Den­ver is reap­ing se­ri­ous eco­nomic re­wards, Mon­te­v­ideo is a case in what not to do, and Van­cou­ver is the Wild West. So, what is next for Toronto? by Ben Ka­plan

Bayview Post - - Contents -

How four cities are cop­ing and cre­at­ing with cannabis plus the ‘Ap­ple store of pot’

Canada is go­ing to be the first G7 coun­try to le­gal­ize cannabis, but we’re part of a global phe­nom­e­non. On Oct. 17, Toronto will have le­gal­ized weed avail­able on­line only. In April, the dis­pen­sary model be­gins, al­though it is hard to tell if that means li­cences will go to places such as Shop­pers Drug Mart or if in­de­pen­dent busi­nesses will be able to get cre­ative.

By look­ing into what other cities are do­ing, we catch a glimpse of what could hap­pen in Toronto. Den­ver

On Jan. 1, 2014, Den­ver be­came the first Amer­i­can city to le­gal­ize cannabis. Since then, it has seen tourism, liquor and restau­rant sales in­crease with lit­tle to no im­pact on crime rates.

“[Den­ver is] the mecca of cannabis busi­ness and re­spon­si­bil­ity,” said Terry Lake, VP of Hexo, the cannabis com­pany mak­ing in­fused beer for Mol­son Coors. “With their mil­lions and mil­lions in cannabis tax rev­enue, Den­ver funds schools and so­cial ser­vices — early adopters equal early suc­cess.”

In the Colorado cap­i­tal, there are 518 pri­vately owned dis­pen­saries, where users present an over-21 ID to buy weed.

There are high-end in­de­pen­dent and chain re­tail shops such as Cal­i­for­nia-based Medmen, which ri­val Ap­ple with their gleam­ing store­fronts.

The com­pany was founded in 2010 by An­drew Modlin and Adam Bier­man and op­er­ates in three states.

Work on cross-bor­der ex­pan­sion to Canada has been un­der­way since 2015.

Den­ver’s 2018 An­nual Mar­i­juana Re­port high­lights that re­tail mar­i­juana sales are up 29 per cent, while mar­i­juana-re­lated crime sits at 0.3 per cent of over­all crime.

“This new re­port demon­strates Den­ver’s co-or­di­nated ap­proach be­tween mul­ti­ple agen­cies to man­age mar­i­juana is work­ing,” said Den­ver mayor, Michael B. Hancock.

“We took on the daunt­ing chal­lenge of be­com­ing the first ma­jor city in Amer­ica to man­age le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana, and we are hav­ing suc­cess.”

In 2017, across Colorado, pot sales reached US$1.5 bil­lion.

Ear­lier this year, Den­ver is­sued its first Cannabis Con­sump­tion Es­tab­lish­ment li­cence to the Cof­fee Joint, a cof­fee shop with a pri­vate room for mar­i­juana con­sump­tion.

Al­though no smok­ing is al­lowed in­doors, pa­trons are free to va­por­ize, dab or con­sume ed­i­bles. Am­s­ter­dam

It is hard to talk about cannabis con­sump­tion in cities with­out men­tion­ing Am­s­ter­dam, the Nether­lands, leg­endary for its “cof­fee shops.”

Es­ti­mates are that be­tween 25 and 30 per cent of tourists vis­it­ing Am­s­ter­dam fre­quent cof­fee shops to smoke cannabis; how­ever, strictly speak­ing it is de­crim­i­nal­ized, not le­gal.

There are 173 “cof­fee shops” in Am­s­ter­dam, of the more than 500 in the Nether­lands, where it is le­gal to con­sume and pa­trons are usu­ally of­fered a menu of avail­able joints. But the num­ber of shops is shrink­ing fast. Al­co­hol isn’t sold in the shops. The most re­cent anal­y­sis from Am­s­ter­dam states that cannabis puts 400 mil­lion euros into state rev­enues.

It is a widely held be­lief that Canada might see sim­i­lar op­er­a­tions by 2020, but Am­s­ter­dam is far from per­fect.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate through Mon­te­v­ideo

On the other side of the le­gal­iza­tion spec­trum is Mon­te­v­ideo, Uruguay, where the cannabis roll­out is seen as a case study in what not to do.

In the city of 1.3 mil­lion, there are just 16 phar­ma­cies au­tho­rized to sell cannabis and more than 3,000 peo­ple des­ig­nated as “per­sonal grow­ers.”

There is not much, since prices are capped at $1.40 per gram, with 90 per cent of that go­ing back to the grower. There are an es­ti­mated 147,000 peo­ple be­tween the ages of 18 and 65 who con­sume cannabis, in­clud­ing about a third who use it weekly. But Phar­ma­cies are fre­quently out of stock, and users must be reg­is­tered with the gov­ern­ment.

“Uruguay has not had a very so­phis­ti­cated roll­out, and the phar­macy sys­tem, where you’re tracked by the gov­ern­ment, is not seen as a model that will be adapted around the world — Canada’s model will do more,” said Lake. Van­cou­ver

Al­though nowhere near the num­bers of Den­ver, or through­out Cal­i­for­nia, Van­cou­ver is seen as the un­of­fi­cial head­quar­ters of Canada’s cannabis rev­o­lu­tion.

This Bri­tish Columbia city may have the most so­phis­ti­cated cannabis sys­tem in the coun­try, which de­vel­oped in­de­pen­dently of the fed­eral le­gal­iza­tion time­line.

The city cur­rently has 46 dis­pen­saries with city-is­sued per­mits. Af­ter Oct. 17, Van­cou­ver, and all of Bri­tish Columbia, will op­er­ate the way On­tario is headed with a mix of pub­lic and pri­vate dis­pen­saries.

“The cannabis cul­ture in Van­cou­ver is very ad­vanced,” said Lake. “The cur­rent il­le­gal dis­pen­saries have been tol­er­ated (and many li­censed by the city), and many are on par in terms of so­phis­ti­ca­tion as any you will find. Some of these will ap­ply for le­gal li­cences and will likely set the stan­dard for oth­ers.”

Will Toronto end up with a bu­reau­cratic, clunky sys­tem such as Uruguay’s, or a more grownup ver­sion like they have in Den­ver, where rev­enues are sky high with min­i­mal im­pact on crime?

As long as it’s not buck-a-joint, should be OK.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate through Am­s­ter­dam’s sys­tem, and it is com­pli­cated to get the sup­ply.”

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