January 2016 NORML Canada Newsletter
Bill Blair Chosen to Guide the Liberal Government Towards Marijuana Legalization
The former chief of Toronto Police Services will have a lead role as the Liberal government attempts to move forward on its campaign pledge to legalize marijuana. Blair will do so in his role as one of the two parliamentary secretaries to the Minister of Justice.
However, the structure of the task force to legalize marijuana remains unclear, and there was no mention of a timeline for when the government will be ready to amend the criminal code to establish legalization.
For his part, Blair supports legalization as a tool to keep marijuana away from children and to better handle any social and health issues arising from its use. In doing so, Blair has stated that legalizing marijuana will come with “strict regulation” and “control.”
“Our intent is to legalize, regulate and restrict. There needs to be reasonable restrictions on making sure that we keep it away from kids, because I think that is very much in the public interest. We also have to ensure that the social and the health harms are properly managed and mitigated, and that can be done through regulation,” Blair said.
Licensed Producers Urge the Federal Government to Stop the Rise of Dispensaries
The rapid expansion of community-based dispensaries is getting more and more attention by the Licensed Producers. The Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group representing most of Canada’s Licensed Producers under Health Canada’s MMPR, is calling on the newly formed Liberal government to restrain the ongoing proliferation of dispensaries which has spread to Toronto.
The Licensed Producers are publicly reacting to news that there are now 40 dispensaries operating in Toronto, and there are indications that the number could be up to 100 by the spring of 2016.
Currently, medical marijuana dispensaries are in a legal “gray area” as they have not yet been considered as an adequate distribution model under the MMPR. Less than 24,000 people were registered under the federal government’s MMPR system at the end of last June, meanwhile some estimates indicate that compassion clubs are likely supplying between 100,000 and 200,000 medical marijuana patients in Canada.
The election of a Liberal government creates an opportunity for the government to listen to the voices of patients and local community-based dispensaries about the best methods of distribution.
NORML Canada President John Conroy QC, Vice President Professor Alan Young, Executive Director Craig Jones PhD, along with other dedicated NORML Canada volunteers will continue to encourage the Liberals to ensure reasonable access for all adults and for children with health care recommendation for medical access.
Tweed Lobbies Ottawa Against Dispensaries
Tweed Marijuana Inc, the largest Licensed Producer of medical cannabis in Canada, announced publicly that they have launched a lobbying campaign in Ottawa urging top Liberal officials to shut down medical cannabis dispensaries, in addition to a push to be at the forefront of an unfolding recreational market. Starting their efforts in early December 2015, alongside lobbyists from Ensight Canada, they argue that “strictly regulated and licensed firms in the medical field should be the first ones allowed to provide marijuana to recreational users.”
Their incremental proposal would use the established mail order system, later moving to provincially regulated outlets. However, this would limit the ability of small ‘mom and pop’ shops to participate fully and fairly in unfolding regulations. NORML Canada will continue to advocate, with your help, for the development of an inclusive recreational industry that speaks to the concerns and needs of a variety of stakeholders.
GoodWeeds in Toronto Raided
Toronto police raided the city’s newest vapour lounge, Good Weeds, on January 21 after being open only 4 weeks. The owners, Erin and Chris Goodwin, were arrested and taken into custody. In a recent Cannabis In Canada interview, co-owner Don Briere said that he is unsure why the shop was targeted by authorities, who typically take a hands off approach to cannabis dispensaries in the city due to lack of resources to police them. The raid also comes after a delicate Vice Canada piece which explained GoodWeeds as, “the city’s first vapour lounge that also sells dabs (high potency cannabis extracts), bong hits, and other marijuana products – and is one of the only few to do so in Canada, out in the open, despite being illegal.” NORML Canada has started a campaign demanding that the Liberal party put a stop to all cannabis related convictions immediately. With impending legalization, it is senseless to continue to persecute many otherwise law-abiding citizens for cannabis related charges in the time period leading up to legalization.
Conservative Leader Flip Flops on Legalization?
The current Conservative party interim leader until 2017, Rona Ambrose, has been talking up ridiculous reefer madness for several years now. In 2015 the Conservatives spent $7 million on an anti-marijuana legalization advertising campaign, using Health Canada in an attempt to legitimize their reefer madness nonsense. They went so far as to accuse Justin Trudeau of wanting to make cannabis easily available to children, by selling it in corner stores near schools.
Canadian doctors at the College of Family Physicians and Surgeons, the Canadian Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada refused to endorse the Conservative reefer madness advertising campaign stating the messaging was clearly political.
So it did come as a surprise when the media headline published by Civilized Life on January 21 was “Surprise! Rona Ambrose Changes Her Mind On Legalization.” The comment by Rona Ambrose in an interview by Simi Sara of Vancouver’s CKNW on January 20 was: “I hope that the faster they move on this (legalization), the better because the proliferation of pot dispensaries is quite large. So it’s moved now not just in Vancouver but across the country. And they’re unregulated. So the sooner they can move on that the better to protect kids.” Ambrose claimed the Conservative’s $7 million spent on the anti-marijuana legalization (reefer madness nonsense) advertising campaign was the best evidence she could provide.
Now to be fair to Civilized Life and other media reports many people did find some of Ambrose’s comments during the interview confusing. Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary, wrote on Twitter with the hashtag #chutzpah: “Health minister who spent millions of your $ on misleading ads against pot wants us to legalize faster.”