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Canada is now less than two months away from allowing the legal purchase and consumption of cannabis by adults who choose to use it for recreational purposes.
Prohibition has failed, with close to 20 percent of our population consuming cannabis in some form each year. As a society, we aren’t legalizing cannabis just because it’s popular, or because cannabis has a lower risk of harm than legal products such as tobacco or alcohol.
We’re doing it because we’ve collectively decided that the harmful side effects of prohibition damage our society far more than the legalization and regulation of cannabis ever could. These side effects include the cross-subsidization of organized crime and ready access to illegal cannabis by children.
Today, in the illegal marketplace, there are criminal groups involved in aspects of the illicit supply chain. These criminal groups use the profits from the sale of illegal cannabis to subsidize nefarious activities such as extortion, human trafficking, and other forms of violence in our communities.
These are the same people who knowingly put recreational cannabis into the hands of kids — something we as a country and a society recognize as harmful.
By choosing to legalize the cultivation and sale of cannabis to adults, we’re dealing a significant blow to organized crime by cutting off this income stream. Even better, we’re making it far more difficult for children to access cannabis through the strict regulation and enforcement of cannabis sales.
Legalization carries some side effects as well — all of them positive.
While this core objective of keeping cannabis away from kids and profits away from organized crime drove the policy decisions that brought the Cannabis Act to life, we’ve found that legalization carries some side effects as well — all of them positive.
Firstly, we’ve seen the birth of an economic miracle that has seen hundreds of millions of dollars invested into building secure, quality-controlled growing environments in towns and cities across this great country. In most cases, these facilities have grown in the places that needed them the most — communities that had lost an anchor industry. New legal cannabis production facilities are creating, and, more importantly, sustaining good local jobs.
Secondly, by approaching the regulation of cannabis with caution, we’re ensuring that the cannabis produced in Canada only ends up in the hands of adults who choose to consume it. We’re accomplishing this by building our licensing and production regime on the solid foundation of the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), which have not seen one gram of cannabis diverted by a regulated commercial provider since the program’s inception and have successfully kept shady characters out of the industry.
Thirdly, the legalization of cannabis is offering hope and opportunity to citizens who might not otherwise have it. While organized crime plays a role in the illicit supply chain, many people who work on the frontlines in grey market dispensaries or who are cannabis activists are otherwise law-abiding citizens — who, simply put, are passionate about the product. The creation of a legal marketplace allows these people to potentially do what they love, in a legal and ethical way, as long as they follow the rules and immediately cease any illegal activities.
The key to us collectively enjoying the benefits of these positive side effects is a strong legal cannabis cultivation industry combined with a robust and highly-regulated retail network. Nowhere is this more true than in my home province of Ontario.
When Premier Doug Ford announced on Aug. 13th, 2018 that his government would allow the private sector to play a role in the retail sale of cannabis through the ownership of brick and mortar stores, his government adopted a common-sense approach that takes advantage of the private sector’s ability to deploy capital rapidly and take risks, and the government’s strength in regulation and enforcement.
The key to us collectively enjoying the benefits of these positive side effects is a strong legal cannabis cultivation industry.
Moreover, the premier opened a path to more rapidly build up the retail network needed to combat the illegal market.
With 62 licensed producers in Ontario, who have experience and proven track records of regulatory compliance, we believe that we can playa positive role in helping Ontario develop a responsible and effective retail network.
By allowing legal cannabis companies to have their own stores (within reasonable concentration limits, as is the case in Alberta), including at the point of production which can be supplied by the Crown distributor, we can rapidly scale up a diverse and competitive retail environment that will play a foundational role in migrating illicit consumers to a legal marketplace.
This approach would build upon the best work already done by other provinces regarding the regulation of retail cannabis sales, create more wealth and sustainable jobs for our citizens, and most importantly, help keep recreational cannabis away from kids and profits away from organized crime.
Allan Rewak, Executive Director, Cannabis Council of Canada