 grow-operation busts, up from just 129 in 1999.
"There's more than twice as many busts in just the past few years," said Sgt. Laviolette.
The story's arithmetic is also somewhat suspect. Forbes says wholesale prices for marijuana reach about $3,600 Canadian a pound. Growers in B.C., at least, say they can only get $1,800 Canadian per pound for AAA-grade marijuana.
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Inside Dope - Forbes Magazine