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Feds' marijuana task force rules out storefront weed

by papapuff » Sun Jan 15, 2017 3:49 pm

MetroNews Canada

Local cannabis advocate giving Winnipeg users a voice

Annual 420 organizer, medical marijuana user and grower Steven Stairs is sharing his and others thoughts on legalization with the provincial government.

By: Braeden Jones Metro Published on Sun Jan 15 2017

A local marijuana advocate is compiling criticism against Ottawa's task force report on legalization in order to make sure Manitoba's cannabis community “has a voice.”

Steven Stairs, a medical marijuana user and grower who helps organize Winnipeg's 420 rallies, said he reached out to Kildonan MLA Nicholas Curry to talk about the highs and lows of the report.

Without making our voices heard early in the process, we won’t have a leg to stand on,” he said.

Stairs shared the opportunity to weigh in with others in the cannabis community, and has since been inundated with people contributing their thoughts, which he’ll work into his submission.

“Everybody is pretty on point with what we want, there’s fairly good consensus,” he said.

Stairs notes the community supports store front sales, and separating the sale of pot from liquor.

Most, however, reject potency taxes and plant height limits on personal crops.

Stairs plans to deliver a comprehensive, informal report to Curry within 30 days so there is a “presence of (Winnipeg’s) cannabis community in the hands of people making decisions before the feds come out with the actual legalization framework.”

“That way we have our focal points already established and are a part of the conversation rather than waiting before it’s too late,” he said.

The task force’s recommendations are a net-win, Stairs added, but said some form of protest action could take place if things take a turn between now and legalization.

“A year from now it could be a totally different conversation; there are a lot of concerns that if we don’t see them being addressed in someway, I will most certainly be leading protests at the legislative building.

“There will be many people with me and others with voices to be heard like mine.”

Ideally, though, Stairs wants his input to his local MLA to suffice, adding that anyone with a strong opinion could either share it with him or follow his example and write to their own MLA.
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by papapuff » Sun Jan 22, 2017 10:52 am

Winnipeg Free Press

Strategies in Manitoba differ for looming pot legalization

By: Martin Cash
Posted: 01/22/2017

Last month’s release of the federal government’s task force report on legalized recreational marijuana is prompting wildly different approaches from players looking to position themselves for the eventuality of legalization.

With such a massive potential market that could all of a sudden open up to the mainstream, there are plenty of business opportunities that are getting queued up.

A recent comprehensive survey done by Deloitte estimated the Canadian market could be worth about $9 billion in annual marijuana sales and nearly $23 billion per year including ancillary businesses such as security, transportation and other things.

A Vancouver company called Erbachay has recently put up a number of billboard ads around Winnipeg and in Brandon featuring a marijuana leaf background that only includes the company’s name — in phonetics — its website address, the words "must be 19+" and "Canada Wide Delivery."

Erbachay operates a marijuana dispensary in Vancouver and a national mail-order medical marijuana business.

"We want to normalize the conversation about marijuana use," said company president Darcy Delainey.

Erbachay gets its medical marijuana from many different suppliers, including individuals who are licensed to grow their own and who have excess supply.

Asked if that was legal, Delainey said, "I guess not."

He said Erbachay is positioning itself to be able to take advantage of upcoming legalization. The Trudeau government has said it will have legislation to present to Parliament sometime this spring.

While Delainey takes that to mean it will be legal by the spring, others are taking a more conservative approach.

John Arbuthnot, president of Delta-9 Biotech, the only licensed medical marijuana producer in the province, believes the legislative process is probably going to mean actual legalization is not going to occur until 2018.

His company recently raised an additional $1.35 million in new equity and is busy building out additional production space. The company has recently designed a new production process using hydroponics and stacked metal shipping containers.

Arbuthnot said it is the most cost-effective way to increase production and meet all of the Health Canada inspection approvals that must occur before each new container goes into production in the company’s 64,000-square-foot leased facility in Transcona.

"We hope to have 100 operational by mid-2018 and 600 by 2020," Arbuthnot said.

Delta-9 can produce about 40 kilograms of high-quality marijuana per year per container that can be stacked up to three-to-four high.

One hundred containers in production would generate $30 million in annual revenue, and 600 would boost revenue to $150 million. It would also mean increasing the company’s workforce from about 25 today to more than 400.

Arbuthnot said Delta-9 is also planning to open its first medical-marijuana clinic in the city in Osborne Village in the spring.

Arbuthnot is a strong proponent of the regulatory regime that currently exists for medical marijuana and does not have high regard for the dispensaries that are growing in popularity across the country, and he questions the quality control applied in those facilities.

But just as the grey market dispensaries such as Erbachay are getting ready to sell to the recreational market, so is Delta-9.

"We’re excited about the potential to supply the recreational market," said Arbuthnot. "But there are lots of question marks."

Arbuthnot said Delta-9 intends to leave its options open as to what role it will play in that market — as a distributor, integrated retailer or some kind of wholesaler.

He believes the medical-marijuana business will get more "medical," perhaps with the more production of oils or pills or other forms of more traditional delivery of pharmaceuticals.
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by papapuff » Mon Jan 23, 2017 4:42 pm

The Globe and Mail

Gangs less involved in cannabis compared with other drugs: report

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Jan. 23, 2017

Canada’s organized crime groups and gangs are much less likely to produce and traffic marijuana than they are other illicit drugs such as cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, according to a new federal study that tracked drug violations from police forces in four cities across three provinces.

