A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, April 6, 2015

Egyptian Tobacco Trade Association: Legalizing Hashish Could Drastically Reduce Deficit

Most of my readers are probably aware that the US state of Colorado, followed by Washington and Alaska, legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Many others have legalized it for medical use, and while it is still against Federal law, the Feds tend to have better things to do. There seems to be a grass roots movement (OK, sorry, obvious) under way.

When I was young, the only legal gambling in the US was in Nevada. Then Atlantic City jumped in. Then most states realized that the numbers racket could be renamed the State Lottery and taxed. Indian Reservations were allowed to open casinos, and some states allowed "riverboat gambling," often with the loosest possible definition of a riverboat. (In Missouri and Mississippi, some part of the casino has to extend into the river, I think.) Revenue-strapped states realized, as they did long ago with alcohol (after Prohibition) and cigarettes, that people are going to indulge their vices, so you might as well regulate and tax it.

Egypt is economically critically strapped, and today the head of the Cairo and Giza Tobacco Traders' Association dropped a neat little bombshell that nearly broke the Egyptian social media: "Legalise hashish trade to combat budget deficit: Tobacco Traders."

Also see here.

It's the same argument: people are going to do it anyway, so why not tax it? (Though the spokesman in question acknowledges that cigarette smuggling is already an issue.) He wants to start with a 10% tax and raise it to 50% over 10 years.

Hashish is cannabis, made from the resin from the stalk of the plant, while marijuana comes from the leaves and buds. It is generally stronger.

I suppose he may be floating a trial balloon to see how the religious elements respond. I'm sure the government would welcome the revenue, and maybe a populace too stoned to notice what's going on, but I'm dubious it could actually happen. In the absence of a Parliament (elections are coming soon, maybe), it's fairly unlikely I think.

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