Kelly Coulter

Ethical Consumption, Cannabis, Feminism, and Environmentalism

Author: Kelly Coulter (page 2 of 3)

How Prohibition Hurts Women

Originally published on Canlio

A 16-year old girl was raped by 30 men in Brazil. It happened at a street party in an area (favela) which is run by drug gang(s). Does prohibition harm women? You bet it does. Does cannabis prohibition harm women disproportionately? Yes it does, but not for the reasons we would typically consider. I read a very good article some time ago about how women in a region in the US well known for cannabis cultivation were less likely to call 911 if they were in an abusive situation.

“She and her partner had moved into a small cabin without power in the hills above Garberville. “The woman wanted to be living a happy, healthy, organic lifestyle…” but the partner began drinking, abusing her, and leaving her at home alone with the kids for extended periods. One day, he went to town in their only vehicle and stayed on a binge for several days, leaving her trapped without enough food to feed the kids or enough clean clothes. The woman was afraid to leave (and had no vehicle anyway). What little money they had came from marijuana sales. She knew she would be unable to get a share of it at harvest if she left now. How would she care for her kids if she left? How could she afford a home for them?”
– Closing Ranks, by Kym Kemp

This is reality. What is happening on a national level and in fact worldwide to women in the home and the workplace is almost certainly just as big a problem for women who are on the periphery of the cannabis industry. The statistics with respect to the national average and women who are abused and assaulted and even killed are staggering.

There is no real data available on google with respect to women in the cannabis space. A google search of women/domestic violence/cannabis reveals plenty of articles about how the consumption of cannabis decreases the likelihood of domestic violence but none relating to women who work in the industry who are victims of harassment or violence. There is however anecdotal evidence. There is a direct correlation between women who have experienced some sort of harassment and those who seek their own space in the industry. It is not a coincidence that women are creating safe space by opening their own dispensaries, their own women-only groups and gaining strength by sharing stories. The current prohibition of cannabis creates an isolating environment to begin with, and if abuse is added to this it is undeniable that women are at greater risk as an indirect result of prohibition.

The anecdotes are hushed up and whispered, and sometimes exposed online in a wild flurry, and then just as quickly forgotten or dismissed. Women who have experienced sexual harassment on the job in the cannabis space are probably the most known, acknowledged and vocal of any of the other sub-sets of harms. Many of these women have talked about their experiences online and are both supported and vilified. It is the same as with any other workplace harassment and possibly not more prevalent, but that certainly does not mean it is not a huge problem.

There is stigma attached to the industry, and although the Human Rights Tribunal does not shy away from stigmas, other government agencies do. Feeling judged by the establishment is not comfortable for anyone, but add the component of criminality to the judgement and it’s almost a non-starter.

It is also possible that the individuals who are most attracted to the risks of working or living in the illegal/grey markets are coming from an anti-establishment/authority mindset that positions them perfectly as victims of predatory behaviour. Such individuals are much less likely to seek help from the police, support agencies, and their families.

Abuse comes in many forms. One of the most prevalent forms that applies to employees and partners, is financial abuse. Once again the nature of the industry lends itself to a complete lack of accountability. A mother with children who intends to leave her partner will have a very hard time verifying his income. She will not be able to demand child support in a court of law if the income is not verifiable. Does she leave? It is less likely.

Likewise, if an employer cannot pay the employees of an illegal grow-op what redress is there? Women are less likely to collect unpaid wages than men. If a dispensary owner chooses to pay the rent before paying the employees, but the employees are reliant on the income as they may be subsidising their low-income with a high-risk job, what is the re-dress? Although this is not necessarily gender specific I know of at least one case in which it has occurred and the employees were women.

Physical, emotional and financial abuse is not gender specific, and it is not necessarily more prevalent in the cannabis space at all. It is however a problem and one that will be handled with transparency and without fear once prohibition ends.

Does prohibition HURT women? Yes, it absolutely does…it hurts us all.

