Who wins, Who loses, and What does it Mean to You?
As most Canadians know, the federal Liberal government has promised to legalize cannabis for recreational use by July, 2018. What has happened in the lead-up to the date of implementation is nothing short of mind-boggling. What has been going on behind the scenes, going back to the previous government is nothing short of scandalous. For those who are not as connected to the legalization process as others, I will start with explaining the licensed producer system which is one of this legislation’s biggest flaws.
The Licensed Producers – or LPs – were created by a call from the Harper government for growers to supply medical patients as part of scrapping the MMAR (Medical Marijuana Access Regulations) which allowed for personal cultivation, for the new acronym MMPR (Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations), which took that right to grow away. The LPs were the most vocal proponents for eliminating patient grows and effectively raised the cost of our medicine by 800%. After a lengthy court battle, patients ultimately were successful and the medical cannabis system has since morphed into the ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations). This system allows for both methods of obtaining medical cannabis.
Let’s look at the LPs and how these LPs were able to win the lottery to be sole suppliers of medical cannabis in Canada, and are now claiming exclusivity on the recreational market as well.The whole process of applying to be licensed to grow medical cannabis in Canada is an extremely difficult, time-consuming and costly endeavor, and is ultimately subject to approval or rejection by Health Canada. While this may seem a normal course of action for regulating the quality of medicine available to Canadian patients, Health Canada more often than not, approves the applications based on names rather than merit. There is no other way to explain the seemingly endless number of former and current politicians, including ex-prime ministers and premiers, former top RCMP members, several former police chiefs from major Canadian cities, former Health Canada executives and employees and even a sitting senator. Think about that. All of these people, who only a few short years ago were quite happy to turn cannabis users into criminals, are now even happier profiting off of it’s production and sale at the expense of sick people. The federal government touts LP cannabis as safe, clinically grown, laboratory tested – yet a number of these producers have been found to have used banned pesticides and other chemicals and then attempted to hide the evidence. Despite an investigation and these growers having been found to have violated the stringent rules and thus put patients at risk, not $1 in fines has been assessed and no regulatory penalties have been imposed. One can only assume this inaction was a result of the uncomfortably close relationship between the growers and the bureaucrats who regulate them. The claim of government licensed cannabis producers being the only safe source of cannabis has been proven to be a fallacy.
Now on to the recreational side – where the role of the licensed producers and connection to government insiders gets a little murkier.
As a long time consumer of cannabis, I have been vocal about the injustices of prohibition and the need to legalize a plant. When Justin Trudeau announced that he intended to do just that, I was elated. That elation quickly faded to disappointment and then to outrage as I have watched things unfold. Legal cannabis offers endless possibilities for Canadian entrepreneurs, and all Canadians should have the same opportunities. What other product available for retail sale in Canada requires approval from Ottawa in order to join in the manufacture or sale? Canada has an incredibly talented pool of cannabis growers who would love to ‘go legit’ and become productive, tax paying members of society that are being denied access to opportunity because of a government provision that requires their approval. There is no such federal regulation for craft beer brewers or wineries. Many Canadians earn a living and raise a family by working in these ‘craft’ industries, contribute millions of dollars to the economy, do so without putting the public at risk, and do it all without having to first get permission from Ottawa. What makes cannabis different than the millions of other products manufactured and sold in Canada? All products, including cannabis, are subject to testing for safety by Health Canada before being made available for sale, and do not require a years-long 6-figure investment in order to reach the market. Recreational cannabis does not need to meet the same ‘clinical’ qualities as a medicinal product, and producers should not be required to follow the same guidelines. The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers market were grown in much the same way as an outdoor cannabis plant, yet there is no federal oversight much less an application process.
Again, I can find no explanation for the federal approval requirement beyond the obvious. The LPs and the former politicians and bureaucrats who are the profiteers, have lobbied the federal government to give them exclusivity in the cannabis industry at the expense of the general public. Greed, pure and simple… there is no other possible reason.
The entire Licensed Producer model, mostly controlled by Ottawa insiders, is merely a changing of the guard for cannabis sales with increased penalties and increased resources for police to protect their turf.
The provinces demanded, and were given, $161 million in extra funding to help absorb the added expenses that they claim come with legalization. While I am no expert, it would seem logical that enforcing the laws around a legal substance should be a fraction of what was budgeted during prohibition. There are no statistics available to show that possession or consumption of cannabis or the operation of motor vehicles while using cannabis has had any significant impact on policing resources anywhere in this country during the time (94 years) of Cannabis prohibition. Resources once aimed at prosecuting personal growers are freed up with the ability to legally grow 4 plants and minor trafficking is eliminated as a concern given the ability to legally share between family and friends.
Cannabis-impaired driving – seems to be the bogey-man governments are warning will take the bulk of the extra funding. This will be one of the most contentious issues of legalization and will ultimately cost the taxpayer as case after case is challenged and won in court.
For those of you who have never used cannabis, you need to understand its effects. Unlike alcohol, the effects of cannabis are short-lived. The experience varies from person to person, but most often takes on a feeling of peacefulness, laughter and a general sense of well-being. The effects wear off fairly quickly and in most cases are gone within 90 minutes. The effects are more intensified on a new or occasional user,where a medical user with a high tolerance may never feel ‘high’. The residual traces of cannabis will remain in a person’s bloodstream for weeks or months, and regular use will cause these levels to increase. Unlike testing for alcohol impaired drivers where .08 bac is commonly accepted as a limit likely to cause impairment, no such number is possible with cannabis. A first-time cannabis smoker might be impaired at the suggested limit of 2ng, while a medical patient might test in the 20 ng+ range when they wake up and be completely normal.
Legalization has been made far more complicated than was necessary. We hope to use honesty, factual evidence and humor to help Canadians adjust to the new cannabis reality.
We will take a closeup look at some of the players in the exclusive cannabis growers club and discuss what caused former RCMP bosses to transition from arresting cannabis users to producing and selling cannabis. We will discuss why Health Canada executives who maintained that “Cannabis is not an approved medicine in Canada” suddenly became experts in the medical marijuana industry.
We will look at the concerns, complaints and demands of the provinces and municipalities and see if there is any merit to their claims. As the provinces announce their plans for implementing recreational cannabis policy, we will dissect them and discuss the pro’s and con’s and which ones are just bizarre.