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Canadian Stakeholders Take Cannabis Fight Into a New Phase

April 14, 2017
Shortly after the news media heard the outlines of Canada’s proposed marijuana legalization law yesterday, a number of ministry officials met with a group of stakeholders in Ottawa to hear their concerns. Judging by their feedback, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (above) has taken a remarkable first step–but his government still has work to do.

As a longtime advocate for the legalization of cannabis in Canada I was invited to participate by conference call in the stakeholders Q&A. I entered the session with trepidation but came away, surprisingly, feeling confident and reassured.

This is far from over. Many stakeholders are still in active lobbying mode.

Bill C-45, as the legalization measure is known in the House of Commons, is expected to be approved and take effect on or before July 1, 2018. It presents Canada and the rest of the world with a roadmap for ending cannabis prohibition once and for all. The government’s mandate has always been to restrict access for youth and to de-fund organized crime. This proposal does that.

During its five months of research, the government’s Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation encouraged a broad discussion of issues among a number of stakeholders. Their final report, issued last December, influenced the broad outlines of the bill. Yesterday’s Q&A once again highlighted specific concerns from those leaders, who ranged from tiered licencing for artisanal and craft producers, diversion of medical marijuana, inter-provincial trade, and continued protection and access for patients.

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During those Task Force consultations, advocates who differed, and often represented polar opposite positions, sat side by side to plead their cases to those at the head of the table.  Today wasn’t terribly different, as officials representing law enforcement, the pharmaceutical industry, medical marijuana patients, licenced producers, and medical professionals brought their specific concerns to government officials.

The issues of most interest to those at the Q&A included:

* Separation of classes for cannabis production licences, and separation from the current Health Canada licencing protocol. There was a general call for the government to allow for a greater diversity of producers.

* Inter-provincial trade and mail-order distribution.

  • Patient advocates wanted to make sure that the government continued its commitment to patients, and not allow a gap in medical access to occur.
  • There was some concern about advertising and promotion, prohibition of packaging appealing to youth, or packaging/advertising that’s false or misleading. Government officials were clear that local branding will be allowed.
  • Other issues of concern: Amending the non-smokers health act; workplace safety; child-resistant packaging; import-export licensing; and the need for branding to allow adults to make informed choices about product quality.
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It’s clear that this is far from over. Some folks at yesterday’s session were still in active lobbying mode.

This is especially the case regarding adult-use cannabis distribution. The form that will take will be left up to the provinces. Currently in Canada there’s considerable disparity between what might be called the East Coast and West Coast approach. British Columbia, which has a long history of cannabis tolerance, has licenced dispensaries in Vancouver, Victoria and smaller communities. Toronto, by contrast, has engaged in targeted and repeat raids and closures of the same types of retail outlets. It’s likely that these two approaches will carry over to the adult use market.

It will be imperative for the current gray market industry to get on board as the other voices in the room are making their cases for their own positions in the industry. I’m optimistic that politicians and policy makers, if given reliable evidence-based information, will do the right thing for their communities. The best example of this is the argument against combining alcohol with cannabis distribution. This will be an issue in every province, as the unions have strong relationships with all branches of government. We’ve already seen this play out in California, where the Teamsters union, which has tens of thousands of alcohol truck-driving members, is currently lobbying to have the state adopt a distribution model similar to alcohol.

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Law enforcement spokespeople have been vocally opposed to home cultivation allowances, which they see as costly, dangerous and unenforceable. That position was reiterated yesterday. They also expressed continued concern over diversion from the medical marijuana system into the illicit market. Clearly the government is listening and intends to overhaul aspects of the ACMPR within the next five years to align with new adult use regulations. It is worth noting that the arguments presented in favour of home cultivation as a comprehensive and responsible tool in avoiding black market access are the same arguments the police use to suggest it is a bad idea. There are two sides to every coin.

This is a great week for Canada and the future of cannabis.  We know the world is watching and our work here is not done. There are many voices in the room and we have to continue to be vigilant about the issues that we know will take us to where we need to go in the future.

Kelly Coulter's Bio Image

Kelly Coulter

Kelly Coulter is a journalist, essayist, and cannabis policy advisor based in Victoria, British Columbia. She’s been writing about and advocating for policy change in the cannabis space for more than 15 years.

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  • Sandy Daviau

    Kelly is clueless about cannabis in Canada
    She’s not a part of our community
    She doesn’t consume cannabis and smokes and drinks like a fish.
    She’s an imposter and a poser
    FIRE HER SORRY ASS

  • RonThugnot

    This article is a rather creepy bit of ass licking by someone with deep and longstanding connections to none other than the Liberal Party. In fact, the recent draft legislation by the Liberals shows only that the Liberal party’s long and ignoble history of smothering small businesses that have developed a given industry and handing that industry over lock, stock and barrel to oligarchs, is alive and well under PM Turdo. Here is a list of the oligarchs who have been handed the industry, and who will be the only people in the country who will be allowed to grow cannabis to sell. It’s another Liberal Party Special: The Ottawa Drug Cartel.