“A young mother I knew showed up at the preschool to drop off her child. She was sporting a huge shiner. Her “partner” .. had punched her during an argument. I was appalled. “Did you call the cops?” I asked. She said, “I can’t. He has a scene.”
“These things have always bothered me about the industry. Social ills surround it. And children grow to adulthood while solutions never even get discussed, much less set into place. Families can’t turn to the authorities for assistance because of the taboo on anything that even remotely resembles snitching. The taboo against snitching is, apparently, bigger than the one against beating your wife.”
Karol Andersson, assistant editor at the McKinleyville Press

Republished with permission from Canlio.

Legalization lobbying fatigue

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.

Representing Cannabis in Mainstream Political Discourse

Originally published on Canlio

I attended my first Liberal Convention in 2011. I had always been a member of the Green Party and had even been asked to run on the Federal ticket, but that all changed with Resolution 117.

Resolution 117 was the ‘legalize and regulate’ policy that a group of young Liberals had drafted and made a priority policy at the Convention. It was about to get real and we felt very strongly that in order for the policy to pass we needed to be there and lobby on behalf of it. We were not mistaken. The policy was a contentious one that, even then, Justin Trudeau did not support. I do not believe Bob Rae, then leader of the Liberals, supported it either.

During the course of two extremely hectic days we handed out literature and spoke with the media about why prohibition should end. There were some extremely heated moments with both those in favour and those opposed to the resolution. The Liberal Party had 34 seats in the House of Commons and this risky policy could be a do or die in some minds.

I remember the morning I left Kingston for Ottawa quite vividly as I was excited about real political movement on this issue but also excited that we were experiencing probably the worst snowstorm I have ever driven through to this day. It was absolutely terrifying on the highways, to the point that we were literally the only car on the 401 heading east. We had passed the plough trucks thinking they would hold us up only to find snow drifts over a foot high — really scary stuff and I can tell you now that the thought of death did cross my mind.

Justin Trudeau in front of a crowd

Thankfully we made it and almost fell to our knees in hysterics after checking into Room 420 (by chance), which we took as a good sign of things to come, though there were not many others there speaking directly to the cannabis issue, and we would have to stay on our toes. Then we met Dan.

Dan is an imposing persona, with a handlebar moustache and a crew cut. He is a cop. We heard whispers about him and made it a point to introduce ourselves as allies. It was awkward at first. Why would a cop be the most vocal supporter of this policy? I clearly recall a discussion between myself, Boris St. Maurice, a well-known activist and dispensary owner, and Dan, in which we were discussing the policy, at which point Boris suggested we would be fine with decriminalization and Dan became quite agitated, to the point he asked Boris what he did for a living… it was sublime and unbelievably surreal.

On this same day we were able to speak with Irwin Cotler who was then the Justice Minister. He expressed many doubts about the policy and told us his son had advised him to vote against it. I handed him our literature and asked him to please take a look and thanked him for all of his considerations on the matter as we had met with him in the past and he was always very receptive to what we had to say. I can tell you now that Irwin has since told me he read what we gave him, called his son and shared our talking points. And not only did Irwin vote in favour of the policy, he had his sons’ full support.

The evening before the vote on Resolution 117 the Young Liberals had their shindig. It was held at posh venue very close to the convention center and we made our way over with only one intention — to remind everyone to make it to the vote which was slated for early in the morning. I personally felt like someone’s nanny, but everyone we spoke to was in good spirits and took our nagging with a good sense of humour as they assured us that they would definitely be there.

“Maybe it was the feeling of change, renewal, rebirth, good energy… I am not quite sure, but that room was huge and packed and on fire.”

The next morning was electric. I have no other word to describe the feeling that was in the room. It wasn’t just about the legalization policy. It was just the whole energy of the Liberal Party. Maybe it was the feeling of change, renewal, rebirth, good energy… I am not quite sure, but that room was huge and packed and on fire. There were microphones set up on either side of the stage from which people could address the podium regarding whichever Resolution was being voted on, and there were many.

