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Everything you wanted to know about the legalization of Cannabis in Canada but were afraid to ask…

by:  Dennis Garces

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As long as the issues concerning public safety, security and transparency are addressed and rigorous enforcement of regulations in place, we may be pleasantly surprised by what comes after legalization.

 

OK,

 

so maybe not everything you have been afraid to ask, but discussion and interest around the

topic of cannabis legalization has definitely been building. July of 2018 has been projected as the date for cannabis legalization.

According to the results from a number of national polls, most Canadians support legalization. When passed, Bill C-45, known also as the Cannabis Act, will legalize the production, distribution, and retail of recreational cannabis in Canada. This would end the 95-year prohibition on cannabis and make us the first G7 country to do so nationally.

 As the government moves forward with its agenda to legalize cannabis, many Canadians are wondering how our communities will be affected. Neighbours, co-workers, family members and friends have taken a keen interest and have been talking about the subject of legalization.

 I’ve heard some insightful views supporting both sides of the issue regarding cannabis legalization. Beyond those examples, I have also heard some misguided or completely erroneous assertions on the matter. Here are a few of the most common and often repeated misconceptions I have hear:

1. “Why are they busting dispensaries when cannabis is being legalized?”

Currently, cannabis for non-medicinal purposes is illegal in Canada. Until the proposed legislation is passed, the only legal cannabis being sold is to medical marijuana patients by licensed producers and shipped using Canada Post. All legal participants are licensed by Health Canada. There are no other legal means of accessing cannabis in Canada.

Under the proposed legislation, the provinces are tasked with developing their own retail and distribution framework which will be supplied with product by the licensed producers authorized by Health Canada.

One of the stated objectives of legalization is to put drug dealers and organized crime out of the cannabis business. The many marijuana dispensaries operating throughout the country are illegal and are providing a storefront for the product that organized crime is profiting from. Furthermore, the marijuana for sale at dispensaries do not undergo the same rigorous laboratory testing and controlled production as those produced by licensed producers regulated by Health Canada.

2. “It’s going to be legalized, I guess I can walk around with as much weed as I want.”

 Though the proposed legislation in its current form does not limit the amount you can purchase, it does have specific limits to how much you can have in your possession: up to 30 grams of legal dried cannabis or equivalent in non-dried form.

The legislation would allow provinces to lower the personal possession limit in their jurisdiction.

3. “Why would they legitimize all those drug dealers?”

 The government has proposed a system in which all legal producers would be licensed by Health Canada and all legal cannabis would be distributed through provincially regulated outlets.

 Legalization does not aim to legitimize the illegal dispensaries, street dealers or illegal internet-based “storefronts.” Even after legalization, only licensed producers are able to lawfully produce cannabis to supply provincially regulated retailers. The provinces will decide the manner in which the product will be distributed in their jurisdiction. Several provinces have explored the option of a crown corporation model similar to the manner in which liquor is distributed.

The legalization of cannabis for adult and recreational use will bring about many changes to Canadian communities. Establishing a successful legalization regime will require a clear and robust regulatory framework and a system to rigorously regulate the industry.

 In Colorado, where cannabis is legal for medical use as well as for recreational users, social acceptance and adoption of cannabis has happened quickly. The Native Roots Dispensary in Colorado Springs is evidence of how quickly cannabis has been welcomed by customers. The Gas and Grass location is billed as the world’s first gas station and cannabis dispensary. The combination of premium medical marijuana and the convenience of a well, convenience store, is proving very popular.

 Says Andrew Klukas, president of the Western Convenience Stores Association: “Convenience store owners are highly experienced in keeping age-restricted products out of the hands of minors. We look forward to supporting the development of a controlled market in cannabis products that provide a guarantee of quality standards and, along with that, consumer and public safety.”

The Ontario Convenience Store members are trusted to sell the most restrictive societal product, tobacco, while under the scrutiny of 36 Public Health Units who make over 20,000 underage mystery shops every year in this channel, notes Dave Bryans, chief executive officer, Ontario Convenience Stores Association.

“We are proud to pass at 97 per cent using government supplied data,” says Bryans. “In saying all of this there is no better or disciplined channel to handle the sale of prepackaged marijuana then a level of convenience stores. These products would be treated the same as tobacco: out of sight, out of mind and would follow the strict enforcement procedures of the government's own public health mandates. When c-stores are measured against grocery (alcohol sales), LCBO ( government's own employees) and beer stores we continue to demonstrate the highest and best results in handling all age restricted products like tobacco and lottery. We should be congratulated for our abilities to sell these contentious products and be offered the long-term ability to participate in a changing retail world.”

Though we may not see the similar normalization in Canadian communities anytime soon, we are moving in the right direction. Much like our American neighbours, the majority of Canadians support legalization. To be sure, legalization is a complex issue with a myriad of concerned stakeholders.

As long as the issues concerning public safety, security and transparency are addressed and rigorous enforcement of regulations in place, we may be pleasantly surprised by what comes after legalization. If all goes as well, those convenience store trips to satisfy cravings may happen with greater frequency among more Canadians, from coast to coast.

 

Dennis Garces, president of Amercanex, AIE, has 25 years of experience with blue-chip entertainment corporations. As senior executive at A&M, PolyGram, Universal/Vivendi, Sony, BMG US and Somerset Group North America. Garces was involved in marketing and partnerships of such brands as American Idol, Mattel and the Grammy Awards music series. At MTHRTY, a social publishing agency, he worked on developing digital strategies and implementing campaigns on behalf of Sony, Proctor & Gamble, SAB Miller, Toyota, Disney, Walmart and AT&T.

 

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