The Good The Bad and The Downright Ugly
On November 20th, 2017 the federal government released it’s proposed laws, rules and guidelines related to (Bill C-45) the legalization of cannabis in July, 2018. Along with this very in-depth paper, there is an opportunity until Jan. 20, for all Canadians to have a voice via a 12 question survey. Please take the time to read through the proposal here:
Online survey here: Online Questionaire
There has not been a whole lot to cheer about lately with what has been happening on the cannabis legalization front. The last encouraging news was back in April when we were told personal grows are going to be allowed. We are subjected to near daily stories of some politician somewhere whining about ‘moving too fast’ and ‘we won’t be ready’ to the ‘what about the children’ argument that is so old and tired. The hysteria going on in this country over ending prohibition is reminiscent of reefer-madness from a bygone era. Maybe they are still bummed about the bad acid trip they went on back in ’69…I don’t know…
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw some of what is being proposed in this consultation paper. I have, since the first mention of legalization, been pushing for an alternative to the corporate LP’s and what I like to call their warehouse weed. Canada has an incredible pool of talented cannabis growers and retailers and like any other industry, they should have the opportunity to participate. The highlight in this proposal was that provision, not just for growers, but for small scale cannabis oriented businesses of many descriptions. No more is cannabis an industry exclusively for the well heeled and well connected. The addition of the craft-grower and related mom & pop sized businesses are good for the local economies, will spark innovation and creativity and provide much needed consumer choice. In a province like B.C., where cannabis is traditionally one of our biggest industries, bringing the black market growers into the mainstream will be huge. Legalization without the participation of the small entrepreneurs would have been a bigger failure than prohibition was. Government declared war on a plant…the plant won.
The consultation paper is a rather large document so I really encourage you to check it out for yourself, but I’m going to wade through it and comment on what I feel are the highlights – and the ‘lowlights’.
You will notice that I will compare the proposed regulations to those dealing with the regulation of alcohol. Anyone who has ever smoked a joint understands THC and alcohol are two very different drugs and a human body is affected very differently. For the general non-cannabis-smoking public, the ability to understand the affects is nearly impossible, so unfortunately it is lumped in with the most popular intoxicant, booze. Some even equate cannabis with much harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin. A century of reefer-madness propaganda has certainly had the intended effect on a segment of the population. The proposed regulations, in my opinion, wrongly treat cannabis as a greater societal danger than alcohol, when history tells us a different story. The disparity and over-reaching regulations are the biggest flaw in this proposal and need to be scaled back so they are in line with those required for similar sectors of alcohol production and sale.
The first problem I see is in the preface where it explains they are enacting many of the same regulatory controls for the production of recreational cannabis as they do currently for medical producers. Why? There are medical users that are immunodeficient or have other health issues that require cannabis grown in clinical conditions, but that isn’t the case for recreational users. Cannabis is a plant. It is grown in dirt, much the same way your tomatoes are. All products will be tested for banned pesticides and mould etc, the same as any other product for human consumption. Requiring thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and administrative costs to grow a plant is ridiculous. The Licensed Producers were granted their licenses to produce for the medical market and are set up to do that. That should be their primary market. Requiring that craft growers meet the same standards with no benefit to producer or consumer is an unnecessary barrier to accessing thehttps://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/programs/consultation-pr industry.
The ‘Overview’ is fairly straightforward although one or two points are interesting. Out of the 8 points they list, 3 are in relation to youth and two mention ‘quality requirements’ or ‘quality controlled’. I’m all for quality bud, but as I explained above, I believe they are confusing clinical with quality. As long as it is recognized that small recreational growers are not subject to the same laboratory conditions, I’m all for quality. There has been no regulatory penalties levelled on any of the LP’s caught using banned pesticides, so Health Canada’s credibility in enforcing any such quality control is questionable anyway.
The other intended goals I found confusing was ‘ reduce the burden of the criminal justice system‘. While that makes perfect sense, why then are municipalities and provinces demanding more money for enforcement and Ottawa has just pledged over $200 mil to do just that. I mean we currently spend $500 mil a year on policing and prosecuting people for cannabis possession, cultivation and sales. With those activities becoming legal ( no sales, but you can ‘share’ up to an OZ) even with my limited math skills I figure there is a cool HALF BILLION $ freed up. Add in the revenue to be collected from the taxes, and we are at well over $1 Billion dollars to enforce laws surrounding a LEGAL product, even though it cost just half that in police and court costs when it was a crime. Crazy!
The next issue I have is the proposal to give provinces and municipalities the ability to set their own rules around possession limits, the number of plants allowed or even banning personal cultivation outright. Not gonna happen. This is an outrageous authority given to a lower level of government to restrict the rights of it’s citizens from participating fully in a federally approved activity. If this makes it into law it will be immediately challenged and overturned on constitutional grounds. The provinces and municipalities’ authority should be limited to location of commercial cultivation and retail sales and the age of consumers. What plants I grow in my own home is nobody’s business but my own. Just like the famous call for Ottawa to stay out of the bedrooms of Canadians, the mayor can stay the hell out of my grow room and backyard.
The rules around advertising and packaging are in line with tobacco and my feelings are mixed about that. While smoking anything is not something we want to encourage or entice our youth to try, it seems overly restrictive given the content and frequency of alcohol advertising that is very appealing to teenagers. We also want to keep alcohol away from youth…at least some of us do. Alcohol is dangerous to a developing brain, much more so than cannabis, and is a major factor in accidents and deaths among 16 – 25 year old’s. I would like to see all alcohol advertising banned and it sold in plain packaging. A commercial showing a guy drinking a beer suddenly surrounded by bikini-clad women is enough to get any teenaged boy’s attention. A less seductive one for a cannabis product surely couldn’t be a greater threat to youth. Cannabis is a safe alternative party favour to booze. The statistics on accidents, crime and deaths attributed to under aged alcohol consumption are readily available and the numbers are staggering, yet not one documented death can be attributed to cannabis. Governments and society in general need to re-evaluate the cultural acceptance and normalization of alcohol use to better reflect its danger and it’s costs to society. The hypocrisy of demonizing a plant with no death toll attached to it’s use while at the same time embracing a drug that causes so much destruction is nothing short of bizarre. Ban them both from advertising, or level the playing field.
The next section deals with licenses and permits required for the various sectors of the cannabis industry. They list the 4 things that they say they hope to achieve with this proposal and at number 1, in bold text is “1. Enable a robust and responsible legal cannabis industry that is capable of outcompeting the entrenched illegal industry.” Consumers like value, so when a gram of a budget strain of an LP product is $9 and when you add the taxes it’s closer to $12 g, and a gram of top grade black market cannabis is selling for $5 or less, the biggest obstacle to ‘outcompeting’ the illegal industry has been ignored.
They go on to list 4 ways that licensing will achieve this. 3 of the 4 sound very reasonable and even promising, but #4 sounds a little like they are confusing quality with clinical. Again.
They have divided the cannabis industry into sub-sectors and the opportunities for ordinary Canadians to get into the game are abundant.
One concern is the proposed restriction on obtaining a license for any cannabis activity in a dwelling house. I do not see the logic behind this and it may unfairly eliminate people without the resources to rent another space. Many medical growers have invested in building rooms and buying equipment and grow amazing cannabis, but they also live in a portion of the house. Other activities such as baking edibles, or processing and packaging are also possible home-business ventures. I think that particular proposal needs a closer look.
The next section looks at proposed security requirements, and it appears the powers that be have now determined that cannabis should be protected as though it were a dangerous weapon.
I’ve searched but have been unable to find any similar rules pertaining to security at a craft-brewery. They could exist, and I could just be out to lunch, but I am gobsmacked at the level of security they think is necessary. Cannabis is not plutonium, it is not a safety risk to anyone. If these same rules aren’t currently in place for all sectors of the alcohol industry, they are a little over-the-top for cannabis. People understand the need for security to protect their investment, but these rules sound more like Ottawa protecting their revenue stream. Maybe I’m just being cynical…nah.
I like most of what they have proposed for types of products available, and the packaging to avoid targeting kids, except there will be no space for edibles for the first year. Edibles have become a HUGE part of the black market business, so government just gave those guys a year’s reprieve. I get the caution with edibles – sort of – edibles work the same regardless of shape, so there is no need to have them look like a child’s candy. On the other hand, they need to remember that most parents are responsible enough not to leave cannabis gummie bears where a 4 year old can get them. Same reason parents don’t leave their medications and kitchen knives in easy reach of kids.
The medical program stays pretty much the same with a few tweaks & a provision to evaluate within 5 years. Why do we even NEED a medical program any longer? With every Canadian adult able to grow,possess and consume cannabis, the only difference is the number of plants permitted. What’s to stop the average patient from just bypassing the doctor and HC altogether? There is virtually no risk to having a few extra plants in your ‘rec’ grow and you can repeat that at friends, neighbours and relatives houses until you have what you need. All perfectly legal, and it didn’t cost a dime to the health care system or for Health Canada administration. Coming up with a more efficient option for people to treat themselves would save us over $25 million in HC administrative costs each year alone. My hope is that when the time comes to re-evaluate the medical program, they will look at scrapping it completely.
One last thing I noticed toward the end of the page, was the discussion of provision for cannabis in health products. This is the unnatural and extremely horrifying union of cannabis and Big-Pharma. It turns out, if you combine cannabis with other drugs or chemicals and give it a D.I.N.#, it suddenly becomes a safer product. At least that would be a logical reason for removing possession limits for cannabis ‘health products’, but restricting the plant itself.
Sativex and Marinol are two approved cannabis based drugs that come with warnings, yet there is no limit to the amount you can carry.
Overall the proposals seem promising and the inclusion of ‘craft growers’ is a welcome addition. None of these proposals are final and the public is being asked for feedback. I recommend everyone follow the link to the paper at the top of this page and inform yourselves and please, please, please complete the 12 question survey. Have your parents and grandparents complete it as well.