Kelly Coulter

Ethical Consumption, Cannabis, Feminism, and Environmentalism

Category: Cannabis (page 1 of 2)

The legalization and regulation of cannabis is imminent worldwide and knowledge is power. The more information that is shared about the importance of not just ending cannabis prohibition but also the benefits that will come from the end of prohibition.

Farmers, feds, food and the future of cannabis

Kelly Coulter gives us her take on emerging food security issues and how they parallel changes in the cannabis industry

On Friday June 17th, over 100 farmers and citizens concerned about food security in Canada filled the local Cowichan Valley community centre on Vancouver Island, and were hosted by Alistair MacGregor.  MacGregor is the MP for the riding of Cowichan/Malahat, Justice critic for the NDP and will be sitting on the committee for Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act. He also farms on a small scale.

The Government of Canada is developing a first-ever food policy for the country. The food policy will revolve around the following four themes: increasing access to affordable food; improving health and food safety; conserving our soil, water, and air; and growing more high-quality food. The parallels between food, agriculture and cannabis, especially in regions like the Cowichan, are striking.  It has been estimated that a disproportionate number of cannabis cultivators are located in the region, much like the medicinal cannabis farmers of Northern California.

MP Alistair MacGregor wanted to engage with farmers and food security advocates in person and develop a comprehensive submission to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in order to ensure that their “views and priorities are included in the food policy for Canada. We need to look at the whole picture and bring an integrated approach to federal policy that connects agriculture, rural development, health, and income security.”

The panelists included: Niki Stutynski, a local farmer and member of North Cowichan Agriculture Committee; Chris Groenendijk, local area dairy producer; and Amy Melmock, the Economic Development Manager of the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD). There was an opportunity for Q&A, at which time the subject of “specialty crops” was raised, and parallels were made with the thriving vineyards and potential hop farmers of the region. Micro-breweries and distilleries on Vancouver Island are supported by local industry and consumers, with some private alcohol distributors actively promoting local brands over products made in other locales.

The community is clearly in touch with not only its agricultural priorities, but also strong considerations of environmental stewardship.

Sarah Campbell, director of the Craft Cannabis Association of British Columbia, who lives and works in the Cowichan Valley, was impressed with the turn-out and the calibre of the feedback, and how it paralleled what could happen to the local cannabis economy.

“Farming is a way of life here on Vancouver Island, and it was concerning to hear how a community that was once thriving is now decimated due to strict governmental regulations. Many abattoirs, for example, were forced to shut down or have been driven underground since new rules were implemented in 2007 to address public health and safety. The community itself feels they were not a cause for concern and that the new rules were a way of getting rid of small agriculture. It’s hard not to see the parallels between the agriculture industry and cannabis.”

For more info regarding the proposed Food Policy for Canada check here.

Featured image by David Stanley.

Bringing motherhood to the cannabis workspace

Kelly Coulter talks to Sandra Colasanti about balancing motherhood with an exciting career in the cannabis industry

“When we as a society begin to value mothers as the givers and supporters of life, then we will see social change in ways that matter.” – Ina May Gaskin

There is a woman who has worked harder, longer and with more tenacity than most, and if you were to meet her it is entirely unlikely she would speak of her own accomplishments. She would talk about her family, her business and how much she cares about the future of the industry, and especially, her hopes for more access to quality cannabis. Her name is Sandra Colasanti and she is possibly one of the most giving people in the Canadian cannabis scene.

Her journey began in 2001 when her husband, Remo, started growing his own cannabis to help manage excruciating pain he suffered after a career-ending back injury. Although Sandra is not a consumer of cannabis, she recognized its healing value, as well as the importance for individuals to be able to cultivate their own—and she made it a priority to help facilitate this need.

As a professional woman who had worked in sales her entire life, the jump into the medical cannabis industry seemed like a natural evolution. In the early days of the MMAR, the need for qualified, reliable and accurate information became paramount.

Sandra focused her enquiry entirely on plant nutrients, as she saw the relationship between the efficacy of the growing methods and the quality of the cannabis produced as critical to medical needs. Her breadth of knowledge in cultivation, nutrients and plant behaviour is sought after by even the most experienced professional growers.

Her family comes first though, and as much as Sandra is all business, it is her role as mother, grandmother and wife that will make her smile, laugh and share her favourite stories. Women who are currently entering into the industry or have been working hard to make their way in recent years know that the reality of balancing work and the love of family is possibly an even greater challenge than working in an industry that is historically dominated by men.

