Justin Trudeau campaigned on legalizing marijuana as if he thought it was a good idea. Instead we’re getting the most grudging piece of legislation since the Paul Martin Liberals legalized same-sex marriage with the Supreme Court’s gun to their heads.
The law proposed Thursday is a steaming turd of a bill that doesn’t acknowledge the hard fact that governments cannot effectively control the growth of plants.
This has been the crippling problem with pot prohibitionism from the very beginning: Marijuana is easier to produce than drinkable booze, certainly easier than smokable cigarettes. You don’t need to know chemistry, buy special equipment, even invest much time. You can grow it in a terracotta pot in a backyard, under lights in a basement, hidden in a cornfield. Actual grass is harder to cultivate than “grass,” as long as you aren’t such a stoner you forget to water it.
Yes, you’ll be allowed to grow pot plants for yourself under the new legislation and “share” what you grow with other adults, 30 grams at a time. This is quite a bit of pot — the same weight as a small bag of chips. And you’ll be able to buy commercial marijuana from licensed growers through provincially regulated stores. But you won’t be allowed to sell any marijuana you’ve grown yourself, which is precisely the act governments everywhere have been unable to stop no matter how hard they’ve tried.
Partial legalization will complicate enforcement: Some marijuana leaves will be legal. Some marijuana leaves will be illegal. Will we be able to tell where they came from by looking at them? How will police know? How much court time will be spent on these questions? And why does anybody care?
To mitigate the law-enforcement problems created by the new bill, the government is increasing police powers.
As it is, police are supposed to have grounds to pull a driver over, and then specific reason to suspect a driver has been drinking before demanding a breath sample. Under the Liberal bill, police will require grounds to pull a driver over, but once they have they’ll require no additional justification to take breath to look for alcohol or spit to look for marijuana. Except that mass RIDE checks are legal, so police will be able to demand breath samples from anybody they feel like demanding them of.
The government says it wants to “reduce litigation regarding whether or not the officer had a reasonable suspicion.” Demonstrating reasonable grounds is just such a pain, you see.
What does that have to do with marijuana? Nothing. But the Liberals are amending the law to deal with stoned driving so they’re sticking this in while they’re there.
Smearing more mess around, the Liberals are leaving virtually all questions about regulating pot retailing to the provinces. They had an expert panel — led by former health minister Anne McLellan — advise them on this legislation and the panel said it’s a bad idea to allow marijuana to be sold alongside alcohol for a bunch of vague reasons.
Smoking up and drinking together is supposedly more dangerous than either on its own, though “there is little research to confirm that there is a direct correlation between co-location and co-use,” the panel admitted.
There are so many liquor stores that allowing them to sell marijuana will make marijuana widely available and might lead people to believe governments condone pot-smoking, the panel warned. Which either makes very little sense, in places where liquor sales are privatized, or no sense whatsoever, in places like Ontario where the government is the main liquor purveyor. Liquor can actually kill you with an overdose. It’s a poison a lot of people find fun, but it is really a poison. The government supposedly sells it because it’s the only entity that can be trusted to dispense such an evil substance.
But anyway, the feds are going to let provinces decide where marijuana can legally be sold, punting the McLellan panel’s advice on this entirely. Could be corner stores, could be government stores, could be in industrial wastelands, could even theoretically be nowhere.
Premier Kathleen Wynne has mused about selling marijuana through the LCBO. After the feds released the legislation Thursday, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi emitted a long mushy statement about studying it and working with partners “to develop a responsible approach that aligns with their legislative framework.” In other words, Ontario has no idea what it’s going to do.
Considering what a mess we’ve made of alcohol sales here, where the single most important question is what makes the provincial government the most money, there’s every reason to expect us to mess pot up, too.
Never mind whether government should try to keep adults from getting high. It can’t. The drug war failed, is failing, will continue to fail, and the state embarrasses itself by fighting it. Which, under the federal Liberals’ proposed legislation, the state will continue to do.
Antonio Sergi, who was shot dead in his Toronto driveway last week, was deeply involved in the medical marijuana industry, including a province-wide bid to unionize growers and the shady operation of an urban pot farm, the National Post has learned.
He was also a mob-linked crime figure known by the nickname “Tony Large” who faced drug charges and court squabbles.
