All Alberta Cannabis Sales Tax Revenue Should be Invested in Mental Health, Addictions Services, Says Advocacy Group

Article by Juris Graney, Edmonton Sun

An interior view of the Aurora Cannabis Inc. Alberta facility is shown in this undated photo. The building was designed to produce up to 8,000 kilograms of weed a year

The province should reinvest all tax revenue from the sale of legal cannabis in Alberta into addiction and mental health services, an advocacy group says.

Graduate student with the Student Advocates for Public Health, Sateen Werner, told a forum Wednesday that the legalization of cannabis and the new revenue stream had the potential to address the “concerning gaps” in the province’s “underfunded and under-resourced” addictions and mental health services in Alberta.

According to a 2015 government report just six per cent of health care spending goes to addiction and mental health programs.

Sateen said, based on calculations of Alberta’s population and comparisons with U.S. states with legal cannabis like Colorado, the province could potentially see $50 million in added revenue in the first year of legalization and up to $100 million in the second year.

Cameron Wild, professor of socio-behavioural sciences with the University of Alberta School of Public Health, said that money is desperately needed for health support programs being that about 20 per cent of adult Albertans are currently living with mental health or addictions issues.

“And of them, about half report they either don’t get service at all or don’t get enough service when they seek care,” he said.

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