Kelly Coulter

Ethical Consumption, Cannabis, Feminism, and Environmentalism

Tag: Canlio

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.

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.

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.

© 2018 Kelly Coulter

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