Too early to gauge pot legalization’s effect on criminal market, RCMP notes say

Legal pot and black market still fuzzy: RCMP

OTTAWA — It’s too early to know how pot legalization will affect criminal involvement in the illicit marijuana market, the RCMP says.

The Mounties add that they will work with the federal government “to the extent possible” to ensure policies are in place to prevent crime networks from taking advantage of a newly legal marijuana trade.  

The cautious RCMP assessment — spelled out in December notes recently obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act â€” stands in contrast to the Trudeau government’s mantra that legalization will remove pot profits from criminal hands.

The Liberals plan to introduce legislation Thursday to put legalization in motion.

The government wants to decriminalize marijuana consumption and incidental possession and create new sanctions to more severely punish those who provide pot to minors or drive under its influence.

The Liberals say the current system of prohibition does not stop young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of pot.

But the legislation will be just a starting point, as the federal and provincial governments sort out myriad questions about the availability, sale, pricing and taxation of pot, as well as penalties for misuse and the resources needed to implement the new regime.

A federal task force on legalization and regulation of cannabis has recommended maintaining criminal offences for illicit production, trafficking, import and export, along with administrative penalties for breaches of licensing rules on production, distribution and sale.

But the task force acknowledged there would still be attempts to operate outside of the legal regime.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Monday the new system would regulate the marijuana trade to “keep it out of the hands of children and the proceeds out of the hands of criminals.”

The internal RCMP notes indicate the Mounties aren’t so sure.

“The RCMP is concerned with the involvement of organized crime in the illicit cannabis market,” the notes say. “It is too early to determine what potential impact the government of Canada’s commitment to legalize cannabis may have on the involvement of organized crime in the illicit market.”

The notes advise the Mounties, if pressed on organized criminal activity, to say the national police force would work with the federal government “to ensure — to the extent possible — that appropriate policies and safeguards are in place to prevent organized crime networks to profit from upcoming legalization efforts.”

A study to be released Tuesday by the C.D. Howe Institute estimates legalized pot would generate about $675 million next year in combined revenue for federal and provincial coffers through existing sales taxes.

Under this scenario, the think-tank says, about 90 per cent of Canada’s pot market would be legitimate.

The report adds that if authorities want to raise more money through additional taxes, they risk fuelling black-market sales.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Saanich police investigating sexual assault in broad daylight

Social media lit up with accusations incident took place at Regina Park tent city

Swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

Oak Bay man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

Opposing views clash over removal of Royal Oak Golf Course from ALR

Golf course not ideal for farming, says report

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights can be misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Vancouver Whitecaps give up late goal in 2-2 draw with New York Red Bulls

Four of Vancouver’s next five games are at home

RCMP looking for missing Duncan teen

Dallas Macleod, 18, was last seen on Aug. 10

Most Read