Kelly Coulter

Ethical Consumption, Cannabis, Feminism, and Environmentalism

Category: Ethical Consumption

The practice of purchasing products produced in a way that minimises social and/or environmental damage, while avoiding products and services deemed to have a negative impact on society or the environment is a unique opportunity for the cannabis industry and cannabis consumerism.

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.

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.

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?

Youth

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.

© 2017 Kelly Coulter

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