As we neared to 117 people began to line up behind the microphones to speak. Those in favour of the Resolution were on the left of the stage and those opposed on the right. There was a longer line on the left but it wasn’t by much and so the fight was on. I noticed that Dan the Cop had made it into the line but looked to be so far behind that it was unlikely he would actually get to speak. There were time constraints which we had been made aware of. I was sitting with some of the authors and members of the Young Liberals who had drafted the policy. After a short huddle I approached the line and politely asked three young gentlemen ahead of Dan if one would mind letting him ahead. We felt quite strongly that Dan’s message would resonate with the delegates. We just knew that Dan was a critical voice that had to be heard. Looking around the room on that Sunday morning it was obvious that the Young Liberal party was a good one and our delegation was comprised mostly of the 40 + crowd. They were going to need some convincing, nothing could be left to chance.

I don’t think I will ever forget my quick conversations with those three young men, but it was the first young man who really got me. He was calm, adamant and emotional. He said “NO WAY,” he also went on to tell me how cannabis had saved his life and that he was not giving up his spot. He was a recovering addict and cannabis had helped him to get off opiates. I completely understood and thanked him. The second young man told me he would not give up his spot as did the third. I thanked them all and returned to the centre of the room to relate the outcome and then watch as the speakers began.

When I spoke earlier of the electricity in the room, I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said when the speakers began it went to the next level. This was going to be big. It went back and forth between the pros and the cons and it was a combination of anti-prohibition logic and prohibition rhetoric, to start. And then two things happened.

Justin Trudeau and Kelly Coulter

Firstly, the young man who was in recovery made probably the most eloquent and impassioned plea for sanity when it came to plant medicine. I would not doubt he brought on some tears. He was brilliant. Next, behind him was the second young man who was so passionate and alive his words and his enthusiasm were a welcome comedic relief to what was just sinking in to some people and that was that cannabis and the legalization of cannabis was not about getting high or being a pothead. It was about lives and people.

I must have turned away at this point because I clearly recall that the next voice at the mic was the voice I was least expecting and that was the voice of the Cop: the calm, deliberate, persuasive voice of the law, calmly and convincingly telling the room what was wrong with the current system and why it needed to change. It was a watershed moment. The third young man had given up his turn to speak.

The vote passed by over 70%. The room went pretty wild and that is not an exaggeration. It quite literally felt the way I believe it might feel when we actually do end prohibition. The first young man approached me as people were cheering around us and we hugged and we cried for a moment. I will never forget this and I truly hope I can meet him again someday to thank him again for his words and his commitment to his own purpose.

We had the privilege of congratulating Bob Rae later on in the day to which he said, it was really something wasn’t it?

Yes, Bob, it really was something.

Authors Note: Dan remains a true and trusted friend and anti-prohibitionist.

Republished with permission from Canlio.

Avoiding prohibition 2.0

Canada is at risk of creating a “nanny state” model if we over-regulate with marijuana legalization.

Originally published on The Hill Times

VICTORIA, B.C.—When Thomas Mulcair recently asked Justin Trudeau “when the hell was he going to legalize marijuana,” it was almost surreal. For those of us who have been working to end cannabis prohibition for many years these are ‘the days.’ Thankfully Prime Minister Trudeau gave the correct answer that politicians and policy makers need to keep hearing: under prohibition children have easy access to cannabis and prohibition enriches organized crime.

First and foremost, the whole point of ending cannabis prohibition is to stop both of these societal ills. Despite these being ‘the days,’ the point of legalizing cannabis is getting a bit muddied. The number and scope of stakeholders are ever-increasing, which is why it is critical to remain focused on why and how we got here. Just as the end of alcohol prohibition brought about the demise of gangland violence and a more sober approach to alcohol consumption, we all hope for similar results when cannabis becomes a regulated commodity. That being said, we must be extremely cautious of creating just another form of prohibition, or as it’s being referred to in the United States, “prohibition 2.0.”

In the US, anti-cannabis groups and hyper-regulators are calling for legislation which is so extreme and un-American in its approach it is almost certain that if these guidelines were adopted, the black market would indeed continue and thrive as it has done for more than 50 years.

Canada is equally at risk of creating a “nanny state” model if we do not remember the two reasons we are ending cannabis prohibition to start with.