Sandra has been a vocal patient advocate for over 16 years, and knows the next 16 years are going to change our world for the better. “Growing cannabis is incredibly challenging, and most people prefer not to grow their own. They need to have an option as well.”  She says she believes that licensed producers definitely have the ability to grow medical cannabis that is as high quality and effective as what can be grown at home.

“That’s why we started our nutrient company,” she says, referring to Remo Nutrients, which she co-founded in 2014. “We’ve been experimenting with different cannabis fertilizers in Remo’s garden for years, and we developed a solution that is completely safe for growing, while also helping to produce safe high quality end-results that patients can expect.”

It is not just this “giving” that the mothers of the cannabis industry bring to the table: most easily recognizable in women like Sandra is the level of caring that goes into their products and their business relationships. Sandra has been around for a long time, but her recognition is muted by her nature to give any recognition she gets away to others. She is a person who cares deeply about the integrity of her words. In the future, her values will be a cherished commodity as the cannabis industry moves into the unchartered waters of legalized and regulated cannabis in Canada and beyond.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

What is the perfect price for legal weed?

A hypothetical cost analysis for undercutting the black market

*The estimates in this article are open to debate, but they make the point.

Let’s just say that, hypothetically speaking, the current black market in Canada is based on three models of cultivation. The first model is the seasonal outdoor grower, the second is the hobby indoor grower and the third is the commercial indoor grower. Model one harvests every fall and sells his/her crop based on market prices which vary greatly from province to province, in the vicinity of 900-2500 dollars per pound. The second model harvests casually and sells privately and in small amounts ranging from 125-250 an ounce. The third group harvests every 3 weeks to 90 days and sells based on market prices ranging anywhere from $1400 to $3000.

According to a recent article in Lift, the average price of a gram of cannabis in a dispensary is $10, which equates to $4535 per pound. This price is based on a perverted/distorted marketplace and should not be taken into consideration when trying to set acceptable tax structure. Unfortunately, this is what is being done, and it is a critical mistake.

Examining the profit margins

If the average profit margin on 100 pounds of cannabis, based on an annual harvest for models one and two, is 90-250K and 2-10K respectively, cannabis cultivation would appear to remain profitable and worthwhile. For model three, an annual yield can bring in millions of dollars depending on the size of the operation. Model three also happens to be the most expensive cultivation method and the easiest to trace.

The only way the mandate to defund organized crime will be fulfilled is to effectively remove profit incentive. The fact that only 5% of the cannabis trade is affiliated with “organized crime” should make this goal attainable, but this does not mean that the black market is going anywhere at all. In the wild and wacky world of weed, the average cultivator, farmer and consumer are not gun-wielding gangsters, but ordinary folks who either enjoy farming and the additional income or are just growing a bit extra to subsidize their own consumption.

Defunding organized crime

If the federal government really wants to defund organized crime, two things need to happen. The government should do a cost analysis of what it really costs to produce a pound of weed and then tax accordingly at a rate, bringing the final retail price in under, or close to, what would make this commodity so profitable for the “bad guys.” The current large commercial indoor grow-ops that are typically favoured for covert operations are not the most cost-effective method. By adopting and incentivizing more visible, environmentally-friendly and naturally-grown cannabis the government will effectively kill two birds with one stone.

In the future, the price of cannabis will likely become more in line with other agricultural commodities.  If we approach this from a public safety standpoint, and not from a distorted version of what has been the norm for far too long, the potential for success increases. We have to be prepared to think differently—this is likely our greatest challenge moving forward.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for the Canadian cannabis industry to reflect

In honour of International Women’s Day, the cannabis industry must take a good long look at how it will not only include and support women, but also raise…

In honour of International Women’s Day, the cannabis industry must take a good long look at how it will not only include and support women, but also raise them up. This will require forward thinking folks, and some fierceness on all of our parts.

There are initiatives from within the sector, but also significantly outside of the industry, that women would be well-advised to tap into.  The recent announcement by the Canadian and American federal governments of the creation of a Canada−United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders—a joint initiative meant to help businesses owned by women as a way to contribute to economic growth, competitiveness and the integration of the two economies—is a signal of what is to come for all women.

