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Opponents of marijuana legalization warned of pot-laced Halloween candy. It never happened.

The fears were used as an argument against legalization. But they proved to be bogus.

By 

After Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012 and began sales in 2014, opponents warned of a spooky but unwanted outcome that Halloween: marijuana-laced candy. As opponents put it at the time, deviants would take advantage of the state’s lax cannabis laws to give trick-or-treaters pot-laced candy without their knowledge.

USA Today reported in 2014, “Marijuana-infused candy raises Colo. Halloween concerns.” Denver police put out a video telling parents how to watch out for marijuana-laced candy. Anti-legalization activist Kevin Sabet echoed the concerns, tweeting a news story about marijuana-laced candy in Maryland (though law enforcement said there was no evidence the candy was destined for trick-or-treaters).

So here’s the good news: This never happened. Not even once, based on the available evidence.

I reviewed media reports surrounding Halloween and contacted police departments, hospital networks, and poison centers in Colorado and Washington state, the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, to see if there had been any incidents of someone slipping marijuana candy to a trick-or-treater. None of them were aware of any such cases.

 

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Crusade launched in Richmond to postpone marijuana legalization

Meanwhile, City of Richmond is concerned over regulatory framework for weed legalization

Daisy Xiong – Richmond News – Oct 19, 2017

Legalized recreational marijuana is coming to Richmond, but the city’s not ready, according to a new group led by Coun. Chak Au.

The “2018 Marijuana Legalization Concern Group” has asked the federal government to postpone or suspend the July, 2018 deadline for pot legalization until all regulations are in place.

“Once the gate of legalization is opened, it cannot be reverted back,” said Au at the group’s press conference held Oct. 13.

“We need to work together now to prevent the social problems that may be caused by legalization later.”

The group has listed more than 20 requirements for the three tiers of government to meet before legalization, and encourages Richmond residents to fill out the provincial marijuana online survey, which closes Nov. 1.

An online petition has also been launched to delay legalization, and has gathered 3,000 signatures to date.

“We hope for everyone to pay attention to this issue,” said Au.

“Marijuana legalization is not far away from you and I… You may not consume or grow it, but your neighbours may do so, and your kids’ classmates may access it and bring it to school.”

The group’s requirements include increasing the minimum age to 21, prohibiting personal cultivation at home and banning marijuana products in the form of food and drink.

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Alaska communities weigh marijuana bans 3 years after legalization

Alaska communities weigh marijuana bans 3 years after legalization

By: The Associated Press – CBC News – Oct. 2, 2017

Alaska marijuana grower Mike Emers has been losing sleep with a vote fast approaching that he says could shutter his family’s business and financially ruin them.

The statewide initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in 2014 allows local governments to ban pot businesses within their borders. And on Tuesday, voters in two of Alaska’s major marijuana-growing areas — including the Fairbanks area, where Emers operates Rosie Creek Farm — will decide whether to do so.

If the proposed bans on marijuana growing, manufacturing, selling and testing are successful, several dozen businesses would be forced to close. And, some in the industry worry, besides creating a bottleneck in the cannabis supply chain, it could embolden other communities to pursue bans or cause state lawmakers to look at whether to roll back legalization.

“I think this is a pivotal moment for the course we’re setting here,” said Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska
Marijuana Industry Association. Carrigan said he felt good about the work the industry has put in to fight the bans but wouldn’t hazard a guess as to how the votes might go.

Emers, who turned to growing cannabis after financially struggling as an organic fruit and vegetable farmer, understood the risks when he poured his life savings into the business. While the vote is legally allowed, “on a moral basis, it’s disingenuous,” he said.

“To have the rug pulled out from under us once the ball is rolling seems incredibly unfair,” he said.

The opt-out provision for local governments isn’t unique to Alaska, but it’s unusual to see it exercised so long after a
legalization vote, said Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel with the national, pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

Following Oregon’s 2014 legalization vote, there was a rush by rural communities in the eastern part of that state to enact bans, he said.

In Colorado, at least 69 communities have embraced marijuana businesses, most along the heavily populated Front Range, in Rocky Mountain resort areas or near borders with neighbouring states. More than twice as many have opted out, according to the Colorado Municipal League.

However, some communities that banned the drug in legal pot states have revisited the decision in light of tax revenues from sales. For example, the City Council in Yakima, Washington, last year lifted a ban on recreational pot businesses.

Supporters of the proposed bans in and around Fairbanks, the largest city in Alaska’s Interior with about 32,000 people, and in rural parts of the Kenai Peninsula Borough initially hoped to bring the issue to voters last fall but failed to meet deadlines to do so.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is about 104 kilometres southwest of Anchorage.

‘Voters have a right to decide’

Ban supporters contend it is one thing to support legalization statewide but another to support it in your community.

“The voters have a right to decide important questions like this, and when they get ignored and the neighbourhoods aren’t being protected by their local government, whose job it is to do that, someone needs to step up and say, ‘Listen, this is wrong, and we need to fix it,”‘ said James Ostlind, chairman of the initiative group supporting bans in Fairbanks and surrounding unincorporated communities.

Ostlind and others cite frustration with local zoning rules they see as too lax and allowing marijuana businesses near homes.

Christine Nelson, director of community planning for the Fairbanks North Star Borough, which encompasses the city and nearby communities, said much of the borough is zoned as general use, allowing for nearly any type of use. Many subdivisions and neighbourhoods have gone up in these zones, creating a rub when other types of property owners want to come in, she said.

Local officials have encouraged homeowners in general use areas who don’t want legal pot farms or retail shops nearby to petition to have their areas rezoned as residential, a designation that restricts cannabis businesses. The trick, though, is getting enough homeowners to sign on, since some may have bought their property because they could use it for a range of purposes and don’t want to lose that, Nelson said.