The motive for his gangland-style murder at 2:30 a.m. on March 31 is not yet known — and the gunman still a fugitive — but Sergi’s violent end reveals a direct and disturbing link between medical marijuana production and organized crime just as the pot industry struggles for respectability amid a legalization push.
Sergi, 53, founded the Medical Cannabis Employees Union Local 1 in 2013 and announced his presidency with a professionally distributed media release, slick website and an office in Woodbridge, north of Toronto.
“We’re 250 to 300 strong as of today,” said Sergi when launching his union. “Our goal is to have at least 7,000 members by the end of 2013.”
He promised to lobby government, assist in licensing and to help consumers “access the highest quality” cannabis “at the fairest price.”
His vision of a province-wide union fell apart in a series of ruinous events: he was arrested in 2014 in a large Toronto drug case; medical marijuana laws changed; and people realized his union was a sham.
Around the same time, his criminal tie to a crew of known mobsters also fell apart.
“Tony Large was with a crew there, he was with them and then they got pissed off at him and they kind of abandoned him. He was doing his own thing with that union, with the growers,” said a long-time underworld friend of Sergi’s who asked not to be named.
Confident in his abilities, however, Sergi carried on and was known as a freelancer in the underworld; he had serious mob ties and spoke with powerful Mafia figures, but was not a “made” guy nor was he claimed by any mob family, the source said.
Sergi looked the part: Standing 6-foot-4, his hair cropped short, he once weighed more than 350 pounds, but had lost a lot of weight by the time of his death. His animated face displayed amiable joviality or fearful toughness as required, friends said.
While Sergi’s union plans faltered, he maintained his interest in marijuana and ran an industrial medical marijuana grow-op in Hamilton that he claimed was a legal, federally licensed facility.
But it wasn’t.
At the time of his death, Sergi was involved in a court dispute with the City of Hamilton and his landlord over his marijuana business.
The large, dilapidated building, a former bar called Boomers at 229 Kenilworth Ave. N., looks abandoned and derelict, apart for new security cameras scanning the exterior. There is no sign it is a functioning business.
No one answered the rusty door when a reporter visited this week.
After neighbours complained last year of a strong marijuana odor, city bylaw officials and Hamilton police investigated and reported it was a federally licensed medical marijuana grow operation, said Sam Merulla, city councillor for the area.
“It was a surprise to us,” said Merulla, who complained there had been no interaction with the city about zoning or permits.
“These guys just circumvented our entire process. They showed no respect for the process at all. It is baffling to me how you can get licensing without any city zoning approval,” he said.
“From the outside, it’s atrocious. Outside it looks abandoned but inside, from what bylaw said, it looks quite extravagant.”
What makes the situation even more remarkable, however, is the facility does not actually have a federal marijuana licence.
“Health Canada has not issued a licence at this address for the production of medical cannabis,” said Gary Scott Holub, a Health Canada spokesman. “Not ever.”
“That tells you someone’s lying,” said Holub.
If it was Sergi lying, he was bold enough to do it in sworn statements filed in court.
In his battle to not be evicted from the Boomers building he was explicit about what he was doing there.
“I have been leasing the property for a number of years and have been using the space to grow medical marijuana under three federally issued licences during that time,” Sergi said in a sworn affidavit dated June 15, 2016.
In fact, he argued he must stay in the building because the federal government wouldn’t let him move: “the plants must be grown either on the property or not at all.” To move would require the federal government’s permission and disrupt the medical needs of people requiring the marijuana, he wrote.
Sergi didn’t own the building, he leased it. When the city went after the building’s owner, Toronto lawyer Yigal Rifkind, he moved to evict Sergi. In response, Sergi sued Rifkind. The matter was still before the court at the time of Sergi’s death.
Sergi’s affidavit in the case suggests what he was doing in Hamilton is exactly what many suspected his real purpose was with his aborted union — to pool together people with individual medical marijuana licences to create large, conglomerate pot operations.
Rifkind said he never wanted to oust Sergi but didn’t want to engage in a legal brawl with the city.
“You know what they say, you don’t fight city hall,” Rifkind told the Post. He doesn’t see how the Hamilton operation could be motive for murder, though, as it was already wrapping up.