Some of us may feel like we have been here before.  In her recent editorial for Maclean’s, Arlene Dickinson pulls no punches:

“We already know the challenges that women face when starting a business. We know that financial markets are tilted against women, and that, as a rule, women have more difficulty accessing capital from investors and banks alike.

“But we also know that women-owned businesses, on average, perform very well compared to those owned solely by men. And we know that if a company’s board includes a strong contingent of women, it will more likely do better. So, smart companies are now taking steps to seek out and support women entrepreneurs and leaders—not out of pity, but out of self-interest.”

The women of cannabis should embrace such initiatives with optimism, but also be willing to participate with a sense of pride in their duty to pioneer for the generations of women who will come behind them.

The tech sector has in recent years come to face its own shortcomings in diversity.  Uber, the golden child of the sharing economy, is being hit hard by its own much-publicized misogynistic leadership. This is not only bad for the women affected but it is really REALLY bad for business.  There are parallels here for our own sector that we can learn from as men and women who truly want the best for the industry.

Women are at the heart of the cannabis industry as much as men. When Melissa Etheridge spoke at the inaugural Women Grow Leadership Summit, her words garnered the heaps of affirmation that every woman has known for as long as women have been healing with plants. “We are at a paradigm of all of this wellness and it is now time for us to become balanced.” Ms. Etheridge was referring to our relationship with our healing attributes and our relationship with the patriarchy of money and business.  We owe this shift in thought and practise not only to ourselves, but also  to our daughters and grand-daughters and the young women who will come behind us.

Happy International Women’s Day to ALL the women of cannabis, the future is ours, if we take it!

Featured image via Donnie Ray Jones.

Climate change, cannabis and Trudeau

If the commitment to combat climate change is credible and sincere it should also impact the government’s regulations with regards to cannabis cultivation

Originally published in Lift News.

“We can fight climate change without sacrificing growth and prosperity. In fact, our global push toward a low-carbon economy will produce new companies, new growth, and new prosperity.”
— Prime Minister Trudeau.
World Economic Forum 2016, Davos, Switzerland

Earlier this year Prime Minister Trudeau resolved to combat climate change without sacrificing growth in his speech to the Economic World Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This is a marked difference from our previous government’s attitude towards a greener economy, and was welcomed by the environmental community.

If this commitment is credible and sincere it should also impact the government’s regulations with regards to cannabis cultivation. The current practice of indoor cultivation is driven by criminalization, pursuit of security, pest and disease management, and the desire for greater process control and yields. Once criminalization is no longer a relevant issue in Canada, would it not be responsible to pursue cultivation practices that are environmentally friendly as well as potentially environmentally beneficial?

The good news is we can fight climate change without sacrificing growth and prosperity in a very big way with the help of smart cannabis and hemp cultivation practices. It would be incredibly negligent for the Liberal government and the legalization task force not to take the environment into consideration, as the environmental impact of indoor cannabis cultivation is staggering.

Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, is aware of these impacts, as are other environmental advocates, politicians and policy makers. The sustainable cannabis movement is picking up energy in the United States and particularly in Northern California where the future of cannabis cultivation is taking on a strong environmental message. This is partially due to self-preservation but also because the cannabis farmers of NorCal are inherently committed to what is best for the planet as well as their own futures. It would be ideal for Canadian cannabis farmers to adopt a similar strategy for the same reasons.

According to a study published in the journal Energy Policy in 2012, the carbon footprint of the indoor cultivation industry in Colorado is consistently compared to the same usage as small cities. It is estimated that the energy consumption for indoor cultivation in the United States is 1% of national electricity use, or $6 billion each year. “One average kilogram of final product is associated with 4600 kg of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, or that of 3 million average U.S. cars when aggregated across all national production.” Jonathan Paige Founder of cannabis biotech company Anandia Labs and Adjunct Prof at UBC, believes that “The take-home message is that if legalization leads to an all indoor industry under HPS lights, it is going to be an environmental nightmare.”

The environment is not the first thing we think about when it comes to cannabis, but it should be. As Canada moves toward a regulated adult-use market, the consequences of decisions made by policy makers will impact future generations.

The Prime Minister also went on to say during his speech in Davos that the next industrial revolution will bring about “enormous change.” If the government implements environmentally responsible cannabis cultivation incentives, enormous change might be an understatement. The world is watching.

