September 2016 NORML Canada Newsletter
NORML Canada Annual Conference on October 22-23, 2016 at the Karma Cup
Toronto, CA (October 5, 2016) – Canada’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML Canada), the oldest such organization in Canada, will be presenting panels discussing the future of legalization in Canada during this year’s Karma Cup, to be held in Toronto, October 22nd and 23rd at a location to be revealed shortly before the event.
“While Canada is on the cusp of a legal cannabis market, there are still many stakeholders who suggest that the proposed models are exclusionary,” explains John Vergados, member of NORML Canada. “This may present restrictive barriers towards entry for the individuals who fought to demonstrate the harms of prohibition.” The conference will present the differing viewpoints from across the cannabis landscape and highlight issues surrounding legalization.
NORML Canada’s own Craig Jones, John Conroy, Alan Young, Paul Lewin, Jack Lloyd and John Vergados will be joined by stakeholders from every corner of the cannabis industry and movement in what promise to be lively discussions. NORML Canada has selected a diverse array of panelists who will bring their diverse experiences to the discussion. Some of the panelists include Jodie and Marc Emery, Erin Goodwin, Hillary Black, Amy Brown, John Fowler, Adam Greenblatt, Dana Larsen, and Don Briere. For complete list and schedule please consult norml.ca.
The panels will cover several priority areas in the current Canadian legalization debate, including: 1) The Future of Legalization; 2) The Role of Dispensaries; 3) Craft Cannabis in Canada; and 4) When is Civil Disobedience Appropriate?
About NORML Canada
NORML Canada is a non-profit, public interest, member operated and funded group, chartered at the federal level in Canada since 1978. The organization aims to eliminate all civil and criminal penalties for private marijuana use – through government lobbying, public education, research, and legislative and judicial challenges. NORML Canada believes that the present policy of discouraging marijuana use through the use of criminal and/or civil law has been excessively costly and harmful to both society and the individual.
For more information, or to arrange a media interview, please contact:
NORML Canada’s 2016 National Conference – at the Karma Cup – October 22-23, 2016
Craig Jones – Conference Moderator
Civil Disobediance Panel – Paul Lewin moderator – Saturday, October 22 at 10:00 – 12:30 pm
Legalization Panel – Alan Young moderator – Saturday, October 22 at 12:30 – 3:00 pm
John Conroy QC
Women in Cannabis Panel – Abigail Sampson moderator – Sunday, October 23 at 10:00 – 11:30am
Dispensary Raids Panel – Edgar Bernal-Martinez and Jack Lloyd moderators – Sunday, October 23 at 11:30 – 12:30 pm
Craft Cannabis Cultivators Panel – John Vergados moderator – Sunday, October 23: 12:35-2:00 pm
Jose Dominguez (Cannacopeia)
Sarah from House of the Great Gardener
Royal Bank and Scotiabank Choosing to Withdraw from the Canadian Cannabis Industry
Earlier this month, Scotiabank and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) indicated they would no longer do business with companies associated with the cannabis industry, including providing services such as bank accounts, and enabling alternative forms of payment, financial transactions and/or shorter-term financing.
The organizations affected by these moves have included licensed producers licensed by Health Canada to grow cannabis for medical purposes as well as local businesses that sell cannabis paraphernalia, but no cannabis or other cannabis products.
In an interview with Alexandra Posadzki of the Canadian Press earlier this month, both RBC and Scotiabank added that their decisions were carefully made based on their risk management, their internal risk analysis and the uncertain nature of the cannabis industry as a whole. Both also added that they will continue to monitor the industry and may reassess their position as the industry matures.
The Canadian government has legalized access to cannabis at the federal level. In addition, the Canadian government is currently working on a legislative framework to access cannabis for recreational purposes due in the spring of 2017. The introduction of these and other initiatives will continue to legitimize an emerging industry that is still plagued by stigma, moral objections and public image concerns.
The New Impaired By Drug Laws
The Government of Ontario recently announced it would be implementing harsher penalties for drug impaired driving as part of the Making Ontario Roads Safer Act starting October 2.
These penalties now include a $180 penalty, immediate license suspension, a possible 90-day suspension and 7-day impoundment following further testing by a “Drug Recognition Expert (DRE),” potential to enforce mandatory education or treatment programs, and installation of an ignition interlock device in their vehicle for drivers with two or more license suspensions involving alcohol and drugs over the last ten years.
The Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) and the Drug Recognition Expert’s evaluation will be used to administer the new drug impaired driving sanctions. The SFST is a physical coordination test that is supposed to evaluate the presence of alcohol and drugs in drivers of motor vehicles, and can be used at roadside. The SFST consists of three tests: 1) the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (an examination of eye movements); 2) One-Leg Stand; and 3) Walk-and-Turn.