Rifkind was first introduced to Sergi as “Tony Large” and only found out that was a nickname later, he said. He conceded Sergi wasn’t a typical tenant.
“Tony was an interesting character and had a lot of interesting friends. He was a larger than life character but I don’t know what would motivate that end result,” he said of his murder.
“He was a difficult person not to get along with,” Rifkind said. “You could be furious with him and in five minutes you’d have forgotten why.”
Being told that Health Canada says the facility was never licensed to grow pot left Rifkind momentarily speechless.
“That’s crazy,” he said after a long pause. “If that’s true, it would come as a huge shock to me.” He said he had seen correspondence that appeared to be from Health Canada.
“It’s possible there has been a misrepresentation.”
It came as a shock in Hamilton as well.
After mediation, the case was set to be settled out of court. Everyone was expecting Sergi — and his plants — to be out of the building this month. City of Hamilton spokeswoman Ann Lamanes said an inspection is scheduled to confirm “voluntary compliance.”
News, however, the building that has bothered city officials for almost a year was never actually federally licensed enraged Merulla.
“That is astounding. It is shocking. I can’t even describe what I’m feeling. I’m beside myself,” Merulla said.
“It’s an absurdity beyond comprehension,” he said, adding he will ask council to examine how city checks on a property could have gone awry.
While Hamilton officials grapple with that, Sergi’s family and friends are preparing a final goodbye. His funeral mass is scheduled for Friday.
Sergi is survived by his wife, Nancy, in Toronto, and his parents, two sisters and a brother in Italy.
Psychology and addictions specialists say parents should open up conversation instead of shaming their kids.
With the promise of marijuana legalization just around the corner, experts say the scare tactics of yesteryear won’t work on modern kids.
‘Shift the conversation’
University of Victoria psychology professor Bonnie Leadbeater, who studies marijuana use in teens, said often young people simply aren’t aware of the risks surrounding the substance.
The way to teach them, she said, is to talk with them, not at them and to ask questions — what do they think about legalization, for instance? Do they think anything will change?
“This is the perfect time to bring up conversations about marijuana and to really find out what your kids think,” she said.
It can be uncomfortable at first, but Cindy Andrew, a consultant for the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., said parents might just have to suck it up.
“Lots of parents have the same struggles when it comes to talking about sexuality with our kids,” she said. “Like sexuality, the time to start that conversation isn’t when they’re teenagers in high school.”
Andrew said parents can capitalize on “teachable moments” — like news reports or real-life events involving weed — to start a conversation.
“We need to start to shift the conversation not just about the risks but about the more nuanced, complex perspective and behaviour and help each other figure it out,” she said.
Myths persist, but education is key
Leadbeater noted that young people are often given conflicting information about marijuana, which can lead them to believe that the drug is risk-free.
“Young people need to know about [the risks]. There’s a lot of myths out there,” she said.
Andrew points to the idea that weed is a totally safe alternative to alcohol — “that it really doesn’t have any harm, it’s way better to smoke pot than it is to drink” — as a pervasive one.
“Pot is not a benign substance,” she said.
Leadbeater said that much of the reason myths about pot persist is because of a lack of funding into studies.
“There’s a lot of mystery and part of the mystery has been because it’s illegal and the research has not been done,” she said.
In order to better inform adults and kids alike, she said, that research is an important first step.
Marijuana activist Dana Larsen is making another tour stop in Calgary a year after he was arrested for giving away cannabis seeds.
The Vancouver-based cannabis legalization advocate admits he is “a little nervous” about coming back to the city where he was chargedwith one count of trafficking marijuana and one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking.
“This year I’m doing 23 cities and Calgary is actually the last stop, and so far no other police force has bothered showing up or interfering with my seed giveaway, so I will be surprised if the Calgary police show up again, but I was surprised they showed up the first time,” Larsen said.
While police are aware of Friday’s event, the Calgary Police Service said in a statement that by standard practice, it does not disclose investigative tactics or operational plans, nor does it disclose information about specific individuals.
Larsen will be in Calgary as part of a cross-country tour he launched in March dubbed the Overgrow Canada Tour. In each city, the activist has given talks on “the hidden history of cannabis in Canada” and given away seeds.
On April 6, 2016, Larsen was arrested at the Days Inn on Macleod Trail South and spent the night in custody before being released on bail.
