Legalization Is Hard On My Neck

Counterintuitive. Unrealistic. Punitive. Exclusionary. Asinine. These are just some of the words being used with increased frequency since the announcement of the first legal cannabis regulations. Many of the reasons why are no surprise. It was no secret that a lot of money would be at stake, so an influx of opportunists and serious contenders was anything but surprising.

Some of the new laws were of little surprise, too, to be honest. Context is everything, so reading the proposed new laws with the understanding they were guided directly by a now MP, who was formerly a police chief, made some sense. Sense in respect to a police chief’s position, but not so much for an MP who is supposed to represent and serve based on the wants of a constituency. But, OK. Hey, it’s only a start; version 1.0. It is bound to improve.

From the outset, one of the primary concerns was identified by many as a major roadblock going forward: Price. There are untold thousands who man the black- and grey markets, having served millions of customers for decades with fair-priced, high-quality product. The black market is extremely good at giving the client base what they want. It is a simple ask: Good, clean cannabis.

The government position was clear: Elimination through enforcement. But what was it Albert Einstein said about repeating the same task yet expecting a different outcome? Clearly MPs are wearing blinders when it comes to just how entrenched the black market is in our society. Those many thousands of people who carry the black market have been in the civil disobedience business longer than most MPs have been MPs.

In a way, it is no surprise. Government tends to have a distorted view of the populace. Government tends to believe it can implement its will and we will simply obey. Well, Canadians are nice, but we aren’t stupid. Being herded like sheep is not high on the priority list for any thinking person.

So, “Yeah, yeah. The feds changed the rules. Who cares? I’m still gonna do what I’ve always done.” has been the position for many people. Understandably so. It was always clear the black market was never fully understood. Feds see organized crime, or at least that’s the talking point, but the truth is far simpler: The black market is our friends, family members, neighbours and coworkers. It comprises regular, everyday people who choose to not be sheep.

Hearing government officials parrot these misconceptions is one thing. The why of it is easily understood. The logic, or lack thereof, behind it is easily picked apart and oft chalked up as more government nonsense.

When we hear those with a financial stake in legal cannabis crying for increased arrests and black market clamp-downs, it is a beast of an entirely different colour. It rightfully creates anger and division. To call for police intervention to help compensate for a flawed or failed business model is nothing short of appalling.

There are some clear messages that come from this type of call to action, none of which resulting in the effect the for which instigator is hoping. To start with, outing oneself as an opportunist over activist is seldom attractive. Skipping past the 55 reasons there are to find anger, let’s skip right ahead to the lunacy, shortsightedness and blind ignorance.

Those involved in cannabis prior to legalization have always lived with the threat of arrest. It did nothing to deter a black market that serves millions on a daily basis. While we are at it, let’s add some proper scale to the black market. While the term typically refers to growers and suppliers, it truly encompasses all who take part in it, whether that be from start to finish, somewhere in between or as just a consumer.

Prior to legalization, the size of the Canadian black market was safely in the range of about 4 million people. Let that number sink in for a moment. That is a significant percentage of the Canadian population. Stats have also suggested that in the months since legalization, black market activity has not had any kind of significant reduction. That market stability was aided in part by poor reviews of some early LP offerings and a lack of accessibility.

That is the market the legal framework would like to have step over to their side. And a significant market it is. It is a market that knows customer loyalty and product quality very well. It is a market that is used to fair prices. So, when these voices call for more arrests, who exactly do they think they are targeting?

Clearly they are operating with a lack of understanding of who their prospective customers are. Can they not see they are calling for the arrest of the very people they wish to come and buy their wares? How in any way, shape or form does that make sense in terms of attracting a loyal customer base? A loyal customer base is precisely what every canna business person wants. At what point is it recognized that loyalty is earned, not enforced?

There is so much counter intuition at play that it’s almost baffling. Demanding that people come to you, be disloyal to their current supplier and pay 3 times the price is a failed model regardless of how many misconceptions about pesticides and tainted products are put forth. There has been so little effort to win the hearts and minds of this massive consumer base, it is almost insane. Those who have gone that path have found great interest in what they are doing and they garner much attention. Some, however, are crying the blues because the cash cow they were banking on has a broken leg.