The new report from Statistics Canada analyzed all drug-related violations over a two-year period in Victoria, Vancouver, Regina and Waterloo, Ont., and found that police linked organized crime to 39 per cent of all cannabis-trafficking charges and 6 per cent of cases involving the production of marijuana.

In comparison, these groups were linked to three-quarters of all heroin-trafficking charges, 62 per cent of all cocaine-trafficking violations and 60 per cent of those linked to the dealing of crystal methamphetamine.

Over all, slightly more than half of the 1,051 drug-related charges tracked over 2013 and 2014 involved organized crime or gangs, according to the study.

The Liberal federal government is set to introduce legislation this spring legalizing the recreational use of cannabis, which it says is necessary to stop young Canadians from getting easy access to the drug and to block billions in profits from flowing to violent criminal gangs.

The authors of the report, which draws on a pilot project aimed at improving police collection of this data, cautioned that their research is too limited to draw any conclusions about the roles gangs play in growing and dealing marijuana across the country.

But the data contradicts common RCMP wisdom that organized crime groups play a large role in Canada’s underground cannabis trade, according to Neil Boyd, a professor at Simon Fraser University and drug prohibition scholar.

“To people who know how this industry has taken shape in many parts of [B.C.], this wouldn’t be news and, if anything, it would still amount to an over-emphasis on the extent of the organized criminal involvement,” Prof. Boyd said.

The study used the Criminal Code of Canada’s definition of an organized crime group – three or more people who commit a serious offence in order to profit. That definition, Prof. Boyd says, likely captured criminals the general public does not consider gangsters, because they are not linked to threats of violence or corruption typically associated with organized crime.

“This isn’t a particularly uniformly predatory kind of conduct,” he said of producing or trafficking marijuana. “If they were to look more closely at use of force or corruption, I think you would get a very significant drop in organized activity in relation to cannabis.”

Prof. Boyd co-authored a study that was submitted last summer to the federal panel on legalization that cited another government report from 2011 that showed just 5 per cent of marijuana criminal cases over an eight-year period had links to organized crime or street gangs.

He said gangs definitely play a role in the production and sale of the drug, but the Mounties have never proven to what extent, and all available research shows that most of those involved in Canada’s cannabis industry are non-violent and do not commit any other crimes. He says overestimating the role of organized crime will create a new regime that will be too restrictive and simply perpetuate the black market.

Bill Blair, the MP in charge of Ottawa’s push to legalize, did not respond to a request for comment.

Nate Erskine-Smith, a Liberal MP for the Toronto riding of Beaches-East York, said he was shocked that the new Statistics Canada report showed such high levels of organized crime involvement in the underground cannabis trade, given how ubiquitous the drug is in Canadian society.

He added that the data was collected before the illegal cannabis dispensaries exploded east across the country from Vancouver and does not capture how involved gangs could be with this illegal sector.

“Don’t get me wrong, there are dispensaries across the country that are focused on harm reduction and treating patients, [but] other dispensaries are focused on making money,” said Mr. Erskine-Smith, whose Toronto constituency office was once near a pot shop that was among 45 raided by police last year. “And I have no idea where the profits are flowing; that’s another reason we should have a regulated environment.

“Maybe there is serious criminal involvement – gangs and the like – involved in supplying some of these dispensaries, I honestly don’t know.”

Staff-Sergeant Lindsey Houghton, spokesman for British Columbia’s anti-gang task force, said very few gangsters are ever charged with or implicated in marijuana offences.

“They, like legitimate businesses, are going to engage in activities that are going to make them the most profit,” he said.

Increasingly over the past two decades, that has meant turning away from cannabis to pursue the importation, production and trafficking of chemical substances such as fentanyl, Staff Sgt. Houghton said.

“The profit margin for the same quantity of fentanyl versus marijuana is significantly greater,” he said. “Never mind the startup and labour intensity that goes into massive large-scale marijuana grow operations that we’ve all seen pictures of – you need warehouses for that.

“You need a small kitchen and a pill press to produce thousands and thousands of pills of fentanyl, which are killing thousands of people across this country.”
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by papapuff » Fri Feb 03, 2017 11:17 am

No pot till 21

Castanet Staff - Feb 3, 2017

If marijuana is going to be made legal, it should be restricted to those 21 and over, says the Canadian Consortium for Early Intervention in Psychosis.

That's in response to recommendations from the Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation, which said consumption should be restricted to those 18 and older.

The consortium also says quantity and THC potency for those 21-25 should also be restricted.

The CCEIP is a national body of mental health clinicians and researchers.

"We have evidence that exposure to marijuana by adolescents and young adults poses definite risks to their mental health, especially for those who may already be vulnerable to mental illness," said spokesperson Dr. Ashok Malla.

The task force recently released a report on a new system to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana.

To minimize harm, it recommended the federal government set a national minimum age of purchase of 18, while recognizing the risks associated with cannabis use, including the risks of developmental harms to youth.

In response, the CCEIP says:

Regular cannabis use in youth and young adults can affect aspects of cognition including attention, memory, processing speed, visuospatial functioning and overall IQ.

Early and regular cannabis use increases the risk of developing a primary psychotic illness in those individuals who are vulnerable.

In those young adults who have developed psychosis, continued cannabis use worsens long-term symptom and functional outcomes.

