Federal marijuana tax plan 'completely unacceptable,' says Alberta's finance minister
'The federal government must be smoking something to think it will work for the provinces'
As far as Alberta's finance minister is concerned, the federal government can stick its proposed marijuana tax revenue sharing plan in a pipe and smoke it.
The provinces should get all — or a majority — of the tax revenue from sales when marijuana is legalized next year, Finance Minister Joe Ceci told reporters Friday.
"I'm not sure what the federal government is smoking but I can tell you ... this is not going to work for Alberta," he said.
"The federal government must be smoking something to think it will work for the provinces. It's unacceptable."
A proposed federal revenue framework announced Friday calls for marijuana to be taxed at $1 a gram or 10 per cent of the final retail price, whichever is higher, with revenues split evenly between the federal government the provinces and territories.
Ceci said he will send a letter to Ottawa saying that won't work.
"I'll be sending a letter immediately, on behalf of all the provinces, back to the federal government, saying that's unacceptable and we need to get into a room together to work this out," he said.
Because the provinces will do a majority of the heavy lifting around legalization, they should get a majority of the tax revenue, Ceci argued.
"They're not doing anything major, the provinces will be responsible, and the municipalities, too, for things like education and ongoing work to implement all this stuff," he said.
The federal government is also seeking feedback on the proposal so federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers can discuss it when they meet Dec. 10-11 in Ottawa.
The final price, including provincial and federal sales taxes, would vary by jurisdiction, since the combined total in some provinces is higher than in others.
On an $8 gram of pot sold in Ontario, for instance, the final purchase price would be $10.17, which includes a $1 excise tax and $1.17 in HST.
Under that structure, Alberta, which has no provincial sales taxes, could see the cheapest pot in the country at just $9.45 total for an $8 gram of weed.
"What there will be is some sort of understanding the price for cannabis across the country has to be relatively the same," said Ceci.
'Another tax grab'
United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney earlier described the proposed federal plan as "another tax grab."
"The higher the tax is, the more likely the legal product will be overpriced, which will encourage the black market," he told CBC News.
"My main concern is that we keep marijuana out of the hands of adolescents because the science is clear that it can have a retarding effect on adolescent brain development. So we have to do everything we can to minimize the black market."
Asked about the 50-50 revenue split between the federal and provincial governments, Kenney said that sounds "relatively fair," but the provinces should be getting a "lion's share."
"Unfortunately, it's the provinces that will pay all or most of the costs for law enforcement, for treatment for people with addictions and for related health problems," he said.
"So it seems to me the provinces should be getting the lion's share of the revenue."
Ceci wouldn't comment on a report Friday that marijuana would be sold in private stores in Alberta while the province would control online sales, saying the province will present legislation on that next week.
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