Many players seeing riches jumped on the hype wagon without fully understanding just what the government-imposed variables would mean. Those imposed variables virtually guaranteed years of a vibrant black market that continues the long-established goal of supplying reasonably priced, safe, cannabis to everyday Canadians.

LP players calling for the government to continue its failed prohibition tactics — or even increase action — make people angry. Rightfully so, too! Consumers are given a mixed message of, “When you get out of jail, come buy my weed.” It’s an approach as dumb as a bag of hammers that has proven to be ineffective. It would make more sense to be calling for government action on things such as the medical tax or inflated overhead costs for growers and retail. By advocating those things, operators would be advocating for the same things as the customer base.

It would also make sense to understand you jumped into a new and not yet understood market, so any risks taken were yours and yours alone. Calling for the government to arrest people to bail you out is, well, chickenshit cowardice. If you are not prepared to lose money for a period of time until the market normalizes and you can establish a loyal clientele, you have no business investing any money to begin with. If you are not able to objectively understand who your customer base is and will be, you have no business investing any money in such business.

If you honestly feel calling for more arrests will lure people to your products or into your store, you are in the wrong business.

And, yeah, my neck still hurts.

Cannabis Legalization in Canada: It’s Not All Bad

It’s now mid-2019 and cannabis has been legal for recreational use for over half a year. This far in, there is no shortage of directions to look that lead to head-shaking disbelief. It started in some sense back in 2017, when we were getting the first glimpses into what the government thought legalization should look like. It really did not get much better leading up to oct 2018 when it came into effect. It may even have gotten worse, as confusion and frustration over access and prices led established consumers to stay with current black- and grey market sources.

To use a basketball analogy: When it comes to cannabis legalization, our federal leaders are no Harlem Globetrotters. Fumbles and whiffs are plentiful and consistent. That is not, however, what this article will be about. We don’t get a lot of articles on the subject of the best parts of the new normal. Exposés and feel-good stories are as near an oxymoron when used in the same context as it gets. But feel-good, upside stories exist and are plentiful when one goes looking for them. Most centre around an individual’s accomplishments, but some are bigger stories such as the one we will now get explore.

Gifting and Trading Cannabis: A Jewel in the Crown

Have you done it? Has a friend done it? Do you know anyone who does it? Lots of people are doing it every day! And it’s fun as hell! You should try it.

The best thing we were given in the new regulations is the legal ability to gift or trade cannabis freely among legal-age adults anywhere in Canada. It was not long after the new laws came into effect that people saw there would be potential in gifting and trading. Websites designed to facilitate people coming together for that purpose arrived soon after. Having never utilized one for any purpose, I will not suggest an opinion on them one way or the other.

Social media interactions became an important part of trading for myself and, I suspect, many others. We own our social media in the sense that what we publish says who we are or who we want the world to see. Reputation and credibility come into play and, based on ongoing interactions, trust is formed.

For me, trading was initially about trading seeds. We all know how expensive good genetics are. So, I was really not disappointed with the result of my hedonistic exuberance last season and the 800+ seeds that it yielded. That first trip to Canada Post to send off a package was a pleasure, even when I was told how much it would cost. Knowing it was legal made it fun, even if it was only for the novelty of doing it. Quickly, however, one trade turned into several and not all were seed-for-seed. Through the process of building relationships over the course of the next few months, my experiences went beyond trading and into gifting. There is no feeling quite like opening a package or being handed a bag or two of such premium flower that it would be otherwise unaffordable, which was sent only because someone knew of a need or simply wanted to do so.

This is the very heart of who we are when we are at our best.

The idea for an article around this phenomenon has been with me for while. It was the culmination of a period of vitriol and bitterness that led someone to finally almost beg for a good-news story that fuelled my motivation. That and it’s raining today.

If you have yet to do some trading, don’t be afraid to say you are looking to do some trading. Or if you’re in a position to perhaps send some gifts, find some people who could use a little boost. It’ll make everyone feel good.