He will return to Calgary next month for a preliminary hearing on the charges on May 9 and 10. If there is a trial next year, he will be back to attend it, but he said he is doubtful the charges will go to trial.
“I can’t believe any judge is going to be happy to waste his time with me when we’re in the middle of a judicial crisis,” he said.
Larsen said he has given away 2.5 million cannabis seeds this year, and plans to reach a 5 million seed giveaway by April 20. The activist said he wants to normalize the public growing of cannabis.
The federal government is expected to introduce legislation this month to legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018.
The head of the Calgary police drug unit told Postmedia in February that while cannabis use and possession can still lead to criminal charges, simple possession of marijuana by average citizens “wouldn’t be a priority” for officers compared to substances like opioids and methamphetamine.
Larsen will be at the Forest Heights community centre, located at 4909 Forego Ave S.E., Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
‘Remedy Ice Cream’ challenges boundaries of law, highlights need for policy clarity, advocate says
By: Robson Fletcher
Remedy Ice Cream is made in Calgary and infused with shatter — a concentrated form of marijuana.
The operation may not be legal but it’s not exactly underground, either.
Co-founder Chris Vasconcellos says the ice cream is meant for licensed medical marijuana patients only. As a licensed user himself, he said he was looking for a different way to consume his medicine, which led him to the idea.
He doesn’t have a licence to sell the drug, however, so he’s wary of law enforcement — but still willing to talk publicly about what he does.
He’s created a widespread online presence and has been making the rounds on pot-themed podcasts, promoting the product as a first of its kind in Canada.
Vasconcellos said he makes the ice cream in small batches, each yielding about 30 four-ounce containers.
His online ads stipulate a minimum order of six containers — priced at $15 apiece — for orders within the city and 10 containers for customers elsewhere.
“We do local deliveries in Calgary and then for Canada-wide we do shipping, next day, with dry ice so it’s guaranteed to arrive there frozen,” he told CBC News.
He said customers are required to submit copies of their driver’s licence and medical marijuana prescriptions.
“There’s always that worry of being caught or hassled or questioned or arrested or anything like that,” he said. “But really, any type of person that’s in my industry has that type of fear.”
And he’s far from alone in the industry.
‘People are getting creative’
Only one company in Alberta — the industrial-sized Aurora Cannabis — is currently licensed to sell medical marijuana, but that hasn’t stopped budding entrepreneurs from starting their own, small-scale operations.
Jeff Mooij, owner of the 420 Clinic in Calgary, routinely turns people away who come to his Inglewood storefront, hoping it will stock their culinary cannabis concoctions.
“We get people — probably on a weekly basis — coming to show us their edible products that they’ve made and wanting us to help them sell it,” Mooij said.
“It happens all the time and there is a demand for it, so it’s not surprising people are getting creative.”
The 420 Clinic doesn’t actually provide any marijuana to its customers, but does sell products like vaporizers for consuming it. It also advises medical cannabis patients and helps them navigate the sometimes confusing federal system for legally accessing the drug.
Calgary police declined an interview but a spokesperson noted the only legal way to obtain medical marijuana is to order from a licensed producer and have it delivered through the mail.
While Aurora is the only licensed producer in Alberta, there are dozens across Canada — and a long list of applicants hoping for federal approval to join their ranks.
‘Grey area’ still a ‘black market’
Vasconcellos said he looked into the licensing process, but it’s more designed for large-scale growers than small-sized outfits producing edible forms of the drug.
With the legalization of recreational marijuana looming in 2018, he said there’s an added level of competition among the sizeable but still semi-underground industry.
“With everybody and their brother kind of doing it, it’s, you know, kind of a grey area for a lot of people,” he said.
“So a lot of people are really just kind of taking the risks right now to try and get their name out there and promote business and stuff like that, just to hopefully be ahead of the game.”
Remedy Ice Cream comes in a variety of flavours, from “Wake and Bake Coffee” to “Cookies and Dream” to “High Tea.”
Vasconcellos described his unnamed partner in the venture as “pretty much a master creamer” and said they’ve figured out a way to ensure consistent dosing of THC — the active ingredient that provides pot’s high.
“We’ve sat down with a couple of chemists and some formulators and we’ve come up with a custom formula that works for our ice cream. We also get our products tested, as well, from a lab,” he said.