Tight vote expected

Lance Roberts, a member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough assembly who supports the Fairbanks-area bans, expects a large voter turnout and a tight vote.

Many of the communities that have barred or limited pot businesses in Alaska so far are smaller or fairly conservative, such as North Pole, just outside Fairbanks, and Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla.

Blaine Gilman, a leading voice in the effort to bar marijuana businesses in parts of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, does not believe the commercialization of pot has been good for the community. He cites health concerns and fears it could lead to use of harder drugs, issues the industry has challenged.

‘This is the last dying throes of prohibition,’ says Leif Abel, co-owner of the cannabis cultivation facility Greatland Ganja and a former member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Marijuana Task Force. (Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion/The Associated Press)

Gilman, a former borough assembly member, said that during the debate over legalization, marijuana advocates, as part of their pitch, made clear that communities would have the right to opt out.

But, “when people try to opt out, there is a huge reaction,” he said.

Leif Abel, whose Greatland Ganja growing operation based in the peninsula town of Kasilof would be affected, said if the measures succeed, they could have a chilling effect on the industry and “embolden the prohibitionist stance.”

He feels confident in the industry’s efforts to defeat the measure on the peninsula and said he’s as calm as he can be about it.

“This is the last dying throes of prohibition,” he said, adding later: “Even if some of these folks don’t admit it to themselves … the real reason that they still want to prohibit marijuana is they don’t want to accept a certain segment of society in the mainstream.”

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Sarnia mayor wants Justin Trudeau to clear criminal records for marijuana possession

Sarnia mayor wants Justin Trudeau to clear criminal records for marijuana possession

By Paul Morden – Sarnia Observer – 

SARNIA — Sarnia’s mayor wants the federal government to eliminate the criminal records of Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana after recreational use of the drug becomes legal next July.

Mike Bradley sent a letter Monday asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to give “serious consideration” to expunging records for simple possession once marijuana is decriminalized in Canada in July.

“Over the years I’ve had a number of people tell me about the difficulties they’ve had in their lives because of a simple possession conviction,” Bradley said.

His request is for the federal government to only consider clearing criminal records for simple possession, and not more serious charges such as trafficking, he said.

Currently, convictions for simple possession can go back decades and prevent Canadians from visiting the U.S., Bradley said.

They are often people who have no other convictions and who have lived lives that have contributed to the country, the mayor said in his letter.

“It seems to me that after next July 1 it’s not against the law, but people have paid a penalty, and in some cases a significant” one, he said.

“Times change and public attitudes have changed,” he said.

“I see it here as almost hypocritical if we de-criminalize and at the same time leave these people with this lasting legacy.”

Bradley said criminal records for simple marijuana possession can impact Canadians’ ability to get jobs and to travel.

“I’m also aware that the Americans don’t always honour our pardons, but to me I think it would help a lot of people,” he said.

Longtime London defence lawyer Gord Cudmore says he has a “mixed reaction” to Bradley’s suggestion.

“I think it’s a very complicated issue. And I think there’s arguments on both sides,” he said.

“You usually don’t back-date or make things retroactive (in the criminal-justice system),” he added.

Cudmore believes marijuana should have been legalized years ago. He also points out that expunging criminal records isn’t as easy as just saying it should be done.

“I think it would (take a lot of effort)” to clear every Canadian who has been convicted of simple possession.

And he’s seeing “less and less” simple-possession charges coming before the courts as next summer approaches.

Paul Whitehead, a retired Western University sociologist who specializes in criminology and addictions, is “not crazy” about decriminalization.

He says what should be taken into account is the number of individuals who plead down to simple possession from more serious charges, such as possession for the purposes of trafficking.

“Our court system depends on 90 per cent of people charged pleading guilty,” Whitehead said. “Whole lots of convictions for simple possessions were plea-negotiated from possession for the purposes of trafficking.”

“I think it’s important to keep in mind how (the simple-possession conviction) got there,” he added.

However, he doesn’t buy the argument that clearing all of those possession charges would be a difficult thing to do. “It’s done all the time. They’re expunged or sealed” or the formerly guilty party receives a pardon, he said.

Whitehead is against the Liberal legislation for “public-health” reasons.

“It’s impossible to increase the availability and acceptability (of pot) for normal, healthy adults without increasing the acceptability and availabiltiy for children and adolescents,” he said.

Now that the federal and provincial governments have said how decriminalization of marijuana will be implemented on July 1, the timing is right to consider those left with criminal records because of the current laws, Bradley said.

Bradley said the federal government has the legislative power to expunge those criminal records.

He said individuals with records are already dealing with changes by the previous federal government that have made receiving a criminal pardon in Canada more difficult and time-consuming.

“I’ve heard of cases of three to five years to get a pardon on a simple possession,” Bradley said.

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Globe editorial: Why marijuana prohibition failed, and how legalization can succeed

Globe editorial: Why marijuana prohibition failed, and how legalization can succeed

By: Globe & Mail Editorial – Sept. 22, 2017

Why is Canada legalizing marijuana, and why does the move – if done right – make sense? It’s all about harm reduction.

Smoking marijuana has real health risks, particularly for young people. But the long-standing ban on the sale of pot isn’t addressing them. The drug is widely available and widely used; according to the OECD, Canada has the developed world’s highest rate of youth pot use. Prohibition’s only real accomplishment is as an unintended industrial strategy, fostering a multibillion-dollar black market.

The federal government is ending the criminal ban on pot, but almost everything that happens after that is up to the provinces. Each has to strike a difficult balance: making pot available legally and widely, thereby pushing out the black market, while simultaneously creating a framework for discouraging the use and abuse of the drug, especially among teenagers and young adults.

