‘In any other coun­try there would be a lot of bribery’

Calgary Herald - - NP -

On Oct. 17, recre­ational cannabis will be­come le­gal in Canada. This is the story of how we got here and what will hap­pen next, as re­counted by 15 gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try in­sid­ers who have watched the vast so­cial and eco­nomic pro­ject take shape. In­ter­views by The Na­tional Post’s Van­mala Subra­ma­niam, Ge­off Zochodne and Jake Ed­mis­ton have been con­densed for clar­ity

THE ROAD TO ROYAL AS­SENT

The le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational cannabis was a con­spic­u­ous and con­tro­ver­sial part of Justin Trudeau’s cam­paign plat­form dur­ing the 2015 elec­tion, and once in of­fice, he wasted lit­tle time in task­ing for­mer Toronto po­lice chief Bill Blair with mak­ing the prom­ise a leg­isla­tive re­al­ity. But putting an end to nearly a cen­tury of pot pro­hi­bi­tion, and com­ing up with a reg­u­la­tory frame­work to gov­ern the drug, was no sim­ple mat­ter. Bill C-45, The Cannabis Act, was in­tro­duced on April 13, 2017, and ul­ti­mately passed in June of this year, but not be­fore a tense fi­nal vote in the Se­nate threat­ened to de­lay le­gal­iza­tion in­def­i­nitely.

Bill Blair, Lib­eral MP I re­tire and I’m ap­proached by Justin Trudeau who comes and speaks to me. We met in Scar­bor­ough. He and I went and sat alone in a restau­rant and talked for nearly three hours. We talked about a lot of dif­fer­ent things but among the things we talked about was cannabis pol­icy and that strict reg­u­la­tory ap­proach as op­posed to an in­ef­fec­tive crim­i­nal sanc­tion. We found, very quickly, com­mon ground. About a month af­ter we formed gov­ern­ment, he reached out to me and asked if I would serve as par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary — to be the point per­son on this file.

Vic Neufeld, CEO of Aphria When you read the pulse of Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau and his plat­forms, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore recre­ational weed would come to the fore­front. Med­i­cal was a great be­gin­ning. It’s the DNA of Aphria. It was only a mat­ter of time for rec. The un­known back then was to what sort of de­gree it would be on a na­tional ba­sis. Would it be on­line only, would it be brick and mor­tar, would the prov­inces have full con­trol over their re­spec­tive ju­ris­dic­tions? A lot of un­knowns. Back then it was very sketchy and there was no clar­ity. To­day we know where ev­ery province is go­ing.

Bill Blair That was ac­tu­ally a pretty ex­cit­ing time, be­cause we were learn­ing a lot. I also be­came aware of how com­pli­cated this was. We were cre­at­ing a new com­modi­ties in­dus­try in Canada. There isn’t re­ally any model for how you cre­ate an in­dus­try like that, and so I reached out to the busi­ness schools, I went to other sim­i­lar in­dus­tries to ask them about their ex­pe­ri­ence with reg­u­la­tion.

Tony Dean, Sen­a­tor I’m a pol­icy guy by back­ground. This was a his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant piece of leg­is­la­tion that touched on so­cial pol­icy, jus­tice pol­icy, health pol­icy, in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal re­la­tions. It’s kind of a pol­icy wonk’s dream, right? It was big and com­plex and meaty.

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