“We know exactly what we’re getting per four-ounce container, so we know that we can ensure to our patients that this is what it says, unlike a lot of other products on the market.”
But Mooij is skeptical.
He said proper dosing is tricky with edibles, even for experienced users consuming more regulated products, such as those available in U.S. jurisdictions where marijuana has been legalized.
The 420 Clinic offers recipes and lessons for patients who want to infuse their own food with cannabis, he said, but buying edibles produced by someone else remains a dicey proposition in Canada.
“It’s still a black market and you don’t know where it’s being made.”
Pushing the boundaries
The situation, Mooij said, underlines the need for the federal, provincial and municipal governments to develop more coherent policies surrounding marijuana.
Across Canada, activists and entrepreneurs have been increasingly pushing the boundaries of the existing law, knowing it’s soon due for a radical change.
Dispensaries that openly sell cannabis from storefronts have been shut down in numerous cities only to re-open, in some cases, a short while later.
Calgary police wouldn’t comment on whether they’re investigating Remedy Ice Cream or any other edible-marijuana producers, but Mooij figures small-scale operations wouldn’t be a top priority when it comes to drug enforcement in the city.
“We have a person dying every two days in this city on fentanyl or opiates, so marijuana is very low down on the scale, and rightfully so,” he said.
‘Trying to do good’
The online reviews for Remedy Ice Cream on a popular marijuana website are stellar — a perfect five stars out of five, from 15 customers — and Vasconcellos said he’s really proud of that.
He said he recognizes the risk in trying to grow the business but also he believes he’s filling a void and providing a product that wouldn’t otherwise be available for medical marijuana patients who prefer not to inhale their medicine.
“I have a family myself, so I really have to worry about that as well, but I’m also an entrepreneur and a businessman and I’m trying to really provide for my family and trying to do good for everybody else as well,” he said.
“I’m trying to bring a product that is not in Canada yet, really.”
Research and education needs to be provided, Dr. Mark Ware, a professor in family medicine and anesthesia at McGill University, told a drug policy conference in Ottawa.
By: Tonda Maccharles
OTTAWA—Canada should immediately boost spending on intensive public education and research into the impacts of marijuana and not wait until 2018 , says the co-chair of Ottawa’s pot task force.
Dr. Mark Ware, a professor in family medicine and anesthesia at McGill University, told a drug policy conference in Ottawa that a bill to overhaul Canada’s marijuana law is just the first step of what he predicts will be an “unbelievably deep and tangled web” with provinces, territories and municipalities who will be responsible for much of the scheme.
Meanwhile, Ware said, “research and education needs to be provided. This is something I’m still pushing for.”
“I haven’t felt, yet, that we have capacity to support this kind of legislative change in terms of measuring and understanding what the impact of this is on individual health and on public health.”
Ware was among dozens of experts at a conference on the future of drug policy in Canada looking at medium- and long-term recommendations for policy-makers.
But Ware had advice for the short term.
Canada needs a “lot more infrastructure” to support the nests of “very good researchers around the country,” who are studying plant sciences, pharmacology, and clinical research as well as policy, “but they’re not well connected and we’re not talking to one another,” said Ware.
He said for the legalization policy “to be rolled out and be implemented effectively and to respond to the realities that we get when it’s launched, we need that network to be in place.”
Ware also said provinces and municipalities need support to ensure they have the “required elements for licensing, for regulating, for inspecting.”
“This is a huge undertaking. I think we underestimate how deep this is going to go.”
Many at the conference supported the federal Liberal government’s desire to reduce the harms associated with illegal cannabis sales and use.
However Mark Kleiman, a professor of public service at New York University’s Marron Institute of Urban Management, had a stern warning. “Legalization and regulation are not a panacea. There is not a solution to the drug problem that consists of getting the criminal law out of the way and turning it over to the doctors and the public health folks.”
Kleiman, whose work was consulted by Ottawa’s task force, pointed to alcohol and tobacco as industries where legalization has not reduced public health harms. Instead, he said, commercialization supported industries with a vested interest in marketing a harmful product to dependent users, and these industries “aren’t down in the trenches advocating for a public health approach to addiction.”
