Let’s Not Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water in Cannabis Biz Review
Since legalizing cannabis for recreational use in October of 2018, Canada has become the world’s testing ground and research lab for cannabis legislation and regulation, with governments around the world keeping a close eye on how the country’s fledgling cannabis sector evolves into a bona fide consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector making s meaningful economic and social contribution to the Canadian society.
With many of the world’s leading “rich” countries having already declared their intentions to liberalize their own existing prohibitive laws on cannabis possession and consumption in coming years, the last thing Canada needs is some kind of a regulatory rollback of the considerable progress many of Canada’s LP (licenced producer) companies have made to date in providing Canadians with safe and innovative cannabis products.
No more sketchy nickel and dime baggies filled with sticky skunkweed of dubious quality and efficacy being hustled by even sketchier street dealers hawking their wares at dark street corners or underground grow-ops.
No more fear, anxiety and paranoia of falling afoul of the law for slight transgressions involving a little marijuana enjoyment after a stressful day, with punishment usually exceeding the nature of the offence—a victimless crime if there ever was one—with disproportionately harsh punitive measures.
It’s worth noting that well more than half of Canadian cannabis users who used to get their marijuana from the black market have turned to legal cannabis producers for their needs, which is a highly encouraging trend insofar as driving the black market out of existence.
So while a federal review of the Cannabis Act’s impact on the Canadian society is not in itself a step backwards, there is a risk it could well become one if it draws the wrong conclusions or falls for the same old traditional prohibitionist rhetoric advocating a dramatic policy turnaround.
For an industry that was supposed to replenish the governments’ coffers with a whole new tax revenue stream, the amount of money spent by Ottawa to bombard consumers with cautionary advice and information about cannabis is staggering.
According to the federal government’s own figures, Ottawa will be spending, or mostly has spent, some $108.5 billion over six years (2017-2023) on various public education and awareness initiatives that include national advertising and social media awareness campaigns, along with various unspecified “collaboration projects” with provincial governments.
In addition, the government has authorized Health Canada to spend yet another $62.5 million over the same time period through its Substance Use and Abuse Program to provide educational resources to vulnerable groups that include youth and young people, indigenous populations, pregnant and breastfeeding women and older adults, along with healthcare professionals and Canadians in general.
It’s anyone’s guess how much the new legislative review process, led by the so-called independent Expert Panel, will cost, but another eight-number figure is definitely not out of the question by any stretch.
For an infant industry that is still trying to reach anything resembling reliable profitability and return on investment, such fiscal largess would seem a tad inappropriate at the very least.
Be that as it may, the government is adamant that its review of the Cannabis Act, specifically the seven key objectives specified in Section 7, are necessary to help:
- protect the health of youth by restricting their access to cannabis;
- protect youth and others from inducements to use cannabis;
- provide for the licit production of cannabis to reduce illegal activities in relation to cannabis;
- deter illegal activities through appropriate sanctions and enforcement measures;
- reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis;
- provide access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis;
- enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use.
All noble goals, no doubt, but only time, and money, will tell how it all turns out in the end for the industry, the public and the government itself.