Removing the profit incentive

Public health officials are at the forefront of this issue. Health Minister Jane Philpott announced to the United Nations in April that Canada will legalize cannabis in the spring of 2017. The Health Minister and other health professionals want to regulate a substance that, in its current prohibitive state, is considered potentially harmful to young minds. By regulating it, we remove the majority of the profit incentive for the black market to continue to peddle it to underage consumers. The key is how we regulate it in order to remove the profit incentive and this is where the waters are starting to muddy.

As much as a highly-regulated model sounds good, it is not. Alcohol under prohibition was available at the pharmacy with a medical prescription and was dispensed at said pharmacy. The costs were not the barrier—convenience was. In fact, convenience is currently one of the top three drivers of the black market in states which have already legalized. If we look to the current medical providers, though not necessarily a reflection of what the adult use market will be, there are relevant markers. Licensed medical marijuana producers are currently distributing cannabis through the mail, which is convenient to some but not to others. In Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria city, regulators are approaching the increased volume of cannabis dispensaries with varying degrees of acceptance. Dispensaries are considered not only convenient but also provide a component which mail order does not: personal experience. Some consumers want that, and some don’t. If Canada is to be successful in stopping the profit incentive of cannabis for black marketeers, it must make access as convenient as possible for all consumers except, of course, underage consumers. If there are cracks in the system, there are those who are ready, willing, and able to fill them and they will not ask for I.D.

Black markets exist in many commodities worldwide. Any commodity which there is a demand for that is prohibited either legally or economically can be sold for profit, and most times, considerable profit. Organized crime gangs are not in the black market business as “non-profits”— it’s all about the money. Once cannabis becomes regulated the illegality of the commodity is removed, which leaves only the economic driver as incentive for any organized criminal activity. If we are to succeed in the mandate of de-funding organized crime, the cost of cannabis must be on par with reasonable production costs, thus removing profit margins. If the costs to the consumer are inflated either by unnecessary regulatory restrictions or excessive taxation the black market will fill the demand for less regulated and un-taxed cannabis as they have been doing for almost fifty years now.

If we are to succeed in not just legalizing cannabis but truly fulfilling the mandate of the Liberal government and the reason we are ending cannabis prohibition we must stay focused on why and how we got here and not get distracted by the supporters of prohibition 2.0.

The good news is the cost of growing cannabis should be quite low; it’s a hearty plant and grows like a weed.


The Cost of Craft Cannabis

There are many areas in Canada and around the world that have considerable potential to become the craft cannabis regions of the future.
The Okanagan Valley now…

Originally published in Lift News.
There are many areas in Canada and around the world that have considerable potential to become the craft cannabis regions of the future.

The Okanagan Valley now supports a multi-billion dollar wine industry that was started by one lone farmer less than twenty years ago. And Prince Edward County is even younger, but still growing at an alarming rate with award-winning vintages. Micro-breweries are also enjoying incredible popularity and surpassing the growth of Big Beer.

Micro-groweries already exist in Northern California, usually in the form of collectives, and NorCal sungrown cannabis is considered some of the finest in the world. There is a good chance cannabis will become the next tourist attraction in Canada whether or not politicians and policy makers will admit it. If this is the case, micro-growery tourism signs could start appearing on our provincial highways. Imagine.

However, winery and micro-brewery models are not an accurate comparison with respect to the cultivation of cannabis when comparing the start up costs. It is worthwhile to examine what the more accurate costs might be in anticipation of the future craft cannabis farming industry.

For the purpose of this article we will compare and contrast the micro-beer costs to the micro-grow costs. Micro-breweries are not really craft. Very few of them grow the hops which make the beer, although there are some exceptions. Growing a plant is a far cry from distilling beer, especially if it is sungrown.

A more accurate comparison in costing craft cannabis would be to compare it to the costs of starting up a small farm, or most accurately, the costs of growing the hops that make the beer, not the beer itself, which is a value-added product. Value-added products typically incur the highest production costs and also the highest profits in any commodity. It is the farming of the hops we should be focused on.

Cannabis is a plant, most often compared to a tomato in how it grows and what is required in terms of sunlight, water and nutrients. Since there are very few small craft farms exclusive to tomatoes, the following estimates are taken from a variety of agricultural models including hops. So how much does it cost to start up a small hops farm?