From coast to coast, each province is likely to handle legalization differently, and that’s a good thing. One of federalism’s benefits is it lets the country run parallel experiments, so voters and governments can discover what works best. The province that wins this game is the one that shifts the most pot sales from the street to the legal market – while simultaneously leading the country in lowering marijuana use among young people.

It won’t be easy, but it is possible. Two products with which governments have a lot of experience point the way: Alcohol and tobacco are the models for harm reduction.

Decades ago, alcohol prohibition was dropped in favour of legal sales. That happened because, despite the dangers of drink, outlawing booze gave rise to new and larger harms. Prohibition was a utopian approach: It aimed at harm-eradication, but delivered harm-multiplication. It has been replaced by a more realistic attempt at reducing harm through legalization, regulation and education.

With the end of prohibition, organized crime left the booze business. And while alcohol abuse remains a major health problem, its dangers have been gradually reduced. For example, the rate of drunk driving in Canada has fallen by more than two-thirds since 1989.

It’s a similar story with cigarettes. Tobacco is addictive and smoking is terrible for human health, yet adults can buy cigarettes at any corner store. To discourage smoking, Canada uses a combination of taxation, regulation, stigmatization and education. In 1965, fully 50 per cent of Canadians were smokers, according to Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. By 2011, despite the widespread availability of cigarettes, the rate had fallen to just 17 per cent. In stark contrast to pot use, Canada has the developed world’s lowest rate of youth smoking, according to the OECD.

The harms from tobacco and alcohol have not been eliminated, because that’s not a realistic goal. But they have been reduced, while further reductions are always being sought.

Reasonable people can debate whether recreational marijuana is as bad as drinking and smoking. But it’s pretty clear that it has downsides for human health, particularly when the humans in question are children or young adults. Research shows that those most at risk from marijuana use are under the age of 25, because their brains are still developing.

Yet according to Statistics Canada, teens and young adults are more likely than those over 25 to have used marijuana in the past year.

Canada’s experience with alcohol and tobacco suggest that, if done right, marijuana legalization has a shot at improving the situation – cutting organized crime out of the equation, leading to a more law-abiding society, and, through regulation and education rather than prohibition, less use and less abuse.

Last week, Ontario announced its blueprint for doing just that. It’s better than prohibition, but it’s also flawed, and not what other provinces should copy.

Once the federal government fully legalizes recreational marijuana on July 1, 2018, the legal age to purchase it in Ontario will be 19 – the same as alcohol.

The scores of pot “dispensaries” that have recently sprouted up will still be illegal. Ditto for “that guy” who sells in your neighbourhood. The only legal seller of recreational marijuana in the province will be the government-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The government says the price of pot will be low enough to compete with the black market, thereby snuffing out illegal sales.

The big flaw in Ontario’s plan is this: The LCBO, one of the world’s largest buyers and sellers of alcohol, won’t be allowed to take full advantage of its enormous reach. Marijuana won’t be sold in any of its existing 660 stores. Instead, the LCBO is going to set up a separate, and much smaller, retail marijuana operation.

It will offer online sales and home delivery, but when legalization arrives next summer, the LCBO’s new pot arm will have just 40 stores open, rising to 150 by 2020. That’s a much smaller footprint than the province’s various illegal retailers. And that’s a problem.

Legalization aims at getting rid of the black market, and replacing it with clean and legal sources of supply. But by so limiting the number of legal places to buy pot, Ontario risks helping the illegal market remain very much in demand. Allowing LCBO liquor stores to sell pot, or licensing and regulating even larger numbers of private retailers, as is done with beer and alcohol in some provinces, and with thousands of private stores selling tobacco, is a better approach.

Ontario is also restricting where marijuana can be smoked, with limits more stringent than those on tobacco smoking. The new right to use marijuana can’t involve imposing second-hand smoke or other dangers on your fellow citizens – hence a ban on pot use in a car, similar to the long-standing ban on open alcohol.

Most other provinces have yet to release their legalization plans. They should carefully study what Ontario is doing, and improve on it.

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Health Canada to launch new campaign warning youth about risks of cannabis use

Health Canada to launch new campaign warning youth about risks of cannabis use

Program to include events being hosted across the country beginning December 2017

By Stephanie Taylor – CBC News – Sep 24, 2017

Health Canada is planning to launch a new awareness campaign aimed at warning minors and young adults about the risks of using cannabis in the lead up to the drug becoming legal.

A public tender indicates Ottawa is looking for a contractor with creative talent to host a series of events across the country to bring together young people to talk about the risks of smoking marijuana.

Under the proposed Cannabis Act or B-C45, possession and consumption of recreational pot will become legal in Canada on July 1, 2018. The federal government has set the minimum legal age at 18, but provinces can decide to increase the age restriction, as some health officials recommend.

Along with its plan to legalize pot, the federal government has committed to introducing new measures to keep cannabis out of the hands of minors and set aside $9.6 million in this year’s budget for public education about the risks of cannabis use with a focus on young people.

“Canadians need to be educated about the use of cannabis in order to mitigate its potential risks and harms. They generally view cannabis use as socially acceptable, but are ill-informed about the health and safety risks; this is especially true for youth,” the tender reads.

“To get ready for and to support the new system, public awareness and education are critical to ensuring that Canadians, especially youth, are well-informed about the health and safety risks of cannabis use and about current laws.”

A spokesperson from Health Canada declined to comment, saying the public tender has not yet closed.

A number of organizations have lobbied the federal government to protect teens from gaining access to recreational pot once it becomes legal next July. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Target audiences 13-17, 18-24

The campaign’s messaging will target teens aged 13-17 and young adults 18-24, as well as their parents and teachers.

It will focus on driving home messages such as, “like alcohol, cannabis is not without risks,” and “the younger cannabis use starts and the more it is used, the higher the health risks”

Meanwhile, parents and older adults will be encouraged to talk to teens about cannabis use.

Concerts could be venues to talk about pot

The document outlines how Health Canada is asking for two educational campaigns — one aimed at minors, the other young adults.

The marketing will be done through a series of events, like concerts, to be hosted across the country, where information about the health and safety risks will be delivered to youth.

According to the tender, it will be up to the contractor to book venues and find ways to entice young people to attend, possibly through social media or contests.

Events would run from December until March 2019.

Youth at higher risk of harm from cannabis, says research

Dr. Amy Porath, of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction, says cannabis remains the drug of choice for Canadians aged 15-24 and young people in Canada have some of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world.

In a presentation to the federal government’s health committee on the Cannabis Act, Porath, the centre’s director of research and policy, called for a comprehensive public education campaign for young people before the recreational use of cannabis is legalized.

She also said teens face greater health risks from ingesting cannabis than adults because of their brains are still developing.

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Marijuana wellness centre granted business licence

Marijuana wellness centre granted business licence

By: Mark Nielsen – Prince George Citizen – Sept. 19, 2017

What police have called an “illegal storefront business” continues to operate but minus a key aspect.

The city granted WeeMedical a business licence on Sept. 13, two days after the chain agreed with a court order prohibiting it from dispensing marijuana.

The Third Avenue downtown store was the subject of an RCMP raid in early August. Police seized a “considerable amount” of marijuana and cannabis-infused food as well as other items in support of charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Two people were also arrested and later released on promises to appear in court on Oct. 11.

Two weeks after the police action, the city filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court in Prince George seeking the order.

In part, it noted that while Ottawa intends to decriminalize or legalize the possession, sale and distribution of marijuana, it continues to be prohibited under federal law.

And pursuant to the its business licence bylaw, the city “does not permit the operation of an illegal business, including the sale and distribution of marijuana and marijuana-based products.”

WeeMedical will still be able to operate as a “wellness centre” under the order’s terms. For “greater clarity” it’s noted that nothing in the order prohibits WeeMedical from selling such smoking-related products as bongs, pipes and rolling papers.

It can also sell memberships in the WeeMedical Society and provide “consulting, educational or advocacy services related to the use of medical marijuana as an alternative source of medicine.”

In light of the order, store manager Ken St. Denis said the outlet offers advice on obtaining a permit for medical marijuana and on users’ rights and sells cannabidiol or marijuana-based products that hold medicinal value but lack the compound that produces the high.

It has not been the first time WeeMedical has been the subject of such an action from a municipality, nor will it be the last. On Friday, Quesnel filed a similar petition in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver alleging a WeeMedical outlet on the community had been operating without a business licence.

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Chris Selley: Ontarians got the marijuana retail system they deserve

Chris Selley: Ontarians got the marijuana retail system they deserve

A maximum of 150 government-owned storefronts across this vast province will be the only legal physical retail environment

By: Chris Selley – National Post – Sept. 17, 2017

“Thanks, Ontario government, for taking the fun out of legal weed.” “Pot legalization is already a mess.” “Marijuana mess ensures black market will survive.” “Ontario announces it will make buying pot difficult.” If Canadian marijuana enthusiasts have read recent headlines — and especially if they live in Ontario — two hard truths may finally be dawning on them.

One: when the federal government said it envisioned legalization as a temperance measure — a way to keep it away from kids, a way to regulate the supply and content of weed; not a way to make life easier for users — it was serious. Hence: plain packaging, draconian penalties for illegal use or production, no retail edibles, no decriminalization pending legalization, no amnesty or pardons for those convicted under current laws.

Ontario, which announced its proposed retail framework on Sept. 8, certainly took that message to heart.

“We will not permit products to be visible,” Finance Minister Charles Sousa memorably vowed — so it’ll be like buying cigarettes, except the packages won’t even have branding on them. No “vaping lounges” or other public use will be permitted. A maximum of 150 government-owned storefronts across this vast province will be the only legal physical retail environment, and the government will run the mail order arm as well.

Two: it is at least entirely possible, if not highly likely, that marijuana will not be legal on July 1, 2018, as the Liberals had promised.

The basic pitch they made to change-averse Canadians in 2015, which they have been very consistent on ever since, is that legalization will be safer and healthier than prohibition. To avoid any whiff of recklessness, they need certain groups on board with the legalization date — notably the police.

The police are not on board with the legalization date. “It’s impossible,” Rick Barnum, deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police told a House of Commons committee last week. Clearly not arresting people is harder than laymen might think.

Now, I’ve taken my own digs at both the federal regime and the one Ontario designed to fit within it. The latter, in particular, is ridiculous; I don’t recall encountering an objection to it that I don’t share (though in the end I think legalization, however clumsy, will be an improvement). What neither regime is, and should not have been to anyone, is surprising. And many Ontarians in particular have themselves, at least partially, to blame.

For nearly 15 years, I and other free-market lunatics have been trying to impress upon Ontarians just how insane our liquor retail system is. Yet we still hear the same ludicrous arguments in its favour. “The LCBO makes tons of money for the province.” (Alberta makes tons of money from liquor sales too, without owning a single store.) “Public employees can be trusted to keep booze out of children’s hands.” (The Beer Store isn’t public. Nor are the scores of privately run “agency stores” in rural areas across Ontario.) “The LCBO provides good jobs.” (Not to real product-experts it doesn’t — they would be far better off in a free-market jurisdiction. And if the government’s role is to make good retail jobs, why not nationalize groceries?) “LCBO stores are pleasant. Liquor stores in the U.S. are gross.” (Nope! You’re just going to the wrong liquor stores.)