Cannabis with high THC content (high potency) can result in significantly worse mental health and cognitive outcomes in individuals with Early Phase Psychosis.
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by papapuff » Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:54 am

Police chiefs fuming over proposal for homegrown marijuana

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Feb. 08, 2017

Canada’s police chiefs are calling on Ottawa to reject some of the key recommendations in a federal report on the legalization of marijuana, stating the proposals by former Liberal minister Anne McLellan will be impossible to enforce.

In a new discussion paper, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) calls on Ottawa to “hold off on home grows” when it tables legislation in the spring to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.

The top law-enforcement officers in the country agree that personal cultivation could eventually be allowed, but warn it should not happen at the same time as the recreational market is opened up to the private sector.

CACP said police only have a limited ability to control in-home production, and that legalizing personal production would open the door to the “diversion to black markets” of marijuana. In addition, the association said personal production would run counter to the government’s plans for a “highly regulated and controlled system,” and would be “contrary to other measures to minimize child/youth exposure and access to cannabis products.”

In a report released last December, a task force chaired by Ms. McLellan urged the government to allow Canadians to buy or carry 30 grams of marijuana for personal use, and to grow up to four plants at home.

Ms. McLellan did not put much emphasis in her report on the need to find ways to reduce the risks of impaired driving before the drug is legalized, stating the best solution was to give researchers additional time to develop proper detection tools.

“This is not going to be a new challenge that is created by legalization. Drug-impaired driving is a problem, or a challenge, in Canada today,” Ms. McLellan said after the release of her task force’s report.

However, Canada’s police chiefs said drug-impaired driving “will become an even greater issue with legalization.”

“We are very concerned that the prevalence of driving under the influence of drugs is not on Canadians’ consciousness,” the discussion paper said.

There is no recognized technology or exact limits to quantify marijuana impairment in Canada, which makes it hard for police to enforce existing laws. The police chiefs said the best way to tackle the issue at the moment is with trained and qualified Drug Recognition Experts, who can only receive field certification in the United States.

“The CACP strongly recommends that governments increase investment in Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) and associated officer training to improve law enforcement’s ability to detect and remove drug-impaired drivers from our streets,” the discussion paper said.

CACP pointed out that it supports a majority of the recommendations put forward by Ms. McLellan, including the call for public-education campaigns on the dangers of marijuana and drug-impaired driving, strict labelling requirements, and a highly regulated production and distribution model.

Liberal MP Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister and the government point man on the marijuana file, said in an interview this week he is aware of the concerns of law-enforcement officials.

“It’s part of an ongoing dialogue,” said Mr. Blair, the former chief of the Toronto Police Service. “We’re going to have to work very closely with the police leadership in this country and their perspectives are important to the discussion.”

The legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes is about two years away. A senior federal official said last year that Ms. McLellan’s report was well received inside the government and will have a large influence on the upcoming legislation to legalize marijuana, which will be tabled in Parliament in the spring of 2017.

The official explained that opening up the legal market will depend on the “readiness of the provinces,” which will be in charge of regulating the wholesale distribution and retailing of cannabis. As such, the official said that implementing the new regime can be expected in 2019.
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by papapuff » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:12 pm

Toronto Star

Marijuana industry opposes calls for plain packaging

The Canadian Press
Tues., Feb. 14, 2017

VANCOUVER—Garfield Mahood has spent 30 years fighting for the Canadian government to require plain packaging for cigarettes.

So, the long-time non-smokers’ rights activist says he doesn’t have much faith in the government’s ability to regulate and restrict the marketing of marijuana.

“They identified tobacco products as a cause of disease back in the 1950s,” said Mahood, president of the Campaign for Justice on Tobacco Fraud. “They’ve never been able to bring this epidemic close to a conclusion.

“What would give you faith that health departments are going to effectively regulate any health problems related to these other drugs?”

As the Liberal government prepares to introduce legislation to “legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana” before this summer, one area that the cannabis industry and public health advocates are closely watching is whether it will allow companies to brand and promote their products.

A task force appointed by the federal government recommended it require plain packaging and a limit to advertising similar to the restrictions on tobacco. But licensed producers of medical marijuana argue that cannabis isn’t as dangerous as tobacco and that branding and marketing are necessary to attract consumers from the black market to the legal industry.

Mahood began advocating for plain packaging on tobacco in the mid-1980s. Governments over the years declined to implement it until 2016, when Health Minister Jane Philpott vowed to ban branding on cigarette boxes and a bill was introduced in the Senate.

The aim is to strip the industry’s ability to attach “sophistication and allure” to its products, said Mahood, and to prevent it from detracting from public-health warnings.

While there is a lot that researchers still don’t know about marijuana, it’s not a benign substance and there are health risks, said Rebecca Jesseman, a senior policy adviser at the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, which supports plain packaging.

The inhalation of any hot vapour into the lungs is harmful and can lead to cancer, while edible products have been linked to overconsumption and increased emergency room visits in Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is legal, she said.

“It’s much easier to be more restrictive from the outset and then loosen the restrictions as you learn, than it is to start out with looser regulations and try to make them more stringent,” she said.

Cam Battley, senior vice-president of communications at Aurora Cannabis, said he would never call a psychoactive substance completely benign. But he said marijuana is more benign than alcohol or tobacco.