The cost of the growing one hops plant is estimated at fifteen dollars per plant. In comparison a tomato plant equals approximately 5.52 lb per plant per season.

“For those seeking a more lucrative and significantly higher risk and more costly venture, an independent 10 or 20-acre farm selling pellets directly to brewers may prove to be a more appealing scenario. Although the start-up capital costs are high ($250,000 to $550,000) for growing and selling pellitized hops directly to breweries, the years to profit are relatively low (3 years for 5, 10, and 20 acre farms) and the projected net incomes range from $46,000 per year for 5 acres after year 10 and $198,000 per year for a 20 acre farm after year 10.”


Depending on where you purchase land and of course the size of a small craft micro-growery, the land will be your biggest investment. Ideally craft farmers will position themselves according to agreeable climates, proximity to markets and a hospitable and supportive infrastructure.

The wine regions of BC and Ontario support and promote all of their wineries to the benefit of surrounding communities. They have created an excellent template for future craft cannabis. Some of these regions already exist in Canada and it will be interesting to see which regions support the cannabis farming communities of the future. Farmland is both most expensive and least expensive in British Columbia.

Tantalus Labs under construction

Tantalus Labs’ cannabis greenhouse under construction outside Maple Ridge BC


If greenhouses are a part of the plan, expect to spend as little as or as much as you want. On the low end greenhouses are a dime a dozen if they are re-purposed. On the high end, technological advances have given us the ability for much more controlled environments and with that potentially higher yields. A top of the line, brand new greenhouse runs around 20K.


A solar/sungrown/greenhouse cannabis farm will require very little power as opposed to indoor cultivation.


Cannabis is a thirsty plant. A one pound plant will require one pound of water per day.

Outdoor farming in good weather will provide rain, which helps to lower costs, but any craft farmer will have to be prepared to supplement water if needed.


Depending on your curing methods and what type of infrastructure you may need, including such variables as indoor space, heating costs and labour, your highest expense will be the labour costs. The licensed medical producers are currently paying trimmers approximately $12.50 per hour. The unlicensed market pays trimmers more and the rates run the gamut from about $20-$50 depending on which area of Canada you are in. More creative methods of payment are barter and by the pound.

Cannabis Bud


Packaging will also incur as little or as much costs as you choose and your market dictates. A box of GLAD bags costs less than $5, but a glass container with etching and labels is significantly more.


Craft beer sales have doubled in the past five years and are currently at $20 Billion in the United States. They are expected to reach $39 billion by 2019. This is without question due to marketing and investment in consumer education. The bottom line is: be prepared to invest time, energy and money in marketing, it will be critical to success.


Once again, your transportation costs will be a variable depending on your market and what the adult use regulations will allow. In the craft beer industry, transportation costs are significant. The licensed medical cannabis producers in Canada are currently only allowed to distribute via the mail, so depending on the weight of the package this cost is also significant. If your consumer base is coming to you, your transportation costs are nil.

The high costs of the value-added products typically come from the brewing equipment required to make the beer and the buildings which house these expensive pieces. You could apply these costs to cannabis extractions, but unless you are making bulk the costs are significantly lower. Edibles are capturing the largest part of the cannabis market in Colorado at this time. Is this the future of cannabis in Canada? It is hard to say.

Vancouver Island has a thriving craft beer industry and in recent years has had similar success in distilled alcohol. Local farmers markets have even allowed these small producers to set up and distribute, which would be unheard of in most other jurisdictions.

Local private alcohol distributors carry more locally crafted beers, wines and distillations than any other brands. It would be worth exploring if this is being propelled by consumer demand, good marketing, hospitable policy or shop owners steering the market based on their own ethics and vision for what serves their community best.

I suspect it is a combination of all these things, which leads us to our next conversation. How will the cannabis community, the farmers, consumers, medicine-makers, shop-keepers and marketing gurus help each other in order to support what they all have dreamt of and are now on the cusp of…..freedom and shared success in creating a positive and ethical industry in the true spirit of this plant.