While there is a clear limit for alcohol, establishing a similar threshold for cannabis is much harder. In fact, harsher penalties may not have the intended effect of keeping drivers who have consumed cannabis or other drugs off the road. This is because cannabis affects each person differently based on a variety of other factors (age, weight, tolerance, experience, etc.) so determining a “critical limit” is not straight forward in this regard.
Most current roadside testing devices which could be comparable to a breathalyzer test do not measure intoxication, but rather the level or presence of THC, which could have been consumed anywhere from 24 to 72 hours before driving. This is also the case with many statistics which attempt to speak to “cannabis related” fatal accidents – a measure which is only able to speak to the presence of THC in the bloodstream, rather than actual impairment at the time of the accident.
We hope to see measures continue to develop which prioritize the rights and safety of all Canadians, and evidence-based road side testing. The issues with conflating the presence of THC with actual intoxication should be acknowledged in these conversations, so we do not unnecessarily and unfairly criminalize and restrict the liberties of responsible cannabis users.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce Calls for the Regulation of Private Dispensaries While Project Claudia Marches On
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce recently urged Premier Wynne to consider a “private-sector, licensing based, and locally-oriented approach” to the distribution and production of recreational cannabis. They caution against an approach so onerous that it inadvertently keeps the black market alive. They recommend municipalities have a say in the varying approaches to distribution and production. This, according to the OCC, empowers communities. In other words, they want private dispensaries regulated by local government.
They do not want LCBO cannabis. They are not the first to condemn the Premier Wynne’s liquor and cannabis idea. Perry Kendall the BC Public Health Officer called the idea contrary to the public health ethos. Addictions and Mental Health Ontario described the plan as problematic. The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce denounced it as, among other things, outdated. In a May 2016 Forum Poll of Ontarians found a majority of those polled favored private dispensaries over the LCBO liquor and pot model.
It is time for private dispensaries to be regulated by government. The dispensaries would love to be regulated. The municipalities could set out rules governing where dispensaries can operate, when they can operate, who they can sell to, what they can sell, and how old you have to be to purchase. If they are concerned about the quality of the cannabis being sold then they could require testing. If they are concerned about labelling of edibles then they could set out labelling rules. If they are concerned that the dispensaries do not thoroughly screen for medical use then they could set out protocols that the dispensaries must follow before they can sell to a patient.
Instead of sensible rules, the federal government has decided to prosecute the dispensaries. It is such a bad idea that it warrants little debate. Aside from the fact that the prosecutions are expensive and unconstitutional, without dispensaries cannabis patients would be forced to purchase their medicine in back alleys which is bad for the patients and for the community while empowering organized crime. Everybody knows this and everybody also knows dispensaries will be legal soon. So why prosecute the current dispensaries? Money. The federal government wants to use their criminal law authority to stop cannabis people from running the current dispensaries so that their corporate friends, the licensed producers, can open their own dispensaries. The federal government admitted as much in their Discussion Paper. It is a corrupt, mean-spirited, expensive, unconstitutional, and probably illegal use of the federal government’s criminal law power.
Durham Police Officer Opens Medical Cannabis Dispensary Inside Native Reserve and Claims it is “Legal”
The new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) released just this past August failed to recognize dispensaries and/or compassion clubs as valid methods for distributing medical cannabis in Canada. Health Canada was adamant that these establishments were not authorized to sell cannabis for medical purposes, and further indicated that the remaining dispensaries and compassion clubs will continue to face further law enforcement action from local police forces. It appears however, that the Durham Police Department has other notions about taking law enforcement action when it comes to one of their police officers.
Jesse Mclean, an investigative news reporter with the Toronto Star, recently conducted an investigation into ‘Living On Inc.’, a medical cannabis dispensary inside First Nations land in Port Perry, Ontario. Mclean discovered that this dispensary had been partly co-owned since December 2015 by Phil Edgar, a police officer with the Durham Police Department for the past twenty-two years. The officer was able to receive a “legal opinion” from his police department authorizing his request for ownership of a medical cannabis dispensary.
According to the investigation, Constable Phil Edgar has been very familiar with cannabis as he has had a professional history related to cannabis arrests. In fact, he has been commended for cannabis-related arrests for police work that involved seizing more than $530,000 of cannabis over a relatively small number of traffic stops.
Constable Edgar has since stated that he has left Living On Inc. as of July 1 to avoid the unnecessary attention from the media and others in the force, but also admits he is pondering a possible future return to the venture.
Days following the Toronto Star report, Durham police executed search warrants at other medical cannabis dispensaries in Oshawa and Whitby; these are: Emerald Triangle, 420 Compassion Club on Simcoe Street South, and Green Street Medical Society on Dunlop Street in Whitby.