By: David Reevely.
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.
Original article can be found here.
By: Adrian Humphreys
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.
Original article can be found here
Psychology and addictions specialists say parents should open up conversation instead of shaming their kids.
‘Shift the conversation’
Myths persist, but education is key
‘Remedy Ice Cream’ challenges boundaries of law, highlights need for policy clarity, advocate says
‘People are getting creative’
‘Grey area’ still a ‘black market’
Pushing the boundaries
‘Trying to do good’
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.
Original article can be found here
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.
Original article can be found here
Hamilton police are looking for four suspects following a robbery at a marijuana dispensary on Catherine Street North.
Police Staff Sergeant Marco Del Conte said four suspects robbed Delta Nine Medical Marijana Dispensary Saturday afternoon at 2 Catherine St. N., just north of King Street East.
Some U.S. brands saw 4.4% drop in sales when states legalized pot.
By: Jerri Southcott.
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.
“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.”
Original article can be found here
Coun. Mathieu Fleury says delay in legal framework frustrating.
By: Ryan Tumilty.
Ottawa city councillor Mathieu Fleury said he’s frustrated by news that it could be another 15 months before there is a legal framework for marijuana sales.
Reports surfaced this week that the federal government intends to have marijuana legislation in place by July 1, 2018.
Fleury has said previously that the dispensaries operating in Ottawa now won’t be the way marijuana is sold legally, and he is frustrated about the resources they’re consuming now.
He said this news is just a continuation of that problem.
“It feels like we have been in that grey area for over a year now, so its frustrating but there are no new pressure points,” he said.
He said if the government waits until 2018 it won’t change anything for the dispensaries, which are — and, he believes, will remain — illegal.
“It’s a reminder that buying marijuana within those dispensaries is the same as buying marijuana off the street,” he said.
Fleury said when the time comes he hopes the city will regulate locations for marijuana dispensaries and have them in regulated stores.
“We prefer having a model like the LCBO, understanding it won’t be in the LCBO,” he said.
An independent panel reviewing marijuana legislation concluded that it should not be sold in places where alcohol is sold.
“The product will be sold as a controlled substance just like it is for alcohol,” said Fleury.
He said police have begun to warn landlord of dispensaries that they can’t just look the other way and he hopes the dispensaries will find it more difficult to operate.
Original article can be found here
By: Alexandra Posadzki.
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.
“Other pharmaceutical products aren’t taxed,” says Kennedy.
Original article can be found here
Raids follow report of Ottawa’s intention to introduce marijuana legalization bill next month.
By: Sammy Hudes, Staff Reporter.
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.
With files from Hina Alam and Andrej Ivanov
Original article can be found here