Featured image via wikipedia

The Ottawa Disconnect

Originally published on Canlio

“Politics has its own language, which is often so complex that it borders on being a code, and the main trick in political journalism is learning how to translate.”
-Hunter S. Thompson

As a writer focused almost solely on cannabis issues in Canada, I am constantly reading what others are writing, partially for research, but also to understand without firsthand experience what is going on in other circles. If I read something that in my opinion is out of left field I usually question the author, but sometimes I don’t because I know that this person is speaking another language and/or has no interest in the truth.

Knowing what motivates messages is key to understanding the message. Most everyone has an MO (modus operandi) method of operation and once you are aware of the MO, it’s easier to filter and translate.

This applies to politicians especially as they are now in the precarious position of protecting their communities from the perceived harms of a substance they know very little about and the real harms of prohibition: the enrichment of organized crime and the criminalization of cannabis consumers. Quite the challenge when it comes to messaging and being on point with critics from all sides.

It would serve us all well as a country on the cusp of legalization to take a step back from hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric to speak to each other in the same language and to speak to each other as if we are on the same side, which at this point you would think we are. But there is a disconnect and it’s a tough habit to break, until you consider the MO and what motivates it.

Politicians want to fulfill their mandates to keep the confidence of the people who voted for them. When they speak, that is who they are talking to, their base. When lawyers speak, they are talking to their clients. When small business owners speak, they are talking to their customers. When corporations speak, they are talking to their shareholders. The only thing that connects them is the subject of cannabis legalization, and they are all coming at it from different angles.

This is just the beginning of the disconnect, and so we find ourselves on a slippery slope of us vs them which not only creates divisiveness but is also counter-productive and not effective to actualizing the desired outcome. The language barrier is very real, which is why translation is essential.

The industry folk who are most vested in the future of the cannabis regulations should be talking to their local politicians now, municipal, provincial and federal. They should also be talking to their local economic development councils, chambers of commerce, and every other business that is currently affected or could be affected by the regional impact of future cannabis regulations.

These are the translators who are best able to bring your message to Ottawa. Talk to them about jobs, taxes, social equity, the environment , health, and education. Speaking to your local government is critical. We know British Columbians understand one another best, as do Maritimers. GO LOCAL!

Ottawa is the centre of the political universe but it is not necessarily where the most impactful decisions are going to be made. And not only that: there simply is not enough time in the next year to learn each other’s languages. Instead of spending this time arguing over what the other means, we should keep moving towards liberating cannabis through civil, responsible and effective discourse. With this in mind, use your translators, your allies — the people who are fluent — to help you navigate the system and ultimately achieve desired outcomes.

The clock is ticking.

Republished with permission from Canlio.

The Free-Range Unicorn

Originally published on Canlio

There are two languages being spoken in Canada these days, and they are not French and English. Ottawa is the capital city and the heart of the most populated province, and British Columbia the largest producer of cannabis, and the heart of marijuana culture. Their languages and perspectives are not easy to reconcile on the best of days, and it might only get worse, so the need for some translation is in order. The truth is they will need each other and will have to become friends in order for the rest of the country to truly benefit from the legalization of cannabis, or what I sometimes call the Free Range Unicorn.

Ottawa knows nothing about this mythical creature. All Ottawa knows is that a lot of people love the Unicorn. In British Columbia the Unicorn roams free, is wild, protected and revered. In Ottawa the Unicorn is not free, and is even a little feared. There, it is too wild a creature; it is mysterious, and who knows if its magical properties are even real. Just look at the pictures. Have you seen how powerful it appears? And look at that horn. “Danger, danger,” Ottawa screams.

Stories of the Unicorn have made their way across the country over time through the farming and gathering tribes. Now there are many believers in the Unicorn, and Ottawa is under pressure to give in to the people and allow the Unicorn to run free. People are speaking out about their belief in this wonderful part of their lives. British Columbia has fought long and hard to convince Ottawa that the Unicorn is not only real, but deserves the reverence that they have given it.

“But wait a minute. This is our Unicorn, so before we give what we think is ours to the rest of the country, we are going to tell you how we think you should let the Unicorn roam the rest of the country.”

