Standing Committee on Health cancels presentation from group representing craft cannabis sector

President Ian Dawkins says abrupt cancellation of Cannabis Commerce Association's presentation is "unusual"

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      Due process has begun for Bill C-45 at the House of Commons, where the Standing Committee on Health is currently hearing from witnesses expressing their views on the federal government's proposed legislation for cannabis legalization.

      Hearings began early this morning and will continue each day this week, with a conclusion set for Friday evening. In total, the Committee will hear from over 90 different speakers.

      While the federal government can be commended for setting aside an entire week to hear from witnesses representing an array of organizations and businesses, the president of one local group isn't sure why, with just days before his scheduled appearance, the Committee notified him to say that he would no longer be speaking at the hearing.

      In an email dated September 7, Ian Dawkins, president of the Cannabis Commerce Association of Canada (CCAC), was told by a member of the Committee that "for scheduling reasons", they were no longer able to accommodate his appearance.

      While they did offer to pay for any expenses Dawkins may have incurred, they did not provide him with an explanation as to why CCAC was removed from the schedule. 

      To the knowledge of the Straight and of Dawkins, no other witnesses have been removed from the hearing schedule in this way.

      "Cancelling someone's appearance two days before they're supposed to appear and not offering a reason why, or not offering to reschedule, is odd," Dakwins told the Straight by phone earlier today.

      "I would say it's unusual—but not without precedent."

      Dawkins, a founding board member of CCAC, has lobbied on behalf of the craft cannabis sector at the municipal, provincial and federal levels since 2015, but has worked in government relations and business policy for more than a decade.

      Effectively a trade association for craft cannabis producers and retailers, CCAC represents participants in they grey market who want to be included in regulation. He wonders if a "misunderstanding" of what the association does led to the cancellation.

      "We certainly represent what they [the government] would consider the black market side of the equation. Some of our members work without ACMPR licensing, or operate in cities without licensing programs—so the government might think, 'these people are bad'—but what we represent is the bulk of what the businesses are in California and Colorado," he said. "They're storefront dispensaries, and craft growers."

      Dawkins said he's troubled by the Committee's abrupt email. 

      "I would expect there to be a better explanation," he said. "What we do is not scary. We don't represent organized crime in any capacity and we have strict criteria for our members."

      CCAC's cancellation came just two days before the Ontario government announced that it planned to shut down all illicit cannabis dispensaries in favour of government-operated retail shops. Some of those dispensaries are members of CCAC.

      "I don't see why Ontario's announcement would impact who the federal Health Committee brings in for expert testimony, since they are supposed to be two separate governments with different mandates. That Committee is supposed to represent all Canadians, not just Ontario, and I would be surprised to say the least if it turned out Ontario was dictating the terms for Ottawa," Dawkins said when asked whether Ontario's plan might have had something to do with the cancellation.

      "The job of the Health Committee is to hear testimony from all relevant stakeholders and experts, and make the best recommendations they can on behalf of all Canadians. That includes existing craft cannabis businesses in B.C., who currently employ tens of thousands of Canadians, and they deserve a chance to be heard and to make their case."

      "I certainly still hope we will have an opportunity to testify before the Committee in the future."