Cannabis Clickbait

Originally published on Canlio

“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”
— Marshall Mcluhan

The Toronto Star recently ran a story about how the government would not allow home grows. The article was based on zero evidence and frankly the headline,“Ottawa might try to prohibit homegrown pot” was, for me, just clickbait based on a sensational, unqualified claim. Comments on social media were alarming and angry but they were directed at the wrong culprit.

Media likes to sell media and will say the strangest things to do so. The culprit was not the government at all, it was the Toronto Star. This is critical for reasons you may not know. The media acts as a purveyor. Its form has changed with the advent and influence of social media and it can now be seen as a gauge of public opinion. Whereas at one point in history people would write letters to the editor, nowadays the online comments section gives a great indication of how the public feels about issues and events.

The comments that came In response to the Toronto Star article made it evident that the majority felt that denying Canadians the right to grow their own cannabis if they chose to was not going to sit well. The reasons included personal rights and freedoms, costs, and anti-government and monopoly sentiments. Those opposed to home cultivation were very much in the minority, citing potential fire hazards and stolen hydro.

Is the government watching this public discourse? possibly. It is more likely that some of the people who advise individual politicians are paying closer attention to the issue, and that is why this interaction is critical. Politicians and their advisors pay even closer attention to public opinion in their own constituencies. They are always campaigning for re-election even when they are already elected. There is no job security in being an elected official, and less so if you adopt positions and policies contrary to those who are capable of firing you. With this in mind it would be helpful in the future when such clickbait generates comments to go directly to the source, such as The Toronto Star.

Social media can be a very effective instrument for change, but more so when it is used to its fullest and most effective potential. Sharing articles is good for getting the information out. If headlines are misleading or sensational or clickbait, post a disclaimer when you share. This will help others and will also steer the conversation in the right direction.

Comments are good, but in most cases you are preaching to the choir. Go to the source of the story and comment on their social media if you want to be heard by the influencers outside of your network. Sharing good information is great and not sharing bad information is also great. Cannabis clickbait is going to be a problem, but it is a problem we can control by not rewarding bad behaviour and instead rewarding only good journalism and reporting. We have a part to play in this and the media will need our help as much as the politicians will, they are listening.

Republished with permission from Canlio.

The Stories Project

Originally published on Canlio

These are without question exciting times to be in the cannabis industry in Canada. Actually, it is beyond exciting. It is nerve wracking, roller-coaster riding, nail biting and downright heart attack inducing for past, present, and future cannabis folks. For some it is change they thought would never come and it is celebratory. For some this change is scary. For others it is the beginning of a new chapter where dreams could be fulfilled or destroyed. It will require nerves of steel and the will of giants.

It is more important now than ever that we tell our stories: who we are, what we are doing and why we are doing it. I have long believed that cannabis farmers were the last pioneers, aside from space travellers. I think most would agree with me. The reasons we need to tell these stories are many.

Firstly, we need to communicate to the policy makers and politicians who we are, and how the changes might impact our lives.

Secondly, we need to put faces to the industry, as this humanizes something that most Canadians are not familiar with at all. I know there are some incredibly beautiful, good people currently working with cannabis. Canadians need to meet you.

This leads me to the third reason. If Canadians do not know your stories, your stories are told for you. In other words, when the media gets the facts wrong or skews them or sensationalizes them, this is what Canadians will believe, as they know no different. In the same vein, it is important to speak truthfully and with integrity. When falsehoods are shared, when sensational quotes are repeated, when media darlings spout overblown pontifications for the sake of their own media darlingishness, we lose credibility.

I occasionally run into a local photographer who is on staff for a newspaper that has a seriously negative view of all things cannabis. We always talk about the angle the newspaper takes and how we could overcome some of their reefer madness. He has repeatedly said to me he needs the pictures to show the real stories. I hope in the near future we will be able to make that happen.

Finally I would like to relate a story some of you might be familiar with that illustrates the power of personal testament. In her speech to the UNGASS Assembly at the United Nations on April 20, 2015, Health Minister Jane Philpott said the following:

“A few weeks ago, in preparation for this event, I met with a group of NGOs in Ottawa. There were lawyers, doctors and highly articulate activists. But the most powerful voice of all belonged to a mother. She was there to tell the story of her young daughter, who lost her life due to complications of substance use. She described watching her daughter slip away as she struggled to access the treatment and services that may have saved a beautiful, fragile life.”