Some of us know the Unicorn needs to be free range. If it is hindered in any way it will not comply with its new form of imprisonment. If it is walled in by heavy fortresses it will break free. It will jump the walls and head for the hills again. This would be a tragedy for the rest of the country because we have all come to love what the Unicorn could mean. It could mean that magic and fairy tales and dreams can come true. It could mean that when you believe in something you have the power to free the thing you love and share it.

In Ottawa there seems to be a feeling that free range would be too risky, even if it might be the right and most ethical thing to do. There are too many unknowns. What if the Unicorn is not as friendly as the people believe it is? If it is free range how will anyone make any money? And if there aren’t millions of dollars to be made in the regulated or the black market Unicorn industry, who would want to be in that business? The people in Ottawa are a little perplexed, and so there are many people, including the Black Market, Hyper-Regulators, and Venture Capitalists, trying to convince regulators to not let that wild beast roam free. They want Ottawa to keep the Unicorn as tightly regulated as possible.

The people who truly love the Unicorn will take care of it, whether there is money to be made or not…which is the way it should be. Anything less is just another form of prohibition, and we all know how well that went.

Republished with permission from Canlio.

Regulating cannabis must be done properly

Originally published on The Hill Times

The majority of Canadians now understand that the legalization and regulation of cannabis is the right thing to do, and the same politicians who were once opposed are now in favour of the regulatory approach.


Sustainable cannabis: A higher purpose

A sustainable cannabis economy means consumers making hard choices about where they spend their money.

Originally published in Lift News.
On April 20th, 2010 the BP oil spill began. It gushed oil into the Gulf of Mexico until July 12th. I was working at a sustainability centre in downtown Kingston, Ont. and was most fortunate to be surrounded by some of the best informed and wisest in the local movement. We were collectively losing our minds during this disaster, but amid our discussions came clarity. We realized first, that this planet would survive us, although we may not survive ourselves. Second, in order for us to survive ourselves we need to go back to living the way we did 100 years ago, specifically with regards to our consumer habits.

It is my opinion that if the cannabis movement is to fulfill its “higher purpose,” it must bring about an exact awareness of our impact on our environment through what and how we consume ALL commodities. It is disingenuous to purport to be an advocate for the small, independent, craft cannabis farmer, or to suggest boycotting the larger corporatized producers, if such consumer practices are not universal. This is not as easy for some as it is for others; there are barriers. When we think of food sovereignty the obstacles to the most sustainable consumer habits are poor accessibility, poor policy, flawed group-think and last but not least, the almighty dollar.


Not everyone can travel to the nearest farm and/or grow his or her own food or cannabis. There are certainly regions in Canada that are more conducive to micro-grows. These regions have hospitable climates, and a wealth of knowledgeable farmers. The majority of consumers will not have access to these providers. Urban farmers’ markets do provide access for food, and both Seattle and California have hosted cannabis markets for patients. It would be interesting and welcome to see more of this kind of activity in the future, but unlikely.

The prevailing social logic is that cannabis is something that should be restricted and especially children should be protected from. Tobacco and alcohol are typically not sold at the farmers’ market for this same reason. I say typically because there are places which do offer space for artisanal craft spirits. If any cannabis farmers’ markets are to happen it will likely be in these same regions to start.

Poor Policy

The government rewards corporations in the food production and distribution industry; the small farmer is therefore at a considerable disadvantage. Sadly such policies have derailed the sustainability of food production, and have taken us on a precarious trajectory. This does not have to be the case with cannabis, and it will be imperative for us to make sure policy makers and politicians create a fair market for cannabis cultivation and distribution. Ideally these policies will also consider environmental impact.

Group Think-Marketing

Consumers like brands and tend to have brand allegiance. This can work for and against marketing gurus and their clients. Everyone loved Heinz ketchup until most recently an incredible grassroots movement got behind French’s ketchup based solely on the fact they were using Canadian grown tomatoes after Heinz had closed the factory in a small farming community in Ontario.

Canadians stood up for the tomato farmers of Leamington and for the brand (French’s) that supported them. The solution to corporatized branding is educating; sometimes that includes shaming. Social media campaigns can make or break a brand and a business. The cannabis industry is going to be very susceptible to this, especially initially. There is considerable opportunity to create very high standards for quality and ethical practices, and this is the hope.

