Saskatchewan

Legalized pot price in Sask. will be comparable to street price, province says

Now that the province has settled on 19 as the legal age for the purchase and consumption of cannabis following legalization, the next question is how much pot will cost in Saskatchewan?

Cannabis will be taxed in province, says justice minister

The Saskatchewan government says it's discussing what taxes may be placed on cannabis but those details aren't expected until the budget in April. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

Now that the province has settled on 19 as the legal age for the purchase and consumption of cannabis following legalization, the next question is how much pot will cost in Saskatchewan.

Private retailers will have the final say on price but the province will set a suggested cost and also apply its own tax.

"You will see a tax on pot, as we do with virtually every other commodity that's sold in our province," Minister of Justice Don Morgan said Thursday.

He said the province is not planning on making cannabis tax free because of the costs associated with distribution, a regulatory scheme and enforcement. It is not clear whether a sin tax will be applied in addition.

The details of the cost and tax will be included in the province's April 10 budget, Morgan said.

Cost across country will vary

The federal government has suggested a minimum cost of $10 per gram — taxes included — in an effort to squeeze out the black market.

Cost is expected to vary across the country because of the different tax schemes in different provinces.

One gram of dried marijuana bud, with a $2 coin for comparison. The federal government has suggested a minimum cost of $10 per gram for legal cannabis. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Canada's Parliamentary Budget Office released a report in 2016 on the street cost of marijuana across the country. It found marijuana cost an average of $8.32 per gram between February 2015 and August 2016. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba the average was $9.99.

Statistics Canada also tracks medical and recreational pot prices across the country by monitoring websites that ask people to voluntarily and anonymously submit the price they paid for their last gram of marijuana. According to statistics compiled by the agency, the average price for marijuana in Saskatchewan in 2017 was $7.10 per gram.

Morgan said the province hopes the cost for legal cannabis is cheaper than, or comparable to, black market prices.

"I suspect there would be a willingness on the part of the public to pay a premium for a product of known and trusted quality where they weren't breaking the law," Morgan said.

The federal government has already set its excise tax on cannabis at $1 a gram or 10 per cent of the final retail price, whichever is higher, with the revenue split 75-25 between the provinces and Ottawa.

Saskatchewan Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer said the government is weighing its options in budget deliberations when considering a minimum cost for marijuana and the province's tax regime.

"We need the sweet spot to still undermine the black market without making it crazy inexpensive," Harpauer said.

Concerns about transporting pot: NDP

On Wednesday, NDP justice critic Nicole Sarauer raised concerns over parts of the legislation, including the requirement for someone who buys marijuana legally to go directly from the point of purchase to their home.

"Essentially we're treating cannabis like a restricted firearm," Sarauer said. "It seems extremely strong."

Morgan said that part of the legislation was asked for by police. He said it's a tool they can use to protect young people and is similar to rules around alcohol.

"If you're buying groceries, buy your groceries on the way to your 'grass station' and go home after that," Morgan said.

Sarauer said she believes parts of the legislation could open the government up to constitutional challenges.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca