Are the proposed regulations designed to take full advantage of cannabis legalization?
Next summer, Canada becomes only the second country in the world to legalize the recreational use of cannabis.
That statement is a little misleading given the legal recreational use at a state level in 7 U.S. States and the District
of Columbia. Cannabis is still illegal federally in the U.S. and the ‘legal’ states risk being shut down by an order from Washington at any time.
Canada, like Uruguay, is changing and creating laws at a federal level that will apply to all Canadians in every region. What needs to be studied is if these laws will allow average Canadians to take full advantage of all the entrepreneurial options and opportunities that can be created from legalization. Canada has a golden opportunity to become the ‘Amsterdam’ of North America,providing the regulations are designed to build this new industry in a way that it benefits the maximum number of Canadians.
Amsterdam has long been known for it’s cannabis tourism and despite it being technically illegal there. It has contributed untold millions into the local economy.
Colorado was the first state to legalize, and they enjoyed an economic boom dubbed the ‘Green Rush’ as businesses were formed, products created and thousands, upon thousands of people were employed in the cannabis industry. Because the surrounding states did not allow for the recreational use of cannabis, ‘pot tourism’ became it’s own thing. Cannabis put $135 million into Colorado State coffers last year and employed thousands of people.
Canada is in a position to transform an existing underground cannabis industry and the thousands of Canadians it employs into a legitimate, thriving industry of productive, taxpaying citizens. Those currently involved in cannabis cultivation, production and sales bring a wealth of knowledge and experience that is desperately needed to ensure quality, fairness and informed customers.
The framework as currently written is overbearing and creates unfair financial barriers as a result. We all understand the need for regulations and rules in the name of public safety; we see the results of alcohol on society every day. But that’s my point…where is the evidence that shows cannabis is public safety risk today or for the past 90+ years, for that matter. Millions of Canadians use cannabis on a regular basis and have done so for decades, surely they must have a stack of files of a member of the public being harmed by a plant to warrant such strict rules. Strangely, they don’t feel the need to share any evidence of problems before enacting rules to protect citizens from a non-existent danger. Kinda like Big Brother knows best. Don’t you just love how the same folks that upheld the laws to arrest us for growing, selling and using, now figure they know better than us how to grow, sell and use. Something ain’t passing the smell test..
I was pleased to read that smaller prospective business operators will be given the opportunity to participate, however there are several areas that need to be fixed to make it successful. The rules around security requirements will exclude the vast majority based on financial abilities. Most business owners are intelligent and responsible and will do what is necessary to protect their investment. I’m confused as to why a cannabis business would face tougher rules than a shop selling booze, jewelry, cigarettes or computers. Two of those items are known health risks, much more so than cannabis, and the other two are much higher value targets. There is no evidence to suggest cannabis business operators are going to be a bigger target than your corner store and therefore no justification for extra safeguards. One only needs to look at the many dispensaries doing business today to see there is no increased security risks. The licensing process needs to be simplified and fees kept to a minimum. Big brother needs to back off and let adults make adult decisions.
There are several issues with sections of the cannabis legalization framework that fall under provincial jurisdiction, that are perhaps even more important to fix than the federal ones.
Before we get to that, I NEED to address the move by at least two provincial governments to announce that they are banning home cultivation. Manitoba and Quebec have both decided that their adult citizens, the ones that voted them in, are not capable of safely growing 4 plants in their own homes. I’d argue these politicians aren’t capable of following the will of the people and need to go. If these elected mental midgets had bothered to read the federal framework or had been sober enough to comprehend what they were reading, they would have realized that cultivation is a FEDERAL jurisdiction. Provincial governments have the option to impose restrictions, but they cannot deny a federally approved activity. ALL Canadians can grow in their homes and any provincial interference is a violation of the constitution.
One of the major differences in the various provincial frameworks are the distribution and retail models. Some are better than others, but no one got it right, in my opinion. Provinces like Ontario who have chosen to create a sister model of their liquor control system, including granting them exclusive retail sale rights are going to go down in history as having LOST money selling cannabis. There has been zero talk of the cost of creating and implementing the CCBO, much less operational costs. Everything governments touch cost more. Government stores mean unionized workers making $30+/hr. Where a clerk in a private store may make half that. Governments will bring in a whole new group of highly paid of board members and upper management making six-figure salaries to oversee it’s operation. All these costs must either be passed on to the customer or absorbed by the taxpayers. With the incredible amount of overhead expenses involved,there is no way a government run system can compete with online sales or the black market. They certainly won’t be profitable. I wonder if they intend to inform the taxpayers of the cost of having a government cannabis monopoly?