“Expecting the nascent legal cannabis industry, or the existing legal alcohol industry, to worry about substance abuse is like expecting Exxon Mobil to worry about global warming. That’s the business they’re in.”
His advice: Canada should ensure cannabis is priced or taxed so that the cost “to get stoned,” which he put at about $1.50, doesn’t change, that appropriate health information is available at the point of sale, that marketing by commercial industry is restricted, and that retail sales clerks selling cannabis across the counter are trained in substance abuse and pharmacology, so they can advise their customer of the risks, and help identify those who need help.
A medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Hamilton was robbed at gunpoint Saturday.
“Basically, four guys ran in with guns,” Mike Desrochers, who has run Delta Nine medical marijuana dispensary at 2 Catharine St. N. since August, said Sunday.
Desrochers said the armed robbers, who burst into the shop around 1:30 p.m., didn’t make off with much, however. “They were too stupid to open the cash drawer.”
Staff Sgt. Marco Del Conte said four suspects fled the scene in a vehicle.
Desrochers, who called 911 to report the robbery, says police stayed to investigate but then produced a warrant hours later.
“They took everything else that was in the store,” he said. “All our product was taken, and we’re back to zero.”
Police and the Hamilton’s bylaw department have raided several illegal dispensaries in recent months. Owners argue they’re providing an essential medical service that Health Canada-licensed facilities aren’t meeting.
The police’s BEAR, and vice and drugs units are working together on the investigation, Del Conte said, but couldn’t comment on the warrant.
“Taxes should be high enough to limit the growth of consumption, but low enough to compete effectively with the illicit market,” wrote the task force. “Mechanisms such as a minimum price should be used to prevent predatory pricing, if necessary.”
What black market marijuana costs
It’s hard to establish a definitive price for a black market item, but illicit dispensaries in Toronto regularly sell a single gram of marijuana for $10.
A November 2016 report from the Parliamentary Budget Office, however, offers a more in-depth analysis of black market marijuana prices across Canada. The report used data from PriceOfWeed.com, which collects user reports about marijuana purchases and makes them available in a searchable database.
After running the data through its own statistical analysis and regional weighting, the PBO reported that one gram of marijuana cost an average of $8.32 between February 2015 and August 2016. After adjusting for the bulk discounts common to black market marijuana transactions, the PBO’s figure rose to $9.36 per gram.
Average prices were lower in British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Quebec, and higher in Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and the territories.
What legal marijuana costs
As of March 17, the average price of marijuana from Health Canada-licensed producers was $9.12 per gram, according to Brad Martin of CannStandard in Calgary.
Martin is a medical marijuana user who started tracking prices to identify the best value.
“I’m not seeing too much fluctuation since I’ve started,” he said, referring to prices from legal, licensed producers.
Unlike the black market, Martin said, most licensed producers don’t offer bulk discounts, although it’s common to see shipping discounts on bulk orders.
Marijuana prices actually rose soon after legalization in the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon, said Martin, due to supply shortages. After the shortages were addressed, prices plunged.
“I don’t anticipate seeing something in the magnitude that we saw in the states, specifically because the market size is smaller and because we’ve taken some mitigation measures on it,” said Martin.
According to data from marijuana market intelligence firm BDS Analytics, a gram of marijuana bud cost $6.46 US in Colorado in January. The average price per gram in Oregon was $8.56. Both prices reflect bulk discounts, however — a single gram purchased at a dispensary would cost more.
What happens after legalization?
A November analysis from Canaccord Genuity estimates average prices for the total legal market (medical and recreational) will stay steady around $8 per gram until 2019 or 2020, with illicit prices remaining slightly higher, between $8 and $9 per gram.
Post-legalization demand could exceed supply and keep prices stable for a time, wrote Canacord Genuity analysts Matt Bottomley and Neil Maruoka. That’s because Health Canada is relatively slow to approve licences for new producers, they said, and it takes a long time to set up a fully operational growing facility.
After legal production catches up to demand, they wrote, “the average price per gram of bud will begin to slowly decline.”
What about taxes?
We don’t yet know how much the government will tax retail marijuana sales. Those taxes, which could be applied at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels, might be lower for medical users (a common practice in U.S. states where marijuana is fully legal).
But if the government wants to bust up the black market, those taxes can’t raise the price of legal marijuana beyond the price of illicit marijuana. Ottawa knows it, too.
