Forestry in Canada is big, but a legalized cannabis industry could be even bigger, according to Dan Sutton's recent column for Vancity Buzz.
It's a bold claim from Sutton, managing director of Tantalus Labs, a greenhouse cultivator of medical cannabis. But it's borne out by what we know about the industry's trajectory in Western Canada.
As early as 2001, seed entrepreneur, activist, and politician Marc Emery told the Vancouver Sun he estimated black market cannabis was worth at least $2.5 billion US, with some 60,000 people directly involved in the trade, making it one of British Columbia's leading industries.
In a 2010 Financial Post editorial, Diane Francis declared "marijuana has been virtually decriminalized in British Columbia and it's an open secret that the annual export crop has been bigger than forestry for a decade."
Sutton's editorial contains a little number-crunching.
"In Canada, today, the cultivation of black market cannabis is conservatively estimated at generating around $8 billion dollars per year in revenue," Sutton wrote. "If this market was pulled out of the shadows, regulated and taxed at a 25% rate (similar to Colorado's tax scheme), it could generate $2 billion in new annual tax revenue; create more than 90,000 jobs, and open new fields of study for universities and researchers across the nation."
Further, according to Sutton, legal cannabis is the only revenue stream that has the potential to make such a major impact within a short timeframe - another incentive for Canadians to vote in the upcoming federal election.