“There are millions of Canadians who purchase cannabis. What the federal government is trying to do is get people to switch over from the illegal and unregulated market to the regulated market,” he said.

“If they want to do that, it makes sense to allow us to state who we are, to establish our brands, to justify why it makes sense for consumers to go through the legal system instead of going to somebody they know in the neighbourhood.”

In terms of advertising, Battley said he believes that cannabis should be treated essentially the same as liquor, a sector where companies cannot show people using the product in commercials or target underage individuals.

The federal task force recommended that plain marijuana packaging be allowed to include the company name, strain name, price, amounts of psychoactive ingredients and warnings.

But that information isn’t enough to ensure people can buy the product they want, said Mark Zekulin, president of Tweed, a subsidiary of Canopy Growth, the largest of Canada’s publicly traded marijuana companies.

“If you try to compare five different whiskies, they’re all going to be 35 per cent alcohol or 40 per cent alcohol, but at the end of the day they’re all very different,” he said. “Cannabis is probably more diverse.”

A ban on branding and advertising could create a more level playing field between large licensed producers and smaller “craft” growers, said Lindsay Meredith, a marketing professor at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.

But Meredith said it would be a problem for the federal government if it allows marketing of liquor but not cannabis. The argument that producers need branded packaging and advertising in order to lure users from the illegal market has some merit, he added.

“You’re not going to buy my product if you don’t know it exists,” he said.

“The whole idea of branding, developed hundreds of years ago, was because 10 of us made a product. Nine of us did a lousy job making it. One guy did a good job making it. People who were using the product wanted to know which guy was doing it.”
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by papapuff » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:59 pm

Feds stop by Mission, Abbotsford to talk marijuana legalization

by Katya Slepian - BC Local News
B.C. posted Feb 23, 2017

Bill Blair isn’t leaving any stone unturned in his cross-country tour on marijuana legalization.

Blair, a Toronto police chief turned parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, in asking municipalities, educators and police departments all over Canada about their concerns ahead of the Trudeau government make the drug legal.

“We’re changing the current criminal prohibition to a system of strict regulations,” Blair told Black Press between speaking to officials in Mission and Abbotsford on Thursday. He said he spoke with Greater Toronto police and city officials last week, and met with police in Vancouver and Langley earlier this week. The plan is to continue consultations across the country even after possession of marijuana is no longer a crime to monitor how the new system works.

Ottawa has pledged to introduce legislation to legalize pot in the spring. In December, a federal task force recommended selling marijuana via mail or in storefronts, separate from tobacco and alcohol, to Canadians 18 years and older. The task force set a recommended growing limit of four plants per person.

“Right now, we have the highest rates of marijuana usage of any country in the world,” Blair said.

“The current system of prohibition is doing a lousy job from protecting youth from the hazards of cannabis use.”

Blair’s consultation focuses on protecting youth and taking pot profit out of the hands of organized crime. He said the government has talked to U.S. states such as Colorado and Washington State, where officials are learning as they go about the dos and don’ts of legal pot.

“They’ve been very forthcoming about unintended consequences,” said Blair, including the different forms that legalized pot has taken. “In Colorado, they didn't take into consideration high potency products and edibles. The market became very prolific there with those substances.”

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by papapuff » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:43 pm

Sault Star

Marijuana task force hears from the Sault

By Elaine Della-Mattia, Sault Star
Monday, February 27, 2017

The man in charge of leading a task force on the legalization of recreational marijuana says regulating weed will better protect young people, reduce organized crime and educate Canadians.

MP Bill Blair (Scarborough Southwest), the former top cop of Toronto's Police Service, said the federal government is adhering to its commitment to legalize cannabis following extensive cross-country consultation.

Blair is charged with travelling across Canada to educate stakeholders and receive input on various aspects that will result in a spring introduction of a bill. The Parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General is conducting round tables and meeting with stakeholders in the public justice, health, education and drug treatment and prevention sectors, among others, about the legalization of marijuana.

He said the discussions centre on how the regulations can ensure Canada better protects children and youth, reduce organized crime profits and educate Canadians on the health risks associated with drugs.

He was in Sault Ste. Marie Monday talking pot with a round table and meeting with Sault Police Chief Robert Keetch.

“We're placing all emphasis on a new regulatory system on doing a better job to protect our kids,” Blair said in an interview with The Sault Star.

As someone who has spent his whole adult life dedicated to keeping people and communities safe, Blair said the legislation is important on several different fronts.

Recent statistics show that young people across Canada are using marijuana at a higher rate than any other jurisdiction worldwide.

“I believe the current system of prohibition is failing us,” he said. “It's not doing a great job at limiting access and we need to get better at that and get better at giving them the facts that would allow them to make better health choices.”

As a cop, Blair said he knows the drug trade is a multi-billion-dollar industry, upwards of $7 billion a year and mostly run by organized crime, who in turn is responsible for much of the other violent crimes occurring in communities.

By controlling production, distribution and consumption through strict regulations, the criminal opportunity is reduced, he argues.

Allowing consumers to purchase the regulated marijuana with a known potency and product will ensure that Canadians choose legal methods to obtain the cannabis if desired, he said.

The statistics also show that about 40 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 45 have reported that they are using marijuana.

“By replacing the prohibition with a far more comprehensive and effective system of regulation and by putting the necessary controls on production and taking it away from organized crime, would do a much better job restricting young people from the drug, protecting our communities and the health of our citizens,” he said.

Politics and policing do mix to Blair.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are getting on board but have questions about how to fight crime and the requirements that would be needed to ensure enforcement.

Three devices are currently being tested across Canada to ensure users are not getting behind the wheel of the car and the federal government understands that enforcement means the need for greater resources – training, technical resources, staffing and money.

“I think they are quite supportive of a strict regulatory approach,” he said.

While Blair is hesitant to talk about the revenue aspect of what the legalization of marijuana would do, he said he personally believes that money should be reinvested in education, research and rehabilitation.

The federal government has not completed any studies on how much revenue a regulated marijuana system would work but independent studies have suggested revenue generated could be as much as $30 million annually.

“That's not the government number. We don't have a number. What we're saying is whatever number is generated should be reinvested,” Blair said.

Investment must also be made up front in the regulatory system and the checks and balances that are needed for production and distribution, he noted.

Other issues, like international border concerns, import and export would still be considered illegal, he said, and some border communities would face unique challenges.

Among the many outstanding items of consideration, the age of majority issue remains a sticky one.

Health care professionals argue that marijuana can slow down brain development in individuals under the age of 25. But Ontarians can purchase alcohol at the age of 19. Other provinces allow alcohol purchases at 18.

Blair said the idea is for the federal government to have a minimum mandatory age of 18 for recreational marijuana use with each province being permitted to set that age limit higher.

Currently about 70,000 patients are enrolled in the medical marijuana. The industry is worth less than $200 million a year, he said.

Blair said that even if the legislation is passed, he would never use the drug – and never has.

“It's not the government's intention to promote the use of this drug. It's a performance degrading drug and I don't believe it's a healthy choice but for the 40 per cent of adult Canadians that do make that choice, we want to make sure they do so safety,” Blair said. “This creates an opportunity for a more effective law and reduce use among young people,” Blair said.
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by papapuff » Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:55 pm

MP and ex-police chief Bill Blair foresees police having more to do as new pot rules roll out

By Dale Carruthers, The London Free Press
Tuesday, February 28, 2017


With the Liberal’s plan to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana still on track for the spring, MP Bill Blair met with London officials Tuesday to talk pot.

The ex-Toronto police chief, who’s tasked with shaping the legislation, is travelling across Canada to discuss the federal government’s plan to legalize and regulate the drug for recreational use.

Blair met with Mayor Matt Brown and police Chief John Pare in London — where a half dozen illegal pot shops operate — before sitting down with The Free Press.

Q: You’ve been meeting with stakeholders across the country to discuss legalization. Who exactly are you meeting with and what are you hearing?

A: I’ve spoken to police chiefs in every community I’ve visited. But I’m also speaking with mayors, with other civic officials, with people who represent public health agencies . . . there’s a strong consensus that we must do better.

Q: According to a 2016 news report, you held a series of informal meetings with advocates for the illegal marijuana dispensaries. What did you take away from these meetings?

A: We’ve tried to listen to every voice. One of the challenges that communities right across Canada are facing is that there are some individuals who are ignoring the laws that currently exist . . . Unfortunately there are a number of individuals who have sort of jumped ahead of any regulatory changes and are still producing and selling marijuana illegally. I’ve had some discussion with representatives of those organizations and I remind them that the laws should be obeyed.

Q: Will there be a place for any of the existing dispensaries to sell marijuana once it’s legalized?

A: The responsibility for determining the regulatory framework and the environment for distribution really rests with the provinces. Within our constitution, that’s their responsibility . . . whatever systems the province choose to put in place, we want to make sure it is an effective regime for keeping this out of the hands of kids and competing effectively with organized crime.

Q: In December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said municipalities should “enforce the law” when dealing with illegal marijuana dispensaries. Are you communicating this message to the police chiefs you’ve met recently?

A: Police chiefs have a great deal of responsibilities. With respect to public safety, they’ve got to priortize. They (have) limited resources for all those things that will maintain the safety of their communities. Law enforcement is their responsibility, but they have to set their own local priorities.

Q: Based on your experience as a former police chief, what’s the biggest impact legalization and regulation will have on policing?

A: Right now, the police are expending resources and the criminal justice system is somewhat burdened by the enforcement of the criminal law . . . I believe we’re going to have to ask more of the police, particularly at the introductions of these regulations, while people learn how this system will work.

Q: Research shows that marijuana use poses a risk to developing brains up to the age of 25. Will people under that age be able to buy marijuana?

A: There are some decisions that need to be made by both the federal government and the provinces. There is a recommendation that we received from the task force that suggested as a minimum age, the age of 18, but also a recommendation that provinces could make a determination of setting the age higher . . . It really is a decision based on competing values: on the one hand we want to protect kids from any potential health harm related to its use, and on the other you don’t want to (push) this mass market of young people over to organized crime.

Q: You’ve previously said you’ve never tried marijuana. Will that change after it’s legalized?

A: No, absolutely not. And I’ve never used any psychoactive drug or any illegal drug. That’s a choice that I’ve made. I find those things are performance degrading and I have no intention of ever using such a drug.
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by papapuff » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:48 pm

February 28, 2017

Federal government’s pot czar visits London

AM 980
By Liny Lamberink
Reporter AM980 News

Toronto’s former top cop made stops in London on Tuesday, meeting with city and police officials to discuss a regulatory framework for legalizing marijuana in Canada that he says will protect children and consumers, while taking away business from organized crime.