“[Seeking] to displace the illicit cannabis market requires the establishment of a legal market that is competitive with the existing illicit market, including safe and reasonable access, price, variety of product choice and adequate consumer education,” advised the task force on legalization.
“Therefore, excessive restrictions could lead to the re-entrenchment of the illicit market.”
Some U.S. brands saw 4.4% drop in sales when states legalized pot.
By: Jerri Southcott.
In the United States, beer sales declined in areas where cannabis became legal. (CBC).
The legalization of marijuana may cut into beer and other alcohol sales across Canada, a study by the firm Deloitte says.
“If marijuana is legalized in Canada, we will see a decrease in purchases of beer, wine or spirits. So that’s something that the alcohol industry is going to have to understand and think about and try to anticipate what that means,” said Mark Whitmore, who co-authored the study on recreational marijuana.
Some of the study’s findings show that about 80 per cent of current cannabis consumers rarely mix the drug with alcohol and they’re also drawn to marijuana for the same reason people choose alcohol: to have fun or help connect with others.
Beer sales fell up to 4.4% in U.S.
Recent reports show domestic beer sales fell in Colorado, Washington and Oregon after pot was legalized, with sales of Coors Light and Bud Light dipping as much as 4.4 per cent.
Matthew Bellamy, associate professor of history at Carleton University and a brewing historian, believes Canadian beer sales will fall after the legalization of weed.
Legal marijuana may cut into beer sales in Canada, a Deloitte study shows. (CBC)
“The Canadian brewing industry has passed through many of the same phases in its evolution as the industry in the United States,” he said.
“Like its counterpart south of the border, Canadian brewing emerged as a significant industry between 1865 and 1915; went through the dark years of prohibition from about 1915 to 1930; experienced a renaissance between 1930 and 1945; witnessed the emergence of a national brewing oligopoly after the Second World War; saw the onset of a craft beer revolution in the early 1980s; and underwent significant restructuring since 1990 due to globalization.”
There will be competition
Justin Zinck of Garrison Brewery in Halifax says the legalization of marijuana is certainly on their radar, but argues the decline in sales in the U.S. is limited to beer sold in retail establishments, not to bars and restaurants.
Zinck said they have to be ready for the day when consumers will have a choice of spending their money on alcohol or pot.
Garrison has been in the craft beer business for 20 years and Zinck says they plan to stay the course and advertise quality over quantity to maintain their hold on the craft beer market.
“You’re trying different things; the marketplace is the market. It’s our job to make sure that we’re the best craft brewery we can be and market ourselves the best way we can and make people enjoy our product the best,” he said.
“So it’s our job to realize there’s a new player in the game, we have to up ours as well. Just like if there was a new craft brewery coming along, we have to up our game.”
Medical marijuana is ready for shipping is pictured January 21, 2016 at Tweed Inc., one of the marijuana producers lobbying the federal government.DAVE CHAN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL.
Several licensed marijuana producers have penned a letter to Ottawa, urging the federal government to allow them to brand their products and provide medical cannabis on a tax-free basis.
The seven producers – Tilray, Tweed, Mettrum, CannTrust, Green Organic Dutchman Holdings, RedeCan Pharm and Delta 9 Bio-Tech – are lobbying the government ahead of the week of April 10, when legislation legalizing recreational use of the drug is expected to be introduced.
A federal task force has recommended requiring plain packaging for cannabis and advertising restrictions similar to those placed on the tobacco industry.
But in their letter, the licensed producers argue that preventing them from branding their products will make it tougher for them to compete with black market operations such as illegal dispensaries.
“Brands allow professional companies to separate themselves from less scrupulous competitors,” says Brendan Kennedy, president of B.C.-based marijuana producer Tilray.
Some health advocates have argued that restricting branding and advertising is necessary in order to ensure that users are aware of possible health risks associated with the substance.
Another concern is that cannabis producers could use advertising to compel widespread usage of the drug, similar to what occurred with tobacco and alcohol in the past.
But the licensed producers say they aren’t looking to lure people into consuming marijuana. Instead, they wish to use branding and in-store advertising to educate users about various strains and their impacts, according to the letter.
“No one in this industry is looking to repeat the same mistakes as tobacco or alcohol,” says Kennedy. “No one wants to see a Joe Camel of this industry.”