You either support consumer choice or you don’t. Ontario doesn’t, and that will never change until tipplers and tokers take up arms together

This hopeless mess is the foundation for Ontario’s new marijuana plan — and we’re hearing the same arguments in its favour. Last week, two columnists in the Toronto Star and one in the Globe and Mail spoke approvingly of the fact it would create “good unionized jobs.” The two Star columnists also mentioned the money that would accrue to the treasury.

“I’m fine with the profits going to the public purse instead of private businesspeople,” wrote one.

“Why wouldn’t the government seek to maximize revenues in the same way that it profits from alcohol and tobacco sales?” asked the other.

Even after all these years, it makes me want to tear my hair out: for the love of heaven, the “high-paying jobs” motive and the “profit” motive are at odds with each other. You cannot claim both as priorities. One way or the other, the government will take its cut on marijuana sales. The overhead costs of running its own stores, paying its own employees government wages, will simply eat into that cut.

If you can live with Ontario’s liquor situation, but you think your favourite budtender should be able to get a government licence to keep her “dispensary” up and running after legalization kicks in, my sympathy is non-existent. You either support consumer choice or you don’t. Ontario doesn’t, and that will never change until tipplers and tokers take up arms together.

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COMMENTARY: Ontario and the no good, horrible, very bad marijuana plan

COMMENTARY: Ontario and the no good, horrible, very bad marijuana plan

By: Rob Breakenridge – Global News – Sept. 16, 2017

I’d have great difficulty thinking of questions to which the answer is “create a government monopoly,” but certainly “how should we legalize marijuana?” would not be one of them.

It may well be that legalization in any form is still preferable to our prohibition status quo, but Ontario’s plan to create government-run stores under the auspices of the bureaucracy known as the LCBO is probably about as bad a plan as one could conceive.

For one, it’s a rather costly scheme, both in terms of the creation of a whole new level of bureaucracy and infrastructure, and the forthcoming effort to shut down dozens upon dozens of marijuana dispensaries.

Ontario Attorney-General Yasir Naqvi says the plan will help them accomplish one of their goals, which is to “stop the sale of illegal, unregulated and unsafe cannabis.” However, this is not the purpose of legalization, nor does it follow that a government monopoly is a necessary requirement to achieving such outcomes.

The point of legalization is to stop punishing consenting adults, to keep marijuana out of the hands of kids, and to eliminate the black market. Not only does Ontario’s plan do little to achieve any of those ends, it may, in fact, prove to be counterproductive, in particular when it comes to the black market.

In Ontario’s case, it would be relatively simple and straightforward to licence and regulate the existing marijuana retail structure, also known as dispensaries. With the stroke of a pen, they would no longer be illegal or unregulated — checking off two of the Ontario government’s three boxes. And once we have licensed and regulated suppliers and retailers, there’s no reason to fear “unsafe” cannabis.

What matters are the regulations — number and location of stores, hours of operation, not selling to minors, etc. — not whether the store itself is union-run and government operated. It’s hard to see how anyone benefits from this scheme other than the government itself and its public sector unions.

We seem to be forgetting that we’ve got the experience of legalization in Colorado and Washington state to draw upon. Neither of those jurisdictions established anything like what Ontario is proposing nor has the experience there offered any reason whatsoever to think that a government monopoly is needed.

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Canada Marijuana Legalization: Police Services Ask Feds To Postpone July 2018 Start Date

Canada Marijuana Legalization: Police Services Ask Feds To Postpone July 2018 Start Date

By: Huffington Post – Sept. 13, 2017

OTTAWA — Canada’s police services say there is zero chance they will be ready to enforce new laws for legalized pot by next summer.

Officials from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Ontario Provincial Police and the Saskatoon Police Service are among dozens of witnesses testifying to the House of Commons health committee this week as it studies the government’s bill to legalize marijuana.

They said Tuesday they need more time to properly train officers about the new laws and more than double the number of police officers who are certified to conduct roadside drug impaired driving testing. There also needs to be more time for public education, the police said.​

​​​​​​​​​​If the government doesn’t postpone the start date there will be a window of six months to a year when police aren’t fully ready, which will allow organized crime to flourish, said OPP deputy commissioner for investigations and organized crime Rick Barnum.

The police also want Ottawa to reconsider allowing individuals to grow up to four of their own marijuana plants because it will be difficult and expensive to enforce and provide an additional way for young people to get access to pot.

“Why do you need home grows when we’re going to have a good system to access marijuana legally?” asked Barnum.

Barnum said the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police officially wrote to the government this week to request a delay in implementation. The Liberals have pledged pot will be legal in Canada by the summer of 2018.

While legalization of recreational pot will lighten their workload — there were 16,000 charges laid for simple possession in 2016 — police said it brings a whole host of other problems, including an expected rise in complaints about neighbours owning pot plants, suspected grow-ops, and robberies and home invasions.

The police request for a delay comes after Canada’s premiers warned the federal government in June that they may not be ready with provincial laws and regulations to accompany the federal bill by next summer. Thus far the government has not changed course.

While Ottawa’s bill sets 18 as the minimum age for using legal marijuana, provinces can choose to make that age higher if they want. They also have to determine how and where legal pot will be sold.

The Ontario government last week announced its intention to open up to 150 provincial pot stores managed by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, as well as an online pot depot option. Ontario also set the minimum age for pot use at 19 to match the legal drinking age in the province.

Barnum said the Ontario plan seems good to police because it will ensure anyone selling pot is properly regulated and subjected to thorough background checks.

The cops said organized crime is a serious problem in the medical marijuana system in Canada. While there is no way to eliminate it in the recreational market, they said if the laws are introduced slowly and with proper time to implement, there is a chance to reduce organized crime’s involvement somewhat.

Barnum estimated police will need six to eight months from the time all legislation at the provincial and federal level is in place before they will be fully ready to enforce the new laws.

‘Made-for-Canadian policing’ solution needed

The police say they also need more time and money to train officers to recognize and handle drug-impaired drivers.

The International Drug Evaluation and Classification Program is only offered in the United States currently, and takes more than a week of course work and a field evaluation supervised by a trained officer.

Barnum said currently there are just 83 OPP officers who have the drug-impaired driving recognition training, and the force estimates it will need at least 400 to 500 with the training to properly enforce the law.

Nationally, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police estimates there need to be at least 2,000 officers with the training, up from about 600 now.

“We need a made-for-Canadian policing solution to this and we need to bring that training here if we’re going to train them as quickly as possible,” said Mike Serr, deputy chief of the Abbotsford Police Department and co-chair of the association’s drug advisory committee.

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Legalizing marijuana won’t shut down black market: RCMP official

Legalizing marijuana won’t shut down black market: RCMP official

By: Maura Forrest – National Post – Sept. 11, 2017

Colorado, where marijuana was legalized in 2014, has been ‘slowly displacing organized crime year over year,’ an official said. Representatives from Colorado and Washington state will address the committee on Tuesday

It would be “naïve” to think that marijuana legalization will shut down the black market for the drug, an RCMP official stated during the first day of the House of Commons health committee’s study of the federal cannabis bill.

There are a number of issues that will need to be addressed to fight organized crime, including the possibility that the black market could undercut legal marijuana sales, Joanne Crampton, RCMP assistant commissioner of federal policing criminal operations, told the committee Monday morning.

As for the odds of eliminating the black market through legalization — it would be “naïve to think that that could happen,” she said in answer to a question from Liberal MP John Oliver.

The Trudeau government tabled its bill to legalize marijuana in April, promising that pot will be legal by July 2018. The legislation is being scrutinized before the House of Commons resumes on Sept. 18.

Anne McLellan, who led the federal task force on legalizing marijuana, told the committee that pricing will be key to the success of the legal market, but said that Washington state hasn’t seen an increase in marijuana use among young people since legalization.

Kathy Thompson, an assistant deputy minister in the Department of Public Safety, said it will take “some time” and a “robust regime” for legal marijuana to overtake the black market. She said the government will need to meet the demand for legal pot, and that pricing will be “very important.”

Colorado, where marijuana was legalized in 2014, has been “slowly displacing organized crime year over year,” Thompson claimed. Representatives from Colorado and Washington state will address the House committee on Tuesday.

Thompson also pointed to the federal government’s announcement of $274 million for pot-related policing and border enforcement on Friday, which she said will “ensure that (the RCMP and CBSA) have an intelligence-led approach to tackling and targeting organized crime.”

In answer to a question from NDP MP Don Davies, Thompson indicated the government will not consider a streamlined process for pardoning those who’ve been recently convicted of pot possession.

Statistics Canada data shows that 17,733 people were charged with possession of marijuana in 2016, equal to 76 per cent of all cannabis-related charges.

Currently, Canadians must wait at least five years after completing their sentence to apply for a pardon, and must pay a $631 fee to the Parole Board of Canada.

During a forum with VICE Canada in April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would “take steps to look at what we can do for those folks who have criminal records for something that would no longer be criminal.”

But on Monday, Thompson said the government has “no plans at this time to introduce an automatic pardon.”

Many of the specifics around pot legalization have been left to the provinces to hammer out.

On Friday, Ontario unveiled its plan for legal marijuana, which would restrict the sale to 150 government-run stores opened throughout the province by 2020. Ontario also opted to set the minimum legal age for recreational consumption at 19, while the federal minimum age is 18.

Some questions have been raised about whether the provinces could effectively prohibit legal marijuana use by hiking the minimum age or decreasing the personal possession limit to zero.

But Diane Labelle, general counsel for Health Canada legal services, said it’s unlikely that would fly, because it would run counter to the federal law. “Then a court challenge could look at the situation and see to what extent Parliament’s law has been frustrated,” she said.

Davies also raised concerns about the fact that edible marijuana products aren’t covered by this bill, saying that edibles make up a growing portion of Canada’s marijuana market.

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Ottawa signals it won’t step in as provinces devise marijuana regulations

Ottawa signals it won’t step in as provinces devise marijuana regulations

By: Sept. 10, 2017

OTTAWA—The federal government appears ready to take a hands-off approach as provinces begin rolling out how they plan to police the sale and use of marijuana once it becomes legal.

Ontario last week became the first province to unveil its plans for handling legalized pot by announcing that it would closely mimic the province’s current system for liquor.

Marijuana will be sold at 150 dedicated stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, it will only be sold by those aged 19 or over, and consumption will only be allowed in private residences.

The proposal has sparked anger and concern from some pot activists and aspiring retailers, who have warned that Ontario’s proposed model will limit supplies and do little to eliminate the black market.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale refused to weigh in Sunday on Ontario’s proposed plan, and indicated that the federal government would stay out of how provinces address marijuana legalization.

“Each province has the flexibility to design it the way they think most appropriate. Ontario has laid out their proposal. That’s within their jurisdiction to do,” he said.

“Other provinces, I would imagine now, will come forward with their recommendations. They may follow the Ontario model. They may choose a different approach.”

Goodale, who spoke to reporters following a ceremony to honour fallen firefighters in Ottawa, reaffirmed that the purpose of legalization is to keep pot away from minors and organized crime.

And he expressed confidence that whatever model individual provinces decide to adopt, those aims will be met.

“Each province will adopt different tools as they see fit for their jurisdiction,” Goodale said.

“But there is no diluting of the goal: protect our kids and stop the flow to crime. And Ontario, I’m sure, will be designing that they believe will accomplish that objective effectively.”