“So many people talk about legalization of marijuana, but we are really talking about replacing the criminal sanction with a more effective regime of regulation and control,” said Bill Blair, a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice tasked with promoting the federal government’s plan to legalize, regulate, and significantly restrict the production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis.

“Quite frankly, the system that’s currently in place is not working,” Blair explained.

“In Canada, in our communities today, young people use marijuana at a higher rate than any other group of young people anywhere else in the world. Close to 40-per cent of youth in this country report that they’re using cannabis.”

Blair says stricter regulation on how marijuana is sold, how it’s produced, and who it is sold to will better protect children from the risk imposed by using the drug during adolescent years and will also protect all consumers otherwise using a product with unclear origins.

But strict regulation is not the approach favoured by Ian Dawkins, president of the Cannabis Commerce Association of Canada — who acts as a consultant and spokesperson for the Chronic Hub Social Club medical marijuana dispensary in London.

“The rhetoric they’re using in Bill Blair’s national tour is deeply concerning to us because … there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of jobs in Canada directly tied to cannabis agriculture,” explained Dawkins.

“The federal Liberals’ plan is to basically regulate all of that out of business — out of existence — rather than trying to co-opt like they did in Colorado and Oregon, where they turned those producers — those grey market producers — into craft producers, small producers, like they have with craft beer.”

Dawkins says — if successful — the government will destroy an $8-10 billion craft cannabis industry and will move towards growing low-quality cannabis in large farms that struggle with pesticides. But he’s skeptical their goal is even possible and predicts the project will fundamentally fail.

“Rationally if you think about it, the current black market has thrived under the most brutal conditions of the war on drugs, it’s not going to simply go away when you shift the burden of crime to fit into mere tax evasion.”

He says the association isn’t asking the government for a system without rules — but for businesses to be regulated in an evidence-based way, by examining best practices in other jurisdictions that have already learned lessons about legalizing marijuana.

Dawkins adds he’s been unsuccessfully asking to meet with Blair ever since the police-chief-turned-politician was appointed to the position of parliamentary secretary for cannabis reform, 18 months ago.
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by papapuff » Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:50 am

The Sackville Tribune Post

NB government announces next step in cannabis legalization

Tribune-Post Staff sdohert

FREDERICTON, N.B. – The Province of New Brunswick is moving one step closer to the legalization of marijuana.

A working group comprised of senior officials from three government departments and two Crown corporations will provide recommendations on a model for distribution and retail to the provincial government by this fall on the legalization of cannabis.

Health Minister Victor Boudreau said Tuesday morning that while the federal government’s commitment to cannabis legalization will create challenges in the province, it will also open the door to several opportunities.

“New Brunswick is already well positioned for the economic development opportunities that cannabis legalization will present,” said Boudreau. “However, it is essential that we strike the right balance by ensuring protections for the well-being of families and children, and address health and public safety concerns.”

Boudreau added the province has been working since 2015 in preparation for federal legislation.

“This new working group will provide us with recommendations and direction on a number of key decisions that will need to be made.”

The provincial working group will release an interim report this summer. In addition, the government will introduce a motion in the legislature to establish a select committee of the legislative assembly to study the issue. The motion will set the mandate of the committee.

The federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation released its report, A Framework for the Legalization of Cannabis in Canada, last December. It includes more than 80 recommendations to the federal government.

The provincial working group is made up of senior officials from the departments of Justice and Public Safety, Health and Finance, as well as the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation and Opportunities NB. The working group will engage with federal officials and consult colleagues in other provincial governments. It is also mandated to assess the risks associated with the legalization of cannabis in New Brunswick and report with recommendations, including:

– What age should be adopted for cannabis possession;

– Which model for wholesale distribution and retail of cannabis is best for New Brunswick; and

– What, if any, restrictions or regulations should be imposed by the provincial government, in addition to those that will be imposed by the federal government.

In November, the Smoke-Free Places Act was amended to broaden the definition of smoke to any substance that can be smoked, vaped or inhaled, including marijuana.

“We need to get this right,” said Boudreau. “The new working group will continue to listen to stakeholders, engage with experts, and consult with government partners to provide the ideal direction for our province with respect to cannabis legalization.”

More information on the new provincial working group is available online.
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by papapuff » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:28 pm


Trudeau's Pot Czar Says Canada Won't Rush Marijuana Legalization

by Jen Skerritt and Josh Wingrove
March 7, 2017,

As investors flock to Canada’s burgeoning marijuana sector, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is signaling recreational pot sales aren’t imminent.

Lawmaker Bill Blair -- the former Toronto police chief leading Trudeau’s legalization effort -- confirmed a bill is due in parliament this spring, but it won’t be the last hurdle as ample regulatory work remains. The federal government will take its time and work with provinces, territories and cities to build a framework and develop specific regulations, he said.

The government is also looking for ways to control production, distribution and consumption of legalized marijuana, while testing it for quality and keeping it out of the hands of minors, Blair said.

“We will take as much time as it takes to do it right,” Blair, the parliamentary secretary to Canada’s justice minister, said in an interview Monday. “I’m pretty reluctant to suggest a specific time frame, frankly, because I don’t know how long this will take in each of our 10 provinces and three territories.”