Each and every day, we are in a position to make someone else’s day a little better. Often, it isn’t even obvious because it seems so small and insignificant. In truth, small kindnesses have huge impacts on people’s everyday lives. You might let someone in line with two items checkout ahead of you with your 40. As has become popular with the drive-through coffee crowd, you might pay for the person behind you in line. There are a million ways to be kind in a world that bombards us with hate and intolerance. It’s a simple choice where no one loses.

What better gift is there to someone having a bad day than finding a way to make it better, even if only for a little while?

Tips for Gifting/Sharing

Social media: Be aware with whom you are gifting or trading. Never engage in illegal trades, such as crossing international borders. Mailing: If sending flower, use vacuum-sealed, odour-proof bags. There is also a smell-proof mailing envelope available for purchase. The smaller the package, the less it will cost. If sending seeds, try to avoid using things like greeting cards and flat envelopes, which get run through processing machines and will crush seeds.

Most importantly, pay it forward. Be good to each other; it elevates us all.

Reconsidering Marihuana Reconsidered 47 Years On

Scan of book cover of Marihuana Reconsidered, written by Lester Grinspoon, M.D.

There are all kinds of awards in professional life. For one like myself, the theme is a bit repetitive, such as a particularly good crop or some new well-crafted flower to sample. Every once in a while, really helping someone better their life in any manner is a real high point.

When I recently had the opportunity to acquire a 1st edition of Dr. Lester Grinspoon’s 1971 Marihuana Reconsidered that was in excellent condition, I did not let it pass by. Over a series of mini reports, we will look into the message shared by Dr. Grinspoon, discuss notable points of interest and relevant predictions and comparisons.


The book begins with general information to provide context and quickly delves into history, cultural attitudes and policy. It is also full of little surprises. When discussing tetrahydrocannabinol on page five, Dr. Grinspoon writes, “It is possible that other cannabinol derivatives do have pharmacological activity”. This statement immediately prompted my realization that D.r Grinspoon suggested CBD benefits in 1970!

A great deal of the introduction addresses clinical confusion and the difficulties surrounding cannabis medicine stigma and flawed research. In the book clearly outlining just how muddled the whole issue had become by then, I was reminded of some of the positions I see taken by a segment of clinicians that there are no supporting studies, so, no it does not work. Since the anecdotal evidence is so prevalent for many cannabis treatable conditions, such contrary positions always surprise me.

Grinspoon writes on page eight, “Of the body of knowledge known as modern medicine, the clinical segment particularly was largely derived from observations and studies which could hardly be considered controlled, rigorous, or even scientific.” The statement left me wondering just how relevant the statement is today versus in 1970 when Grinspoon penned it. An insight into the problems around cannabis, as well as a few interesting questions, are found in and around the introduction. At the end of the introduction, our confusion and frustration at the apparent madness being explained before us are brought gently back down with the last line penned on page nine: “It is still better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Yes, yes it is.

Chapter One: The History of Marihuana in the United States

In the first chapter, Grinspoon immediately addresses the love-hate relationship between cannabis and United States interests. He goes on to explain in great detail the history of hemp from George Washington to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) and the significance of one Mr. Harry J Anslinger. Myths surrounding George Washington and hemp are as old as he would be now. Did they smoke it or use it for medicinal purposes? Did they grow it for flower or just for hemp fibre and feed? I will not attempt to answer any of those questions, but I will make note of a very relevant note made by George Washington in his diary where he writes on page 12, “Aug 7, 1765: Began to separate the male from the female hemp, rather too late”. The only reason I know to separate male and female cannabis is for increased flower mass by not pollenating. I am unaware of a different reason for hemp to be separated should one exist.

Discussed along with Washington separating male and female plants were some studies that claimed separating the sexes was a waste of effort as it did not increase resin production. This reasoning seems to indicate a failure in realizing that it is the increase in flower production from denying pollination that is the sole reason to separate male from female plants.

The discussed decline in industrial hemp was a multi-factor, downward spiral tied to several changing industries and growing offshore competition offering cheaper product. By the time the idea of a drug war was beginning, hemp was on a steep decline a just few strides ahead of the cotton industry.