Price Point

How Price influences consumer habits is the big variable. The cost of post-prohibition cannabis is virtually an unknown at this time. The research is just not in yet. Even in the American states where such data could be evaluated, the evidence is thin. When applied to other commodities there really are no static numbers. We know that pricing does influence consumer habits, but prohibition skews the data significantly.

The past decade has seen a renewed interest in craft and local consumer habits. There are more than 2,700 craft breweries operating in the U.S., the highest total since the 1880s. This would be great news for my friends at the sustainability centre who were dedicated to many things including “going back 100 Years. If we are to return to the old ways to save ourselves and live sustainably, we are going to have to take a very hard look at ourselves and create the cannabis consumer conscious mind… ”the higher purpose”.

Women seek their place at the legalization table

Women have a long history of cannabis activism in Canada

Originally published in Lift News.
At a well known restaurant in downtown Vancouver, a private room was reserved for a gathering of women. They were women of a “certain age,” elder women. They were coming to meet each other for the first time. They were coming to share their stories. There was joy, relief, tears, celebration, anger and triumph. It was at once exhilarating and exhausting to be in the room. So much magic.

These are the women of the cannabis craft industry – only some of them, for there are many, many more. It is estimated that women comprise between 75 to 90 percent of all artisanal producers of cannabis tinctures, lotions, salves, oils, balms and edibles. The women who met on this day had been working at their craft for many years. Their stories always ended in triumph but were also rooted in pain – lost family members, illness, economic hardships, career upsets, divorces, single motherhood. Life.

Women are traditionally and historically healers. Midwifery has gone from the norm to fringe. Now, after many years of proactive educating and savvy public relations it is undergoing a resurgence in the western world. The same could be said of plant medicine and women’s’ role in traditional healing methods.

As jurisdictions transition into a regulated cannabis economy, these women are coming together in anticipation of “what’s next?”. “Will we be included?” is the most common question.

They are not alone, as the jockeying for position in the adult use cannabis market has already begun. The “messaging” coming from the currently licensed medical producers is that they are the only obvious choice to transition into the adult use market as the current grey market is run by gangsters and organized bike gangs. This messaging is not based on any real facts, it is simply a mantra that is being used to convince the general public, media, and policy makers that the adult use market should be heavily regulated to keep the bad actors out of the potentially highly profitable new economy. Not only to keep the bad actors out but to make sure they, the very small group of licence holders, will see the money they seem to feel they have earned by jumping through the hoops of the complex licensing process.

As dominant as women are in the artisan spectrum of the cannabis economy, the opposite is true of the the licensed medical producers, comprised almost entirely of men. The average cost of achieving a coveted licence can easily exceed 5 million dollars and go as high as 100 million dollars. These are not “Mom and Pop” farms, these are sophisticated, industrial operations financed by investors hoping to cash in on the inevitable “green rush”. Typically women do not have access to this kind of capital, although this could be shifting in the coming years, if trends continue.

Dundee Capital Markets estimated earlier this year that a legal marijuana industry in Canada could be worth some $5 billion annually. This does not take tourism into consideration, which could be significant. Some would say the tourism industry is already active in places like Vancouver, Victoria, Nelson and Toronto. Coincidentally these are the same cities where women are organizing and gathering together to help each other transition into what they hope will be their future. In the United States women hold 36% of leadership positions in the entire industry. That’s significantly higher than the 22% average for U.S. companies in general, according to 2014 data from the Pew Research Center.

The reason for this encouraging statistic is simply that women were allowed to participate. Their experience, knowledge, ingenuity and wisdom were embraced and sought after. The regulations in the US which were crafted understood and acknowledged the importance of the existing artisans and how their participation in the future would be imperative to a sustainable and successful industry. The regulators also were familiar enough with the industry to fully understand that inclusive growth was reasonable, safe and essentially the right thing to do.

The women who gathered on a winter morning spoke with courage and integrity about what they do. They are healers, they have wisdom and they have messages to share. They are not organized gangsters, nor do they belong to bike gangs. Someday soon, they hope they will also not be considered criminals.

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