The Trudeau government is moving to legalize recreational marijuana by next July, and earmarked $247 million over five years on Friday to support policing and border efforts associated with that plan.

Goodale said the money is part of the Liberals’ promise to ensure provinces, municipalities and law-enforcement agencies have the tools and resources to enforce the new laws governing legalized pot.

“Law enforcement will need the tools to do that job, so we put money on the table as promised to assist with training and to assist with the acquisition of the right kind of technical equipment,” he said.

The promised new funding includes $161 million to train front line officers in how to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired driving, provide access to drug-screening devices and educate the public.

Some of that money will also be used to develop policy, bolster research and raise awareness about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.

The remaining $113 million will go to Public Safety, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to ensure organized crime does not infiltrate the legalized system and to keep pot from crossing borders.

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Cannabis advocates critical of Ontario’s plan to sell legal pot

Cannabis advocates critical of Ontario’s plan to sell legal pot

By: Maija Kappler – The Canadian Press – Sept. 11, 2017

TORONTO — Clients and advocates of storefront dispensaries say buying marijuana exclusively from stores regulated by Ontario’s provincial government will mean fewer options for medicinal users, little progress on eliminating the black market, and worse weed.

On Friday, Ontario became the first province to announce its plan for the sale and distribution of legalized marijuana. It will be sold through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and regulated similarly to how the province sells alcohol. Users must be over the age of 19, and are prohibited from consuming pot outside of private residences. The province will open 40 stores by next summer, when marijuana is legalized, and has said it will continue to crack down on illicit dispensaries, which will continue to be illegal.

“At first I was pretty happy that they had a plan,” says Peter Thurley, who uses marijuana to reduce his consumption of opioids, which he was prescribed to help him manage the pain from a burst bowel. “But I quickly came to realize that that the plan as it’s laid out is essentially a full government monopoly.”

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has said the province won’t act punitively, and will not criminally charge underage users caught with small amounts of marijuana.

But Thurley says he’s suspicious of that aim, given the federal government’s announcement Friday that they will spend upward of $274 million on enforcement.

“The government is talking about a public health approach on one hand, while the reality is, this was always going to be about government enforcement,” he says.

Leu Grant, who volunteers at Canna Connoisseurs in Toronto, agrees. Closing down community dispensaries and asking users to purchase weed from the government isn’t in the interest of consumers, she says.

“I think it’s very important to think about who this is benefiting,” she says. “It’s not really for accessibility of people who are sick.”

Grant says the regulation prohibiting the public consumption of marijuana signifies that the province isn’t prioritizing medicinal users. “A person who needs their medicine, and it happens to be marijuana, why can’t they take their medicine in a park?” she says.

“I would like to ask them why we’re allowed to smoke toxic cigarettes and drink alcohol in public, but not receive medicine,” says Sonya Serafin, another volunteer at Canna Connoisseurs.

Connoisseurs dispenses marijuana only to prescription holders, and Grant says she sees people every day who benefit from the knowledge of the dispensary’s staff. Putting experienced workers out of a job and training new employees about marijuana is counterproductive, she says.

“How much does the government really know about growing?” she says. “The people who know the most about the growing, and the plant, and how to care for it, are people who have been criminalized. So now what we’re left with is people who don’t know anything, in suits, and they’re the ones who are benefiting.”

Thurley says she would like someone behind the counter who is knowledgeable about marijuana.

“It doesn’t make sense to bring in a whole host of new hires and set the system out in such a way that people who actually know about cannabis are excluded from the conversation.”

An inferior product could have significant repercussions, Grant says, because dissatisfaction with the government-sanctioned product could fuel more interest in black-market pot.

The price of pot could have similar consequences. The government hasn’t yet said how they plan to price or tax marijuana. “If they don’t make it cheap enough, then people are still going to be buying on the street,” says Serafin. “Is this really going to be helping?”

Because only 40 stores in the province will be open by next year, lack of accessibility will also be a deterrent for some users, Thurley says. If legal weed is both harder and more expensive to purchase, users are more likely to buy illegally.

“Most of (the new stores) will be in the GTA,” he says. “Imagine the kid from Huron County. Are they going to travel an hour and a half to Kitchener or London to pick up legal cannabis? Or are they going to go to the dealer that they’ve always gone to down the street?”

The government has said it will sell marijuana online to people who don’t live near major cities, but that’s still less convenient than a neighbourhood pot dealer, Thurley says.

He adds he would like to the see the government spend more money on cannabis research than on enforcement.

“There are so many opportunities here for the provincial government to do it right,” he says. “I would urge them that there’s no shame in pulling back and saying, you know what, we got this wrong.”

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‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’ Aurora Cannabis weeding out global competition

‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’ Aurora Cannabis weeding out global competition

By: Omar Mosleh – Metro News Edmonton – Sept. 4, 2017

Forget about maple syrup and poutine, there’s a new product from the Great White North slated to hit the world market: Canadian cannabis.

Aurora Sky, the 800,000-square-foot marijuana production facility near Edmonton International Airport, has had about 80 per cent of its glass greenhouses erected, with six of their 17 planned growing bays completed.

Aurora Cannabis, the parent company, currently has a roughly 55,000-square-foot facility in Mountain View County. Each one of the growing bays at Aurora Sky will be bigger the entire growing space of their current operation. The company says it’s the world’s largest cannabis production facility.

But what the company’s executive vice president, Cam Battley, is most excited about is how Canada is slated to be a world leader in the medicinal cannabis industry.

“I’ve spent my whole career in biotech and farm and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Battley said. “We are literally inventing a new industry in real time.”

One of the reasons Canada is set to be a world leader in selling medicinal cannabis is because of the reputation Health Canada has built for quality control.

