On Thursday March 25, I spoke at second reading on Bill 5, a bill to introduce a social responsibility fee on the purchase of cannabis. Under questioning the Minister did not provide a clear explanation for how the money raised by the fee would increase social responsibility in the consumption of cannabis. Further, he provided little evidence he has a plan to increase social responsibility. This fee is not a social responsibility fee. It is a tax. My comments are below (from Hansard).
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was very disappointed in the minister during the question period that we had, that he was not able to provide a plan for how the monies from the social responsibility fee would be spent, that there was no indication that that money was going to be re-spent responsibly on some evidence-based approach.
The minister did not indicate that he was going to do any research onto the net benefits and the net costs of the cannabis.
We know that there are significant savings, significant benefits in certain areas. The–clearly, police don't have to be running around and giving out our charges on people who have got cannabis in their possession anymore, and so there are some savings in that area. There are clearly some definite health benefits.
There are also some net, you know, harms. But we don't know what the balance is, and the minister is not, from anything that he told us, providing a convincing story that he's actually going to measure those.
So when we look at this, we see and have come to the conclusion that this is not a social responsibility; this is just a straight tax. And we oppose this tax. We don't think a tax is the appropriate approach here, and so we will vote against it.