Fact Check

Did Canada Pay Off Entire Federal Debt One Day After Marijuana Legalization?

"You’re crippled with debt one day, and the next it’s all vanished into thin air."

Published Oct. 22, 2018

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Canada paid off their entire federal debt one day after legalizing marijuana.

The first day of legal marijuana sales in Canada on 17 October 2018 was, by most accounts, a roaring success. Dispensaries saw long lines and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product. According to a report from Vice, the demand was so high that the country was experiencing a marijuana shortage by the end of day one.

So when the Daily Bonnet reported that the country was able to pay off their entire federal debt within one day of legalizing marijuana, some readers found the story plausible (or perhaps they were just stoned enough to believe it):

Less than 24 hours after cannabis became legal in Canada, the federal government announced they had made so much money in tax revenue from the sale of legal weed that they were able to pay off the country’s entire $650 billion debt.

“I told you so,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, looking considerably less handsome than usual with his blood-shot eyes. “It’s remarkable! You’re crippled with debt one day and the next it’s all vanished into thin air. It’s just one more thing that makes Canada the great country that it is!”

This was not a genuine bit of news, however, as it originated with The Daily Bonnet, a Canadian satire website:

The Daily Bonnet is a Mennonite satirical news site from the heart of the Bible belt, Steinbach, Manitoba. Apart from the names of local and international celebrities, all characters and situations presented are entirely fictitious.

It's far too early to say just how much tax revenue Canada will generate from the legal sale of marijuana, but according to a report from PBS, it could be as high as $1 billion:

Statistics Canada estimates Canadians spend about $4.4 billion annually on cannabis. Of that, just $570 million was spent on legal medical marijuana in 2017, according to The Arcview Group. But as more Canadians move from the illicit to legal markets, the research firm predicts that number will climb to $1.3 billion in 2018, and $5.5 billion by 2022.

So while there likely won’t be a substantial spike in the number of Canadians using cannabis, they will be buying it legally — and that means tax revenue for the Canadian government. Estimates put the potential tax revenue as high $1 billion. In the U.S., states that have legalized recreational marijuana have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.


Lamoureux, Mack.   "Canada Is Already Experiencing Cannabis Shortages."     Vice.   18 October 2018.

Bergman, Andrew.   "Canada Pays Off Entire Federal Debt One Day After Marijuana Legalization."     The Daily Bonnet.   18 October 2018.

Dehaas, Josh.   "Provinces Raked in Revenue on Day One of Cannabis Sales."     CTV News.   18 October 2018.

PBS.   "Canada Just Legalized Pot. Who Could Profit?"     17 October 2018.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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