Blair’s comments come as Canada’s nascent marijuana industry balloons, with investor optimism being fueled by analyst estimates that recreational sales could start as early as 2018.

The government’s plan to introduce legislation in the spring of 2017 “could pave the way for the legal sale of recreational cannabis by 2018,” Canaccord Genuity analysts Matt Bottomley and Neil Maruoka said in a November research note. Canada’s recreational pot industry has the potential to reach C$6 billion ($4.5 billion) in sales by 2021 if legalization occurs along “expected timelines,” according to the note.

Canopy Growth Corp. became the first marijuana unicorn in 2016 and had a valuation of C$1.9 billion on Monday. Other producers, including Aurora Cannabis Inc. and Aphria Inc.Inc., have seen their share prices surge more than 400 percent in the past 12 months.

Canopy shares fell as much as 7.5 percent in Toronto while Aurora tumbled 5.1 percent and Aphria slid 3 percent.

Dampened Buzz

“If they delay, there’s going to be a lot of eggs that are going to break in this business,” Chris Damas, an analyst at BCMI Research in Barrie, Ontario said by phone Monday. “The valuations are extreme.”

Licensed marijuana producers are in the midst of expanding their capacity and there will be a “huge amount” of excess cannabis if Canada delays legalization, Damas said. The analyst said Blair’s previous comments suggest it’s unlikely the government will introduce a bill by June and companies with huge valuations “won’t have any serious business” if the recreational market takes longer to come to fruition.

“There could be a lot of disappointment,” he said.

In a separate interview Monday with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Blair said the government was going to design a legalized marijuana system that included measurement and testing of products, as well as enforcement. While the proposed legislation is due this spring, “it’s not sufficient to simply come forward with a bill,” he said.

Safety Concerns

The government may also explore ways to direct revenue from marijuana sales to funding additional drug treatment, including for fentanyl as Canada grapples with an opioid crisis, he added.

Since taking a position on legalization ahead of the 2015 election, Trudeau has gradually turned toward emphasizing safety, saying regularly it shouldn’t be easier for youth to buy marijuana than to buy beer. Putting the file in the hands of a prominent law-enforcement veteran is another signal the government is approaching legalization with an eye to tight regulation.

Blair declined to comment on whether the regulations could be finalized by 2018 -- an expected election year in Ontario, home to Canopy and other companies -- or 2019, when the next federal election is scheduled.

The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation issued a report in December that recommends the Canadian government regulate the production of marijuana while provinces control the distribution and retail sales, including through dedicated storefronts with well-trained staff or by mail.
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by papapuff » Wed Mar 08, 2017 2:30 pm

Kamloops This Week

Marijuana missionary set to speak in Kamloops Thursday night

By Cam Fortems - March 8, 2017

A cannabis evangelist who pioneered one of Canada’s earliest dispensaries is not sitting back waiting for the Trudeau government to provide Canadians with legal marijuana.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Dana Larsen, who operates a dispensary in Vancouver, served as editor of Cannabis Canada for a decade and is now on a lecture circuit where he gives away 100 marijuana seeds to every guest.

He will also mail seeds to those who cannot make it to a lecture.

That tour comes to Kamloops Thursday, March 9, at 7 p.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel at St. Paul Street and Third Avenue downtown.

“Right now they’re saying [legalization] is going to be a couple years,” Larsen said of Ottawa’s plans for marijuana. “I’m not going to sit idly by.”

The federal Liberal government is expected to introduce legislation this spring to legalize sale of recreational and prescription marijuana.

But Larsen estimates it will take until at least the fall before it becomes law. Then the provinces will have to decide their own regulations.

That will kick legalization down the road to 2019, he said, just in time for another federal election.

“What happens if Trudeau loses the election before it’s legalized?” Larsen asked.

He said his goal is to allow unlimited personal growing, what he acknowledges is a libertarian ideal not likely to be embraced by government any time soon.

Among topics Larsen will discuss tonight is advice on opening a marijuana dispensary.

Entrepreneurs in Kamloops, emboldened by lack of enforcement by the city or RCMP, have set up at least six clinics, most of them in the last year.

Those clinics are nominally required to provide for medical use, with buyers needing to produce a doctor’s note or get marijuana through a nurse provided by the clinic, for example.

More recently, however, shops have stripped any pretence to requiring medical proof.

Last summer, the Vancouver Dispensary Society, where Larsen is a director, dropped any medical requirements and will sell pot to any adult with ID. Larsen said that laissez faire attitude is now common in the dispensary industry.

He predicts the dispensaries and producers who sell to them operating under the former rules won’t be going anywhere once legalization comes to pass.

The federal Liberals are expected to pass laws that would restrict production to licensed producers, such as Canopy Growth Corp. or Organigram — both large publicly traded companies with multi-million dollars in funding behind them.

Larsen believes the current system will sell alongside the officially sanctioned one as court battles sort it out over a number of years.

“I don’t want to carry cannabis for Tweed (subsidiary of Canopy Growth),” he said. “I don’t believe in those companies or their system.”
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by papapuff » Fri Mar 10, 2017 2:50 pm

March 10,2017

Law legalizing marijuana to be introduced this spring, Blair says during Durham visit

Oshawa This Week
By Jeff Mitchell

DURHAM — Legislation to legalize marijuana will be introduced in the House of Commons this spring, the government’s point man on the file confirmed during a visit to Durham Region Friday.