Other places such as B.C. have chosen a hybrid system, going with both government and private retail stores. Again the taxpayer is going to be subsidizing this shiny new government business, as customers flock to the private retailers who can offer better prices. British Columbia has an established retail model in the dispensaries and consumers are comfortable shopping there. I predict that British Columbia’s foray into government pot shops will be short lived once the true costs are made public. The BC model follows several others in that it utilizes the provincial liquor distribution branch to distribute cannabis in the same way they do alcohol. This is a bad idea for a couple of reasons. First, is the added costs of using government employees to distribute product. Second is the effect on the quality of the product having it shipped and stored in a warehouse awaiting distribution to stores. An experience cannabis connoisseur likes his or her buds fresh, something this model will not be able to provide. No other perishable product is subject to this requirement, and it unfairly limits the producer’s ability to offer a top quality product to his or her customers. A screw up at the distribution level that results in product deteriorating or becoming moldy can result in sever damage to a business’s brand and reputation. And this brings us to the next problem.
What about product returns? Who absorbs the cost of product that is returned by the consumer due to mold? Once the distribution branch receives the product, they own it. One misstep that causes a large shipment to become unsalable becomes a huge bill for the taxpayer.
Governments are elected to serve the citizens, yet here they are competing unfairly against us for jobs, and then making us pay their bills. I elect people to keep the hospitals and schools going and the roads drive able. I don’t recall any politician campaigning on a promise of running a retail business. Their job is to create jobs for the people – not take them for themselves.
The last thing that needs addressing is the absurd rules around consumption. Most jurisdictions have proposed to allow cannabis use only in your home. Now call me crazy, but I thought going legal meant we didn’t have to hide in our basements anymore. Maybe they can explain how this archaic, over-reaching, constitution bending idea makes sense to anyone but themselves. Again I question their sobriety. Perhaps they were gathered at the beer gardens at the local community event for their meetings, or maybe they went to a wine tasting event first. Whatever it was, it affected their ability to form rational thoughts. Costs to society from alcohol abuse is in the 10’s of billions of dollars, yet it is available everywhere. Alcohol causes some people to become violent and dangerous, yet you can find a beer garden at every family festival in every community. Bars, lounges and brew houses run a thriving business and provide a social gathering spot for many. Cannabis does not cause the social problems seen with alcohol so I would be curious to see the reasoning and justification for the strange discrepancy in rules. Big brother rears it’s hideous head, again..
All that so I can tell you about my vision of legal.
As a resident of BC who has been a part of the cannabis culture for 4 decades, I have long envisioned legalization and what it should look like. Our cannabis reputation is known world wide and with proper legalization legislation, we could become the cannabis tourism hot spot for the world.
- We need to allow for grower to seller transactions, with government oversight, enabling the freshest, best quality product to reach the consumer.
- We need to loosen rules around micro-businesses to allow home based. There is no reason to ban any cannabis related business from an address simply because it also has a residence.
- Allow for the manufacture and sale of cannabis in edible forms
- Allow for consumption anywhere tobacco smoking is permitted.
- Allow for ‘Vape’ Lounges and vape-friendly bars
- Create a program aimed at assisting British Columbians with becoming cannabis entrepreneurs
- Give up the idea of government cannabis stores and let the private sector take full advantage.
With a few changes, BC can exploit it’s BC bud reputation into the biggest economic boom we’ve seen in generations. There are untold thousands of British Columbians employed in the licit cannabis industry that have the knowledge and experience to offer a tourist a cannabis themed vacation second to none. Other jurisdictions have similar opportunities – it could be a game changer for the Maritime provinces.
Now is the time to make your elected representatives aware of what we expect. They can choose the options that will only benefit government employees at huge financial costs to the taxpayer, or they can choose the option that will cost them virtually nothing and reap the benefits of a productive, working, taxpaying populace.