Australia is missing out on billions of dollars in tax revenue by failing to legalize recreational cannabis sales, a prominent investor has warned.
Mark Bernberg, who launched The Green Fund to track marijuana companies in Australia, highlighted the $1 billion that Colorado has earned from taxing adult-use cannabis. There are five times as many people living in Australia and Bernberg urged the Australian government to follow suit in order to boost its economy.
“It’s a product very much like alcohol and gambling that’s recession proof because it’s a product of recreational consumption for adults,” Bernberg said. He argued that additional tax revenue could be spent on social support and upgrading schools, parks, and public infrastructure, while the government would not need to waste money arresting and imprisoning people using cannabis.
Pressure is mounting on Australia to follow in the footsteps of countries like Uruguay and Canada and various U.S. states that have legalized recreational cannabis use. Interviews with Australians show that many Australians want to see an adult-use cannabis industry rolled out across the country to provide extra funding for schools and hospitals.
Australia has one of the highest cannabis prevalence rates in the world and it legalized medicinal marijuana in 2016. However, many Australians still turn to the black market as it is a lot cheaper than sourcing cannabis via legal dispensaries. Yet the gap is closing all the time and large-scale cannabis cultivation projects in Australia will make it much more affordable as the country’s retailers will no longer have to rely so heavily on imports.
The Australian Central Territory is on course to become the first region in the country to legalize cannabis for recreational use. It has a population of 420,000 and houses the capital, Canberra, so it is similar to the District of Columbia in the U.S. However, Bernberg has urged the federal government to consider rolling out a regulated recreational cannabis industry and questioned it is not a key issue on the current election campaign.
Over the Tasman Sea, New Zealand has pledged to include a referendum on whether it should legalize cannabis on the ballot when it holds a general election next year. The government has now agreed on the wording of the question and it will make an announcement tomorrow.