What a bunch of dopes

Gov’t made a mess of pot le­gal­iza­tion

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - Liz BRAUN

TORONTO — Ter­ri­ble dope short­ages haunt the land. Il­le­gal deal­ers push their shoddy wares on the un­sus­pect­ing. Oh, the hor­ror! Etc.

Once all the var­i­ous lev­els of gov­ern­ment have fin­ished blam­ing one an­other for the stalled launch of le­gal cannabis, here’s what’s left:

1) Many dis­grun­tled vets of the il­le­gal in­dus­try who have been shut out by a greedy gov­ern­ment.

2) Mean­ing­less po­lice raids and new dra­co­nian laws.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent ar­ti­cle in The Wash­ing­ton Post,a poll done at the end of 2018 showed that one-third of cannabis users in Canada were still buy­ing from an il­le­gal dealer.

The same ar­ti­cle has spe­cial­ists sug­gest­ing that the gov­ern­ment’s need to con­trol ev­ery­thing can only have bad re­sults. Why ex­clude small grow­ers and peo­ple who’ve worked in the black mar­ket in­dus­try for years when of­fi­cials could have used their ex­pe­ri­ence, their ex­per­tise ... and their cannabis sup­ply?

Brock Univer­sity’s Dan Mal­leck, an ex­pert in drug and al­co­hol reg­u­la­tion, says the gov­ern­ment “should have cre­ated a mech­a­nism that al­lowed il­le­gal pro­duc­ers to move quickly into the le­gal pro­duc­ing sys­tem.”

All that il­licit herb would have come with them. That would have helped any cannabis short­age.

As for the on­go­ing po­lice raids and crack­downs, those are point­less. Mark Kleiman, a New York Univer­sity pro­fes­sor and ex­pert on cannabis le­gal­iza­tion, tells The Wash­ing­ton Post you can’t drive out the shadow in­dus­try un­til “le­gal sup­plies match mar­ket de­mand.”

And that’s a long way off. Spec­u­la­tion is 18 months to two years be­fore there’s enough le­gal pot to go around.

That’s why Toronto will only get five new le­gal shops courtesy the bizarre and Kafkaesque pro­vin­cial lot­tery.

Ac­cord­ing to the Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion web­site, the num­bers are just a tem­po­rary cap “while cannabis sup­ply sta­bi­lizes.”

So what about this much-pub­li­cized cannabis short­age?

In­sid­ers are unan­i­mous that it’s a myth. There’s no short­age. There’s just gov­ern­ment bungling.

Var­i­ous bu­reau­cratic bot­tle­necks have gummed up the works. For ex­am­ple, in­de­pen­dent, third-party test­ing for cannabis qual­ity is a good idea — but there aren’t enough labs to do that test­ing quickly enough. Prod­uct gets stalled.

All the gov­ern­ment checks and bal­ances have cre­ated a de­lay.

That’s one story. An­other story is that li­censed pro­duc­ers are very busy get­ting very rich sell­ing cannabis to other coun­tries. Why bother to fill Cana­dian gov­ern­ment shops when there’s so much more money to be made else­where?

Ac­cord­ing to eq­uity.guru, Cana­di­ans can sell med­i­cal cannabis for $10.50 a gram to Ger­many — the same prod­uct that sells for $3 to $4 to a pro­vin­cial dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre in Canada.

Any­one can do that math.

Med­i­cal mar­i­juana users will be the big losers in the “pot short­age.”

The recre­ational mar­ket in­volves more money and less has­sle and has the po­ten­tial to drain the med­i­cal mar­ket. Says one in­sider: “Cannabis pa­tients are a lot more trou­ble and ef­fort than recre­ational users who just want to get high.”

Well-known cannabis lawyer Paul Lewin claims the med­i­cal mar­i­juana sys­tem is plagued with prob­lems.

For starters, you can legally only get med­i­cal mar­i­juana on­line. And when you do, you don’t speak to a med­i­cal per­son. You speak to a cus­tomer ser­vice rep at one of the big cannabis com­pa­nies.

“Just as if you were buy­ing a lamp,” quips Lewin. “You should be speak­ing to a phar­ma­cist who can make sug­ges­tions or dis­cuss con­traindi­ca­tions.”

Then there’s all the wait­ing. Some­one who uses cannabis on an as-needs ba­sis could place an or­der and then wait days for it to come in the mail, says Lewin.

“And you have to be wait­ing at home to re­ceive it when it ar­rives. And what if you live in a shared fa­cil­ity? Why don’t they have phar­ma­cies han­dling this? The med­i­cal side is an ab­so­lute fail­ure.”

EVEN MORE BAD NEWS

“It’s a mess on ev­ery level.” That’s pot ac­tivist Jodie Emery weigh­ing in by phone from Bri­tish Co­lum­bia. Emery is one of many voices claim­ing that there is no short­age of cannabis in Canada. She’s closed her shops in Van­cou­ver and laid off 50 peo­ple, be­cause B.C. is shut­ting all the dis­pen­saries— even though le­gal prod­uct is scarce and no oils or ed­i­bles are avail­able from the gov­ern­ment.

Just more un­happy news for users of med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

Af­ter years of fight­ing for le­gal­iza­tion, Emery says she and her hus­band Marc did not have great ex­pec­ta­tions. “We knew gov­ern­ment would mess up le­gal­iza­tion, but we had no idea how badly they would mess it up.”

It’s as if it were in­ten­tional ...

“It starts to feel as if it’s all by de­sign. Peo­ple say the gov­ern­ment is mak­ing mis­takes, but I don’t think so," she adds.

"It’s more like they’re mak­ing sure the cannabis crim­i­nal­iza­tion busi­ness — po­lice, politi­cians and ev­ery­one in­volved in crack­ing down on cannabis — get more money, more laws, more power to go af­ter peo­ple. It con­tin­ues to re­ward and ben­e­fit the pro­hi­bi­tion­ists and the crim­i­nal­iza­tion regime. And it con­tin­ues to re­ward the big busi­ness oper­a­tions who are friends with the gov­ern­ment.

“And it con­tin­ues to pun­ish the ac­tivist and the pro­hi­bi­tion vic­tims and ev­ery­one else who thought they’d have some lib­er­a­tion un­der le­gal­iza­tion.”

Pot dis­pen­saries are be­ing closed down in Van­cou­ver even as the city em­barks on a pi­lot project to give hy­dro­mor­phone to opi­oid ad­dicts.

It’s an over­dose pre­ven­tion strategy.

As Emery points out, there are umpteen med­i­cal stud­ies prov­ing cannabis is an ef­fec­tive tool in ame­lio­rat­ing with­drawal and de­creas­ing re­lapse like­li­hood for opi­oid ad­dicts in treat­ment.

“I’m all for harm re­duc­tion,” says Emery, “but it’s in­sane that the city will al­low peo­ple to ac­cess hard drugs that kill, but refuse to let us have the safe al­ter­na­tive.”

She doubts gov­ern­ment will ever ad­mit they blun­dered be­cause peo­ple might won­der what else the gov­ern­ment got wrong.

“And that’s what gov­ern­ment fears the most! It’s not even about cannabis, it’s about ques­tion­ing author­ity.

Go­ing back to the ’60s, and the orig­i­nal Nixon crack­down, it’s all be­cause cannabis it­self en­cour­ages peo­ple to ques­tion author­ity."

cp files

Hey, where’d you get that? Some­how, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has made a to­tal hash — par­don the pun — on the whole le­gal pot thing.

DAN Mal­leck Ex­pert

JODIE EMERY Pot ac­tivist

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