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Manitoba Imposes “Social Responsibility” Tax

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries has announced that it will impose new taxes on recreational cannabis for both consumers and licensed retailers.

Come October, a mark-up of $0.75 per gram will be applied to the product, plus an extra 9%. Retailers will also be hit, as they will have to contribute 6% of their revenues towards what has been coined a “social responsibility fee”.

The province says that the tariff will go towards the cost of public education, health, safety, and the treatment of addictions associated with the legalization of cannabis.

It added that the tax would help to stamp out the black market and keep prices lower.

Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen comments, “Our plan will help cover these provincial costs and also ensure fairness, recognizing the social responsibility retailers must share.”

The announcement drew scorn from some areas, notably Bill Van der Graaf. The former police officer, now a cannabis advocate, thinks that the price of legal product will drive consumers online to search for cheaper prices. He says, “Over the Internet—particularly if you’re a medical user and you’re low income—you can get it for five or six dollars a gram.”

“They may think that they can control what’s going on on the streets of our city, but we have a whole new street system and it’s called the Internet, and don’t they get it?”

“I don’t know how they think they’re cutting out organized crime.”

Van der Graaf says that he thinks adding tax to alcohol would be a more productive method of reducing crime, as that was a source of everyday problems.

First Nation Expresses Concern

Opaskwayak Cree Nation Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair also voices doubts over the new tax. The First Nation is teaming up with National Access Cannabis to serve Manitobans, and Sinclair is unhappy that First Nations will not be exempt from the provincial tax.

Sinclair says, “This is a shameful approach to how this is being brought forward to First Nations as it relates to this industry.”

“It disrespects our nation-to-nation dialogue and our ability to use our governance models to maximize revenues.”

Sinclair adds that a goal was to use money raised from cannabis taxation in First Nations communities, and now worries that the revenue will not flow there. He says that he will be taking these concerns to government.

In February, the province revealed that four private companies will retail cannabis there, and that Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries will secure a supply of cannabis and track it while private retail stores will sell it to consumers.