“We’re going to keep our promise,” Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice, said. “But we’re committed to taking the time to do it right.”

Blair met March 10 at Durham Region headquarters with local politicians, first responders, public health workers and others as part of a consultative process that’s taken him across the country. The roundtable format allowed local representatives to hear about the government’s progress with legalization, and also to voice their concerns, he said.

“I think their perspective is a really important one and a really valuable one in making sure the regulations and the controls that we put in place are workable at the local level,” said Blair. “All three levels of government have a responsibility here, and working together collaboratively is the way to get this thing done.”

Central to the government’s rationale for legalization is regulation of a substance that is widely used by Canadians, to encourage “healthful and responsible” use and to wrest control of distribution from criminals, Blair said. The former Toronto police chief said he’s particularly concerned about young people accessing pot, something the current regime of prohibition is failing to prevent.

“The current system is not particularly effective in keeping this drug away from our kids. And it has in many respects created opportunities for the criminal element to profit enormously,” said Blair. “By taking away the profit from organized crime we believe we can make communities safer. Through control of production and distribution, we can do a better job of restricting youth access.”

Blair noted that until legislation is passed, police will continue to target storefront dispensaries. Durham police raided shops in Oshawa and Whitby last summer, laying charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking.

And even after legalization occurs, distribution will be tightly restricted, he said.

“The law is crystal clear on this. We’re not talking about legalizing the activity that’s taking place in those dispensaries. We’re talking about it being distributed through a licensed, regulated regime, not by criminal profiteers,” he said. “What they’re doing isn’t going to be legalized.”

In attendance Friday was Marko Ivancicevic, an Oshawa-based marijuana advocate who provides consulting services for medical cannabis users. He said that while Blair’s efforts to consult with Canadians are laudable, he’s concerned they may not be gathering input from everyone with a stake in the issue.

“They need to get the perspective of everybody that’s going to be affected,” he said. “I think there needs to be a more fulsome discussion with medical marijuana patients and people who have been part of the industry.”

Ivancicevic said that with legalization pending, police should implement alternatives to charging people with simple possession.

“Resources and finances are wasted on simple possession,” he said. “I think that has to stop.”
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by papapuff » Tue Mar 14, 2017 10:38 am

Edmonton to close zoning loopholes for cannabis lounges and pot shops


Published on: March 14, 2017

Edmonton moved to close loopholes in the zoning bylaw Tuesday to ensure marijuana sales can’t happen in corner stores and residential neighbourhoods.

The zoning changes will also specifically ban toking in pubs, a move city planners called “preventative maintenance” to prepare Edmonton for the coming legalization of recreational marijuana use.

“So operations aren’t able to legitimize blended uses,” said senior planner Colton Kirsop at council’s executive committee. He recommended other zoning changes and smoking bans be delayed until the federal rules are clear so council debate doesn’t “get lost in the weeds.”

Ottawa is expected in June to introduce legislation regarding recreational marijuana, with legalization to follow in 2019. Based on task force recommendations, it appears it will also legalize cannabis lounges, but ban drinking and smoking there, say city staff.

The federal government would also regulate the personal production of marijuana, likely to four plants per site, said staff. In addition, it has moved from the term and spelling marihuana to cannabis. Edmonton is will now using the term cannabis for its bylaw.

Les Hagen with Action on Smoking and Health argued at committee for any stiff zoning regulations to also be applied to tobacco sales, since they are causing more health problems. His concern is increased marijuana use will “re-normalize” smoking.

Councillors debated whether enforcement costs could be recovered through high business licensing fees. But that’s still unclear.

“We don’t want to be stuck with ridiculous costs on this,” said Coun. Michael Oshry, before committee approved the report, sending the basic zoning changes to a public hearing.

Zoning changes

The proposed zoning changes would specifically prohibit the sale and consumption of cannabis in bars, neighbourhood pubs, nightclubs and private clubs. It would prohibit the sale of cannabis from convenience stores and general retail stores, and prohibit the sale, production or shipping of cannabis as a home-based business.

The changes would also prohibit an area zoned for a greenhouse, garden centre or nursery from being used to grow cannabis. That would only be permitted, if licensed by Health Canada, in areas zoned for urban indoor or outdoor farm, rural or non-commercial farm or urban garden.

The Health Canada licence prohibits production beside a school, playground or other place frequented by children.

Edmonton’s zoning regulations would allow a Health Canada licensed production and distribution facility in any areas zoned for general industrial use.

City officials say any further zoning changes should wait until the federal rules around recreational use become more clear. The federal task force has suggested anyone growing cannabis for personal use should be limited to four plants, which city officials say shouldn’t need further municipal regulations.

What are other cities doing?

Calgary: A medical marijuana counselling centre where counselling is done by people who are not medical professionals must be located 150 metres from a school and 300 metres from any other centres.

Toronto: Marijuana production facilities must be 70 meters from a home, institution, school, place of worship or daycare.

Vancouver: Compassion clubs and medical marijuana retail stores must be 300 metres from a school, community centre or residence, 300 metres from another marijuana facility. Facilities are also banned from areas with vulnerable populations such as the Downtown Eastside.

Victoria: Any medical marijuana-related business including bakeries or shops must be 200 metres from a school and 200 metres from another related business. Hours of operation are limited to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and there are limits on advertising, a prohibition on using the drug on site, and other security precautions.
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