I am a person who lives with several chronic illnesses and who manages these illnesses through diet, lifestyle, and using cannabis.You can read, in detail, about me discovering the benefits of cannabis here. I’m a person who initially became a medical cannabis patient under the the MMAR and then the MMPR. I’m also a person who works full time in the cannabis industry.
I am a person who has, at one point, received a letter from Health Canada telling me I’d no longer have the option to grow for myself.
The current legislation (assuming you’re not going to actually go through to read all of those links) relies heavily on cannabis production through Licensed Producers (LPs) to supply patients with their medicine. The mass scale of these grows inevitably results in lower quality medicine, due to the complexity of the nature of the plant. There are several reasons for this, one of them being that LPs, by design, are simply not meant to operate in integrity to the plant (or to the benefit of the patient). The object of an LP is to make money in this booming industry, effectively pushing aside “grey” industry experts and patients. In fact, unless you have some investors with major money and influence, and can’t even start an LP. You can really see how this plays out practically when you consider the number of LP owners or investors who are either former cops or politicians.
It’s not uncommon for patients who rely on LPs to have their medicine recalled or unavailable. With the introduction of the recreational legislation, there will be even more pressure on these publicly owned monopolies that already struggle to keep up in a rapidly growing medical market, let alone a recreational one.
Now, some context:
Here are the party’s platforms regarding cannabis legislation:
- Plan to regulate the sale of cannabis through the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (basically the LCBO)
- The start up cost is projected to be $48 million and it’s projected to generate a net income of $100 million during the 2020-21 fiscal year
- Although the PCs haven’t released a formal platform, Doug Ford has stated the following:
- “We’re going down a path that no one really knows.I have been open to a fair market and letting the markets dictate. I don’t like the government controlling anything no matter what it is…. I’m open to a free market and I’m going to consult with our caucus…. I don’t believe in the government sticking their hands in our lives all the time. I believe in letting the market dictate.”
- “we got to be super, super, super careful” in regulating the cannabis market.
- Andrea Horwath has said:
- “We don’t want valuable farmland paved over,” said Horwath. “Neither do we want to see it go to massive marijuana crops. We need to see regulation and quality control. People need to know what it is they are selling; people need to know what it is they are buying.”
- “I don’t know if 40 dispensaries will achieve their goals of taking it off the black market”
- Regulating and licensing small businesses and dispensaries to sell cannabis in a safe and controlled way
- Ensuring tax revenues from cannabis sales are used to fund education, mental health and addiction programs
- Conducting a pilot project to test the private retailing of cannabis by small businesses alongside the LCBO’s new stores during the first two years of legalization
And my critique…
Only 2/4 parties have a clearly defined plan around cannabis legislation, which leads me to believe that the Liberals and Greens are the only parties that understand
a) the vast potential of the cannabis industry
b) the importance of managing medical and recreational access to cannabis for medicinal reasons and also to reduce the black market, and thus, various forms of violence that include criminalizing individuals.
The problem with the Liberals’ approach is that there is opportunity and increased access in the privatized cannabis industry- especially when regulated in addition to publicly owned grows and dispensaries. Relying solely on publicly owned production facilities will put more pressure on Canada’s already flawed LPs. This is bad news for patients who rely on LPs. It also doesn’t leave appropriate space for Indigenous communities, who have exceptionally valuable knowledge about what works in the cannabis industry in a way that centers patients and the plant itself to participate in an industry they’ve had a significant role in building and a cultural right to engage in.
Similarly, activists (many of whom are patients!) are being persecuted and excluded from the industry they have built through Liberal “legalization”. It’s no secret that people of colour and people with disabilities are disproportionately criminalized for their participation in a grey or black cannabis industry they’re forced to participate in because of the structuring of the Liberal conception of cannabis legislation. In fact, “black people with no history of criminal convictions have been three times more likely to be arrested by Toronto police for possession of small amounts of marijuana than white people with similar backgrounds, according to a Toronto Star analysis.”.
It should be noted, that none of the parties’ platforms include anything regarding pardoning peoples’ prior criminal convictions related to cannabis upon legalization.
The Green’s approach makes the most sense. That being said, I’d like to take the opportunity to briefly elaborate on and provide feedback on the Green’s platform related to cannabis legislation:
“The Green Party believes that the distribution of Cannabis in Ontario is an opportunity to create jobs and boost local business. Allowing for a mix of public and private vendors will allow us to serve many more locations and eradicate black market sales.”
I agree with this. I think it comes down to mixing private and public vendors, so as to increase points of access as much as possible. These multiple points of access are very important-
a) Private businesses with appropriate regulations. Why not create a group of diverse industry experts to brainstorm around what regulations are reasonable to go from there?These regulations ought to specifically provide reasonable space for Indigenous participation in the industry. It also ought to include legislation around smaller-scale craft grows (with multiple tiers containing appropriate regulations according to the size of the grow).
b) Publicly owned businesses (ie. LPs) with a MAJORLY revamped set of regulations that would allow for the plant to be managed in a way that maintains its integrity. This means no pesticides and the use of sustainable practices.
“Revenue capture in sales must be dedicated to health and education programs that help consumers make informed decisions that protect them, their families and the general public”
Cool. Keep in mind: a key priority should be on preventing stigma against people with disabilities and education ought to be informed by the wisdom of Indigenous people who have used this medicine traditionally for far longer than any of our governments have been involved in regulating it.