Cannabis producers also take issue with the tax force’s recommendation that medical and recreational cannabis be taxed the same amount.
This would “unduly burden” medical cannabis patients, according to the companies, who argue that medical cannabis should be sold tax free.
Raids follow report of Ottawa’s intention to introduce marijuana legalization bill next month.
By: Sammy Hudes, Staff Reporter.
Toronto police also raided Cannabis Culture locations across the country, including this location at 461 Church St., in Toronto, last Thursday. (JESSE WINTER / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO).
Toronto police raided four marijuana dispensaries Tuesday, charging nine people with drug-related offences, just days after reports that Ottawa would introduce legislation next month to legalize pot by Canada Day 2018.
Toronto police spokesperson Const. Victor Kwong said the raids weren’t meant to target average marijuana users.
“I know that it seems like we’re just shutting down places for marijuana, but it’s no different than people would expect us to investigate a grocery store if they were selling things that were not tested to be safe for consumption,” Kwong said Wednesday. “It’s been a while now since we’ve charged anyone with simple possession, like, you know some guy walking around with a joint.”
Rather, he said, police are responding in cases where the city has notified them about locations with more widespread issues.
“It’s when we’ve been notified by the city that there are contraventions to the zoning and bylaws,” Kwong said. “It’s when undercover operations have shown that they don’t check for age, for any other type of medical need or credentials and when they’re selling things that have not passed any type of safety inspection. That’s when search warrants are applied for.”
The raids occurred between 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. The first took place at Buds 4 Life on Broadview Ave. south of Gerrard St. E. Five people were charged with drug-related offences, and one also faces weapons charges.
Police said they seized 1,146 grams of marijuana, 51 grams of “shatter,” a cannabis extract, 21 grams of hashish, two concealed steel expandable batons and $15,190.
Cassandra Higgins, 26, Robertha Johnson, 25, Victoria Robbins, 23, Melanie Marshall-Lazou, 25, and Brennan Steinberg, 30, were each charged with possession of an illegal substance following the Buds 4 Life raid.
They were also charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds obtained by crime. Steinberg was additionally charged with two counts of carrying a concealed weapon.
At 6 p.m., police raided Canadian Green, at Bloor St. W. and Lansdowne Ave., and Village Cannabis Dispensary, on Church St. south of Maitland St. No arrests were made at either location.
Police raided The Open Dispensary at 801 Queen St. W. at 8:20 p.m. and four people were charged with drug-related offences.
“It’s crazy for so many reasons,” said Toronto lawyer and cannabis advocate Paul Lewin. He said it was “morally wrong” for police to carry out the raids as the federal government gets set to legalize marijuana and blamed the Liberals for not having an interim enforcement plan as it studies how to do so.
“They’ve really created a complete mess for police and prosecutors throughout the country,” said Lewin. “This is at a time in which we have scarce judicial resources. Police budgets are tight, courts only have so much time, we only have so many judges and so many prosecutors and we’re going to waste court time with this?”
Moments before police arrived at Village Cannabis Dispensary on Tuesday, patron Froses Berkovitch described the atmosphere as “very peaceful.”
“There was music playing. There wasn’t any loud talking. Everybody was just mellow,” he said. “But as soon as that happened, everybody came out and people filled the street.”
Several police officers were seen still inside the dispensary at about 7 p.m., while nearly a dozen people protested outside.
Berkovitch said that as he was getting ready to leave, police showed up and told patrons that if they were not working there to leave immediately. Police then brought in a bucket to fill with marijuana and proceeded to raid the store, he said.
Berkovitch streamed the event in real-time via Facebook Live and put out a call to action.
Mark Harrison, a manager at the Village Cannabis Dispensary, said police took about 10 pounds of their product.
The dispensary was formerly known as Cannabis Culture, and had already been raided this month. That brand was co-owned by prominent marijuana activists Marc and Jodie Emery, who were arrested on a number of drug-related charges March 8.
The Emerys were granted bail with several conditions, such as being barred from going to any Cannabis Culture location or other dispensary, and from facilitating or participating in running any Cannabis Culture shop.
Harrison said staff members purchased the store on Mar. 9 and changed the name following the Emerys’ arrests.