Policy makers need accurate information based on evidence and facts in order to make informed decisions, not self-interest and half-truths.

Originally published in Lift News.
Last week the Liberal Convention was held in Winnipeg. Conventions are ideal times to speak with politicians en masse in fairly relaxed settings — social in nature but with a healthy dose of policy chit chat. Most attendees are relaxed and approachable and often there are hugs and pecks on cheeks amongst political friends. The Liberal Convention this year was the most celebratory of the three I have attended. In 2012 the party was a bit of a wreck, but the convention was also the most exciting as cannabis legalization became party policy with the passing of Resolution 117.

Four years later the Liberals are now in power with a majority and we are headed into the future. Politicians have clearly been getting a good dose of cannabis education as they are being aggressively lobbied and deluged with media reports. There are over 80 registered lobbyists on the Hill speaking to Ministers and their staff, not to mention organizations and groups, all with different information and insights as to the how of regulation.

The only one thing the Liberals have to anchor these messages is not so much the how of regulation but the why. The goal was to de-fund organized criminal organizations and protect children from the potential harm of cannabis. As long as this remains the priority, Canada will succeed in creating a model of regulation that will set standards worldwide.

In order for this to happen it is imperative that the lobbyists, organizations, special interest groups and media provide accurate and credible information to the policy makers. Few people are experts in any one field and the very nature of regulating cannabis involves so many variables that the mandate has to remain central or it is all for nought.

Winnipeg Convention Centre Protesters

Protesters in front of the Winnipeg Convention Centre

Unfortunately one only has to read, watch or listen to the news on any given day to hear an untruth, exaggeration, or in some cases pure propaganda. The media relies on sources for this information and when the information is bad it puts all that we are seeking at risk. It is unfortunate that sensational media is what sells the most and so often we see the most sensational rhetoric reported over and over again, even when it is not true. This is coming from all sides of the conversation and has got to stop if we are to help guide the people we have voted for to implement effective and successful policy.

The politicians who gathered in Winnipeg have been listening to us. They are accustomed to listening to the concerns of their constituents: it is their job. They are smart and savvy people with incredible patience. They not only care about their communities but rely heavily on them for the information that will best guide them in creating the policies which will serve the greater good.

The greater good in this case is to fulfill the mandate. This is the message we got from every single Member of Parliament, including Health, Status of Women, Environment and Climate Change and the Liberal policy folk we spoke with while there. They need accurate information based on evidence and facts in order to make informed decisions, not self-interest, half-truths and propaganda.

Bill Blair is very receptive to the needed input from industry stakeholders. There are some good people working in Ottawa who have been very outspoken with respect to the concerns of what the future might hold, and who have even spoken out against the lack of movement on the file. It is our responsibility to provide them with streamlined and credible information with which to work. The industry stakeholders have an obligation to get real if we are to succeed.

The thought of how many mixed messages politicians are getting on this file is almost unfathomable. Is everyone who runs a dispensary a member of a cartel? Does cannabis cure cancer? Do people pretend to need cannabis for health reasons and lie about it? Does adult use cannabis need to meet pharmaceutical grade standards? Does it even matter?

Trudeau speaking at the Keynote Address

Trudeau on Stage/Keynote Address WPG16

The answer is no, it does not matter. If the mandate is not successful then the black market will continue and all of the mixed messages will have effectively confused the policy makers into creating poor policy. The dispensaries will go online. We won`t have cutting edge research because the funding will be lacking. People will use cannabis for whatever reason they want and continue to lie about it if they want to or feel they have to because of unnecessary stigma or barriers to access. Adult use cannabis will be grown and distributed just as it has been for the past 93 years under prohibition and the cultivators and distributors of the black market cannabis will continue to go to jail.

These failures will impact everyone who has a vested interest in the messages being delivered in the media and on the Hill now. From the large corporate entities who will continue to struggle for their market share and their investors who will not see their stock go sky high, the patients who are still out there who do not have access to either a doctor or healthy, safe medicine and the communities and the people who serve to protect them who are impacted by criminal elements.

The politicians in Ottawa need to hear the truth as to how we can help them create a successful regulatory model. This is what we have been asking them for all along, isn’t it?

The world is watching.