Jeremy Jacob: Cannabis legalization in Canada is about much more than the plant

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      There is an ugly trend that exists in society today, and it is affecting all of us. Revenue from natural resources, industry, agriculture, and more, is increasingly being leveraged away from the average Canadian and into the bank accounts of the wealthiest among us.

      Our legislators must now decide if they will take the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry in the same direction, or if they will allow entrepreneurship and a world-renowned industry to continue growing and maturing, as it has been doing for decades.

      Under Canada’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations—created by the former Conservative government—15 of 27 producer licences (56 percent) have been awarded to business based in Ontario. This is a radical reshaping of the industry.

      Historically, an estimated 70 percent of Canada’s cannabis production has been located in British Columbia. The cannabis industry—small-scale production, processing, and retail—is a significant part of B.C.’s economy.

      B.C.’s cannabis industry has operated for decades and is considered a low priority for law enforcement due to the peaceful nature of the majority of operators, and the low harm it places on society. Creativity, vision, inspiration, care for others—these are the motivators for many of B.C.’s cannabis entrepreneurs. There is a strong precedent from multiple jurisdictions to allow business continuity during the transition from prohibition to legalization. Clearly, this approach also nurtures local economies and allows small-business people and their employees excellent opportunities in a new business landscape.

      Recently, premiers of B.C., was well as Ontario and Manitoba, came out in support of a liquor store and pharmacy monopoly over cannabis distribution.

      It certainly seems that government and big business are maneuvering to divide the spoils of a newly legalized industry.

      One wonders if Premier Christy Clark recognizes the significance of this to B.C.'s economy.

      If pharmacies and liquor control boards are given a monopoly over cannabis, the culture of dispensaries—the preferred source of cannabis for both medical and recreational cannabis—will disappear. Some of Vancouver's dispensaries are among the best in the world and are currently going through a municipal licensing process.

      Legalizing cannabis is a significant chapter in Canada’s history, our economy, and our society. There are real risks to local economies, and west coast culture, in creating regulations that dismantle an existing industry.

      The right to grow, the right to process, the right to choose your medicine and your supplier, must be ensured. Significant research on the medical properties of cannabis must be undertaken. Education, de-stigmatization, and awareness must continue and increase.

      Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals campaigned effectively on protecting the middle class and reducing the income gap, and to legalize cannabis.

      Legalized cannabis could make it possible for many small business people and their very specialized staff to thrive. Alternatively, giving recreational marijuana to the liquor industry could leave us out in the cold, particularly here in B.C., while giving corporations, some of them global, the ability to consolidate trading tickets and amass ever-greater fortunes.

      Jeremy Jacob is a director of the Village Dispensary in Vancouver, B.C. The Village Dispensary is a CAMCD Trade Member. 

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