“Because Canada has these established and licensed producers, that are so highly and successfully regulated by Health Canada, we’re trusted internationally,” Battley said.

But more importantly, pending legalization gives Canada a big advantage over its bigger neighbour the United States. Even though several states have legalized marijuana, it’s still illegal federally, which prevents states from growing marijuana in their home state and selling it abroad.

It also prevents them from accessing capital from the big banks.

Meanwhile, Aurora is already looking to get into the German market through their German-based subsidiary Pedanios.

“We are actually in the tender process right now to become a German domestic supplier.” Battley said.

Aurora Sky will be a high-tech operation – the greenhouses are a Dutch closed-system design which gives precision over temperature, light, humidity and nutrients for the plants.

“This is not only going to be the world’s largest capacity cannabis production facility, but also the most advanced and high tech in the world,” Battley said.

No humans will be entering the greenhouses – the plans will be retrieved by robotic cranes in order to reduce any risk of contamination. The cranes also have cameras tied to software to identify if the plants are experiencing any signs of stress.

“We are using technologies here that have never been used in agriculture,” Battley said.

Aurora Sky is expected to reach full capacity by late 2018. The company will also be selling to the consumer market once legalization occurs.

As it stands, the only country presenting any kind of competition on the world scale for Canadian cannabis is the Netherlands. That’s something Battley is feeling good about.

“There’s a patriotic aspect to this that I feel very strongly about … Canada is by the far the leader in it.”

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Provinces will bear burden of legalized marijuana

Provinces will bear burden of legalized marijuana

The federal government is making marijuana legal, but the provinces will wind up tackling the most complex public policy decisions.

By: Malcolm Bird – Policy Options – Sept. 4, 2017

The Trudeau government is set on legalizing marijuana by the summer of 2018. While it will enjoy the political payoff of appearing progressive on this file, all of the associated problems and logistics of legalizing pot will fall on the shoulders of the provincial governments.

There are strong correlations between how a recreational drug or other indulgence, such as gambling, is made available to the public, the propensity for individuals to indulge in it and the negative health and social outcomes associated with its use. So how we legalize marijuana matters.

Canadian provincial governments might want to draw lessons from the last time an illegal substance was legalized — alcohol — following its prohibition in the late 1920s, as well as noting insights from the current public health efforts to eliminate tobacco use. For starters, it might make sense to make acquiring recreational marijuana somewhat difficult, by restricting where it can be sold, and reasonably expensive, by controlling the price and taxing it.

All provincial governments (except Alberta, which eliminated its liquor board) should consider selling recreational (but not medicinal) marijuana only in government liquor stores, because they have the secure infrastructure in place to deal with a drug with narcotic properties. They also have well-trained and professional staff and secure logistical facilities to ensure it is distributed in a socially responsible manner. Using government liquor stores will eliminate the potentially enormous political problem of licensing dispensaries and determining where (and when) they will be permitted to open and operate. It will also eliminate the possibility of organized criminal elements establishing and operating dispensaries.

Most critically, provincial governments should control not only the retail side of marijuana sales but the wholesale side as well. They should sell recreational marijuana as a “store brand” in plain packaging and offer only a few different types. This approach will prevent manufacturers from developing specific brands of pot and promoting them through advertising campaigns.

Store brands are more profitable for retailers, largely because the retailers gain more control over manufacturing and cut out supplier middlemen. As the sole wholesaler in a province, a provincial liquor board will be able to drive hard bargains with manufacturers and return gains from its strong bargaining position to public coffers.

Governments must also impose significant taxes on marijuana. But taxes will not bring in significant net revenues because governments must also cover the costs associated with the use and misuse of marijuana. Overall government revenues from the sale of pot will be limited given the decline in pot prices over the last 25 years: a gram of pot in the 1990s cost $15, while a gram today costs less than $10 on the illegal market.

Contrary to popular belief, the legalization of marijuana will require an increase in law enforcement efforts to stamp out the black market. When government liquor commissions took over alcohol distribution, bootleggers had to be eliminated so that they would not undercut either the state’s monopoly on sales or its ability to control how alcohol was sold and consumed.

Policies and techniques will need to be developed to allow the police to determine which pot has been legally procured and which has not. Since federal legislation will permit individual Canadians to grow their own marijuana plants at home, verifying legally procured marijuana will be considerably more difficult.

Provinces should be wary about offering edible pot for sale. Ingesting marijuana substantially increases its potency. Edible pot is often sold in the form of products attractive to children such as brownies and gummi bears, substantially increasing the potential for accidental consumption — including by children. If provinces do decide to sell edibles, they should offer only one type with an established dosage amount so users are well aware of how much marijuana they are ingesting.

Governments should consider setting the minimum age for purchase at 21, as recommended by many medical practitioners. In order to limit consumption and normalization of its use, there should be no advertising or promotion of marijuana.

I make these suggestions as a way for provincial governments to make the best of a very difficult situation. Legal access might very well increase the consumption of marijuana as well as the associated costs of dealing with its effects on individuals. Like many issues in Canadian federalism, this is a classic case where the federal government is wholly detached from the reality of implementing its policy and from the real costs associated with it.

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Oregon Governor, State Police Chief Stand Up For Recreational Marijuana

By Andrew Selsky – OPB News

Oregon’s governor and the head of the state police defended the state’s legal marijuana industry in letters to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been hinting at a crackdown on states such as Oregon that have legalized cannabis in defiance of federal law.

Gov. Kate Brown noted Tuesday in her letter that Sessions’ earlier letter to her referenced a draft report from the Oregon State Police that concluded a lot of Oregon’s marijuana was being diverted to other states.

Brown and Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton said that draft report was invalid and had incorrect data and conclusions.

– Read the entire article at OPB News.

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