Legalising and regulating the sale of cannabis could bring in $28 billion dollars in Federal revenue over a ten-year period, according to data from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO). This does not include the “very significant” savings that could be made by repealing the policing of current cannabis laws at all levels of government.
The Greens submitted a proposal to the PBO who ran the numbers on the idea and came up with the above figure from GST, assuming a 15% cannabis sales tax. With a 25% cannabis sales tax, the revenue would be over $36 billion.
The modelling also reveals that a legal market for cannabis would reduce illicit sales of the drug by 95% over five years, taking away the billions of dollars currently closing to organised crime thanks to criminalisation. They estimate that Australia would see a similar drop in illicit sales as Canada and the US, in states where it’s legally sold, have done.
Under the Greens’ proposal to legalise the drug, something they are planning to put through Federal Parliament, a ‘Cannabis Australia National Agency’ or CANA would be established that would oversee the sale of cannabis across the country. That agency would be entirely funded by licencing fees, passing all revenue onto the state.
Greens Senator and Justice Spokesperson, David Shoebridge, said that the report shows legalising cannabis makes good financial as well as social justice sense.
“Legal cannabis makes enormous social and economic sense. When we legalise cannabis we take billions away from organised crime, police and the criminal justice system and we can then spend it on schools, housing, hospitals and social support.
“The community has been waiting decades for cannabis legalisation. It’s time for the Parliament to catch up and this report provides another 28 billion reasons to get on with it,” he added.
What Could You Buy for $28 (or $36) Billion?
Well, a whole damn lot, that’s for sure. We’re talking a lifetime supply of beer, ice cream, or Teslas for every single Australian kind of money. You could provide enough free housing in the country to eliminate homelessness and enough free food to eliminate child hunger.
The Greens already have some ideas for what they’d spend the money on. They suggest the $28 billion could be used to raise the rate of job seeker and youth allowance by $80 a fortnight, or build more than 88,000 additional public housing units over the next decade to give 250,000 people a home.
“This is an opportunity for some serious investment in social justice,” Shoebridge said.
So, what else could we get for our money? Well, you could start investing in the electrification of Australian homes which, over five years, would cut our emissions by a third and save households $40 billion in bills in the process. That would cost you just $12 billion, according to reports.
You could also provide solar power for public and Indigenous housing, effectively slashing bills and improving the energy grid. That would only cost $230 million.
Free preschool for all children aged three to five? That’s only going to set you back $4 billion, freeing up working parents five days a week.
If we wanted to add unlimited free psychology or psychiatry sessions to Medicare, giving access to everyone in the country and increasing the number of mental health peer workers by 1,000, we’d be looking at spending $9.7 billion. Let’s add that to the list. While we’re at it, let’s establish a regional and rural mental health workforce, where access is often limited to such services. You could do that for another $120 million.
Since we’re talking about regional communities, why not help farming and agriculture become more sustainable by investing in programmes to cut emissions, improve biodiversity, and enhance native vegetation? Cost: $2 billion.
All of the above suggestions would come to a round total of $28 billion, the amount we’d generate from legalising weed over a ten-year period if sold with a GST of 15%.
At a rate of 25%, we’d also be able to add in a better community response contingency fund for natural disasters ($5.4 billion), restore funding to defunded advocate bodies fighting for social justice ($27.5 million), and provide short-term financial support for those facing difficulty paying their power bills ($230 million). You’d still have $2.3 billion to play with after all of that.
The point is, tax revenue from cannabis sales is an unholy, unimaginably large sum of money that, right now, Australia is allowing to be taken by criminal organisations. Even if you don’t use recreational cannabis, which the vast majority of people do not, the current criminal system is not only costing you money, it’s perpetuating injustice. We’re prosecuting Indigenous people for cannabis at a disproportionate rate, ruining people’s ability to work and drive, and spending additional billions on policing and the criminal justice system. All of this for a plant deemed to be much less harmful than the legal drug alcohol, and one that more Australians are in favour of legalising than not.
In Canberra, you can legally grow up to two plants a year and, while it’s illegal to sell cannabis, those in our nation’s capital have relatively free access to up to 50gs of the drug. Since decriminalisation, crime rates have not shot up and have actually decreased. If America, Canada, and even Thailand can do it, surely Australia will have the good sense to come around to the idea soon. Right…?