    THE OTTAWA DRUG CARTEL. TURDO’S TRUE INTENTION ‘LEGALIZING’ CANNABIS IS TO PREVENT ANYONE FROM GROWING IT TO SELL OTHER THAN THE OLIGARCHS – MOSTLY LIBERAL POLITICIANS OR FORMER COPS – HE’S LICENSED. THAT SHIT ABOUT PROTECTING KIDS AND STOPPING CRIMINALS PROFITING FROM THE EVILS OF WEED IS CALLED A SMOKE SCREEN. HERE ARE MOST OF THE OLIGARCHS ON THE LIST.
    Chuck Rifici, is formerly the CFO of the Liberal Party of Canada.
    * founder and former CEO of Tweed
    Mark Zekulin, CEO of Tweed
    •former senior adviser to former Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan
    Norman Inkster, Independent Director at Mettrum
    •former head of the RCMP
    Dr. Joshua Tepper, Independent Director at Mettrum
    •formerly Assistant Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Health , Senior Medical Officer for Health Canada,
    Tom Shipley, Director of Quality Assurance, Tweed
    •formerly worked on toxicology research, while at Health Canada,
    Mike Harcourt, Chairman of True Leaf Medicine Inc
    •former B.C. Premier
    Kash Heed, strategic consultant with National Green BioMed
    •Former B.C. Solicitor General and former West Vancouver police chief
    Herb Dhaliwal, Chairman, National Green BioMed
    •former Vancouver MP and federal cabinet minister.
    John Turner, medicinal marijuana applicant in Ontario (With Kash Heed)
    •Former Prime Minister of Canada
    Mr. Belot, Board of Directors for Aurora
    •was a public servant in several ministries within the Ontario government
    Brian Wagner, Company founder and CEO NHP Consulting (consults for prospective LP’s)
    •Brian was invited to play a strong role in Health Canada’s Program Advisory Committee
    Tim Humberstone, ABcann Director / Senior Person in Charge
    •former twenty year member of the RCMP included roles in Municipal/Federal Drug Enforcement and with the Joint Forces Organized Crime Agency. Tim has also received extensive training by the RCMP in providing expert court opinion in the fields of cannabis trafficking and production techniques .
    Ivan Vrana, founder of Aslan Ross Consulting / speaker mmpr summit
    •Previously Mr. Vrána worked for the Federal Government for over 15 years. He worked at the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, Finance Canada and in various senior policy positions at Health Canada. At Health Canada he was in charge of the team that developed the policy rationale which led to the implementation of the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations.Mr. Vrána is also a regular Lecturer at both Carleton and Concordia universities and teaches a course that examines the internal communication tools governments use to development and implement public policy.
    Sandy Pratt, Chief Financial Officer, Emerald Health
    •Worked at Deloitte ( auditing firm involved in the senate scandal), Vice President of Business Development and Executive Financial Officer of the Royal British Columbia Museum, a Crown corporation.
    Shane Morris, VP, Scientific Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Hydropothecary CEO (now Canadian Cannabis Corp.)
    •Since 2000, Shane has been in a range of leadership roles within the Federal Government, from Treasury Board of Canada’s senior advisor (Cabinet Operations) on regulatory affairs to director of policy leadership and Reporting for Resources Canada’s major projects management office.
    George Smitherman, THC BioMed
    former Ontario Liberal deputy premier
    •more than 30 years to public policy fields at the Municipal, Provincial and Federal Level, where roles as Senior Advisor, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure and Ontario’s Minister of Health were held
    Jake Ryan, Director of Security: Tilray
    * former RCMP Intelligence Officer and federal criminal investigator overseeing all aspects of Tilray’s security protocols and operations.
    Ernie Eves, Chairman, Timeless Herbal Care — a Jamaican medical marijuana company.
    •former Progressive Conservative premier of Ontario
    Kim Derry, a promoter of marijuana facility THC Meds Ontario Inc.
    •deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service under Mr. Blair,
    John Reynolds, advisor to Vodis Innovative Pharmaceuticals Inc
    •former MP with the Progressive Conservative, Reform and Canadian Alliance parties
    Senator Larry Campbell, advisor to Vodis Innovative Pharmaceuticals Inc.
    •former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and Vancouver mayor. And sitting Senator…
    Barry Daniel, Wildflower’s head of security
    •Former Abbotsford police chief.
    Cam Battley, Aurora Senior Vice President, Communications and Medical Affairs
    •Former Legislative Assistant to the Canadian Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, where he was responsible for developing legislation and steering it through the House of Commons, as well as negotiating with Opposition parties and stakeholder groups.
    PLEASE SHARE

  • Imee Tillay

    The government always says legalizing marijuana will keep cannabis from the hands of our children/underage… But how can you keep it out from the hands of our children if families are allowed to cultivate it at home???? Will mommy and daddy stay home to watch over their cannabis plant all the time???? Remember, children are curious to try and if cannabis are available in their own home, what do you think these children will do??? Therefore, in my own opinion cannabis MUST NOT be allowed to cultivate at home by families.