Federal and provincial governments earned $186 million in cannabis-related revenue in the first five-and-a-half months since legalization in October, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.
The Ottawa-based agency said revenue came from product-specific excise taxes and general taxes on goods and services, such as the Harmonized Sales Tax, directly related to the sale of cannabis.
The federal government drew $19 million in excise taxes, while provincial governments got $79 million from excise taxes and related adjustments.
Statistics Canada says revenues from general taxes on goods and services brought in an additional $36 million at the federal level and $53 million via direct provincial general taxes on goods and services.
It added that excise taxes increased by 12.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 compared with the fourth quarter of 2018 on higher sales by licensed producers to distributors.
During the same time frame, general taxes on goods and services from the sale of cannabis were up 68.1 per cent from increased purchases made by households.
“Federal and provincial government revenue from general taxes on goods and services as well as excise taxes may rise further in the second half of the year, as additional cannabis retail outlets are scheduled to open,” Statistics Canada said in a release.
These figures are the first glimpse into pot-related government revenues since Canada legalized cannabis for recreational use on October 17.
Due to the “bumpy” rollout of legalization last fall, these first-ever government tax figures are lower than expected, said the Conference Board of Canada’s economist Robyn Gibbard.
“However, we think that as the kinks are worked out, governments can expect strong growth in revenues from cannabis sales going forward,” she said in a statement.
Legalization on Oct. 17 was met with brisk demand from Canadian consumers and supply shortages at government and private retailers, prompting some to reduce their hours of operation or provincial governments to cap the number of retail licences.
The supply situation has improved in recent months, and Alberta has lifted the moratorium on new retail licenses and Quebec cannabis outlets have resumed more normal hours.
Still, household spending figures from Statistics Canada for the first-quarter of this year show that most non-medical cannabis is purchased from the illicit market, at $1.1 billion, compared to $377 million bought through legal channels.
Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
China uses arbitrary detentions as ‘tool’ to achieve ‘political goals’: Trudeau
OTTAWA — China uses arbitrary detentions as a tool to achieve its international and domestic political goals, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.
He called that a pressure tactic that is worrying not only to Canada, but to its western allies.
Trudeau offered that assessment during a meeting with the editorial board of the Toronto Star, where he was asked to respond to the latest upbraiding of Canada by the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry.
Asked earlier about Trudeau’s appointment of business consultant Dominic Barton as Canada’s new ambassador to China, spokesman Geng Shuang said Canada needs to reflect on its “mistakes” and immediately release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested on a U.S. extradition request.
“We look forward to his positive efforts to help bring China-Canada relations onto the right track,” Geng said in translated remarks posted on his ministry’s website.
“Lately China-Canada relations have encountered serious difficulties. The responsibility lies completely with the Canadian side, and Canada knows the root cause clearly. We urge the Canadian side to reflect upon its wrongdoing, take China’s solemn position and concerns seriously, immediately release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and ensure her safe return to China.”
China has imprisoned two Canadian men, ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, on suspicion of spying in what is widely viewed as retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
“Using arbitrary detention as a tool to achieve political goals, international or domestic, is something that is of concern not just to Canada but to all our allies, who have been highlighting that this is not acceptable behaviour in the international community because they are all worried about China engaging in the same kinds of pressure tactics with them,” Trudeau said at the end of a meeting with Toronto Star journalists, which was livestreamed.
Trudeau said he doesn’t want to escalate tensions with China, and noted Beijing gave speedy approval to Canada’s request to appoint Barton as its ambassador.
Trudeau and his cabinet ministers have routinely branded Kovrig’s and Spavor’s incarcerations as arbitrary, and have marshalled broad international support from several dozen countries, including the United States. That coalition-building has angered China, which has banned imports of Canadian canola and blocked other agricultural products.
Trudeau said Canada has no choice but to engage economically with China because it is the world’s second-largest economy but has to be “clear-eyed” about that.
“China plays by a very different set of rules and principles than we do in the West. And making sure that we are able to make those points clearly and forcefully and as much as possible constructively is going to be really important,” the prime minister said.
“We are engaged very strongly in the issue of Canadians, in the issue of the canola and the beef and pork issues, but we are engaged in a substantive way that highlights to the Chinese government that we are concerned about their behaviour,” he added.
“We’re very concerned about the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong right now, but we are going to attempt to be constructive in ways that end up being good for Canadians and ultimately, hopefully, good for the Chinese people.”
Daniel Schow, a spokesman for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, reiterated his party’s view that Trudeau has been “bullied and pushed around by Beijing.”
“There’s a difference between not escalating tensions and doing nothing to stand up for Canada. Trudeau’s weakness and dithering on Canada’s relationship with China is costing Canadians.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she and Barton met Wednesday and the plight of Kovrig and Spavor was the first thing they discussed. She said that in the regular consular visits that Canadian diplomats have with the two men, they are told, among other things, of the government’s efforts to secure their release. She said that is a “source of solace” for the two.
Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press
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