This story was in reference to the meeting my friend Donna D May had with Minister Philpott. Donna’s daughter died of an opiate overdose. Donna is one of the bravest and most wonderful women I know. Telling her story will save lives in the future.

So it is time to tell our stories, in our own words, with integrity and truth and the hearts of lions. A handwritten letter carries more weight and is more likely to be read than any other form of correspondence to decision makers, which is why we are creating this unique presentation. It is also faster and much less expensive, and longer lasting than a twenty minute meeting. Please consider participating in the project, we don’t have a lot of time.

The Stories Project

The “Stories” project is launching and we would like to hear from as many of you as possible. Politicians and policy makers need to hear our stories, written by us. They need to hear how being in the cannabis industry as a medicine-maker, cultivator, trimmer, ancillary business-owner/employee, teacher, or advocate, has contributed to our lifestyle, well-being, financial security, and sense of self. The priority would be to show that if the new regulations might exclude people such as ourselves, how that might impact your life. A sincere, hand-written, one to three page letter with or without your name would be very impactful. We will be compiling and sharing these “Stories” with many of the politicians and policy makers who are going to be making the decisions that will impact our lives in the future.

I am hopeful many of you will participate in this project. These are incredibly important times and your stories are more important now than ever.

Please mail to:
c/o The Green Ceiling
1625 Quadra St.
Victoria, B.C.
V8W 2L5
Deadline is July 30th 2015

Republished with permission from Canlio.

Balancing the government’s legalization objectives will be a challenge

If Canada approaches marijuana regulations equitably from the perspective of public health and safety, they have a much greater chance of succeeding

Originally published in Lift News.

The Government of Canada believes that the new regime for legal access to marijuana must achieve two of the following objectives:

  • Protect young Canadians by keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and youth.
  • Keep profits out of the hands of criminals, particularly organized crime.

In Colorado and Washington neither of these objectives have been achieved after regulations and legalization came into effect, so how does Canada expect to achieve what very well could be the impossible?


With respect to youth consumption, the challenges are twofold. If the government intends to stop or curb youth consumption by strictly “regulating and controlling” it, they will have to essentially quash any unregulated or uncontrolled market behaviour, as this is the existing market that youth are accessing in legal jurisdictions now. Access is a factor, but it is not the most effective way of curtailing youth consumption. According to Dr. Neil Bernstein in How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do if You Can’t, the reasons teens consume fall into eight categories: other people, popular media, escape and self-medication, boredom, rebellion, instant gratification, lack of confidence, and misinformation.

The first reason speaks volumes to the enormity of the challenge ahead for Canada, as teens are often introduced to cannabis and other substances, including alcohol, by their elder peers and family members. In a regulated market, access by these same people will translate to access for youth, as is the case in Colorado.

Rather than approaching youth consumption from a “restrict and control” enforcement perspective, society might be better served by studying and addressing the other contributing factors that lead to youth cannabis consumption. This would entail considerable investment in education, community programs, family programs, prevention programs and youth initiatives. Investment in prevention is not only monetarily responsible, it is socially responsible.

Organized Crime

The majority of organized crime groups in Canada are involved in drug trafficking due to the high revenue of Canada’s import and export drug market, with drug trafficking accounting for approximately 57% ($44.5 billion). Footnote2

Canadian-based crime groups continue to import illicit drugs from the United States, Mexico, China, India and several South American, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries. Drugs exported from Canada, such as marijuana, are targeted mostly at the United States, Australia and Japan.

Cannabis is the domestic product of Canadian organized crime groups. If the Canadian government intends to de-fund these groups it should be strategic in its approach. Home cultivation and small business integration of cannabis cultivators would decrease costs, increase access, and remove profit incentive for the illicit domestic market. A decentralized market that includes current cultivators who are not affiliated with cartels or organized crime groups would create a highly competitive and robust market, driving prices down and removing the profit incentives that sustain the black market. Inversely, a tightly controlled and restricted regime would create the vacuum the black market relies on to thrive.

The de-funding of organized crime groups is a priority from a public safety perspective as much as it is from a public health perspective, as the two are intertwined. A safe society is a healthier society.

If Canada approaches the regulations equitably from the perspective of public health and safety, we have a much greater chance of succeeding in our goals, as lofty as they may seem at this time.

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.

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