By the 1930s, the FBI had placed cannabis smoking in their sights and, despite credible evidence to the contrary, began a media campaign claiming cannabis use was responsible for most of the violent crime that occurred. FBI propaganda surrounding cannabis use involved such terms as “The Killer Drug Marihuana”. The propaganda was so effective that in August 1937, House Resolution (H.R.) 6906 was brought before the House of Representatives. Also known as The Marihuana Tax Act, the legislation imposing a tax on cannabis use had no difficulty being passed in the House.

The main reason The Marihuana Tax Act passed so easily was due in no small part to several years of negative and outright false claims and reports by the FBI. Additionally, the presentation of the bill claimed that it would channel cannabis into industrial and medical research hands and “discourage the current and widespread undesirable use of marihuana by smokers and drug addicts”. (Page 21)

The majority of the testimony for H.R. 6906 was negative, comprised mostly of newspaper stories and supportive mythology. The mythology went so far as to share a long believed false twist in Homer’s works, claiming the Persian assassins of which he wrote derived the name assassin from hashish. There was one man, however, who sought to be the voice of reason: Dr. W. C. Woodward, Legislative Council for the American Medical Association.

Being the voice of reason did not go well for the good doctor. He was harassed and ridiculed, presented at length with newspaper stories and being asked to explain the propaganda. Ultimately, his efforts proved to be a waste of time. Those who were meant to listen instead sought to dismiss the testimony. In the end, they claimed Dr. Woodward was uncooperative and should have arrived with “constructive proposals rather than criticisms”. (Page 26)

Not all were willing to simply be told cannabis was evil and leave it at that. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia championed a sensible approach to cannabis and commissioned the La Guardia report in 1938 with the help of the New York Academy of Medicine. Shortly before its release in 1943, Colonel J. M. Phalen, a Military Surgeon editor, printed an editorial called “The Marihuana Bugaboo”, in which he claimed cannabis was no more harmful than tobacco.

The La Guardia report was widely and strongly criticized. Harry Anslinger was very vocal in his firm belief that cannabis was evil and should be eradicated. His voice was so strong that both the League of Nations drug expert and the AMA denounced the La Guardia report. In April 1945, the Journal of the American Medical Association posted an editorial claiming the LaGuardia report was causing harm. The editorial claimed that the report was causing damage to law enforcement and advised public officials to disregard it and treat cannabis as a menace.

The desire of the American Medical Association to stay in close alignment to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics is a testament to just how powerful the opposition to cannabis medicine was. Going back to the early 1930s, you can find Anslinger’s name in and around cannabis falsehoods and fear almost everywhere they arise. Even today, we are still dealing with the fallout of his less than honourably motivated actions. Harry J. Anslinger truly is the father of cannabis prohibition.

Note: All page references apply to the 1st pressing of the Harvard University Press release of the book.

Cannabis Gummies: Nice treat Or Bad Trick

Photo of cannabis gummies

Cannabis use was once so simple. Once flower was procured, ingestion was a simple decision: Smoke a joint or smoke a bowl. Even the twenty different ways to describe it basically came down to those two choices. Once in awhile you might come across some ‘special’ hash brownies or cake baked with some canna butter. Depending on the method and experience of the baker, the taste would vary from weedy to hard-to-finish.

Over time, as extraction methods other than making butter became more and more common, options for culinary cannabis enhancement also grew as the green unpleasant flavours were lost. During this early shift, most of the jurisdictions that now see cannabis legal in one form or another were legislated otherwise. The result? This burgeoning cannabis edible market is, for the most part, entirely unregulated. The end result could have been predicted. Faced with no resistance or guidelines, any movement will naturally progress to the extreme. This is where we find ourselves today.

The extreme nature of the edibles market has clinicians voicing concern and suggesting a serious look at how some cannabis edibles are being sold. Some are even asking whether certain types of products, such as child-familiar gummies, should be sold at all. It’s clear that no responsible individual would make THC-infused gummies intended for children. For adults, it is our right to medicate as we see fit; however, it’s possible that we’re lacking sufficient education on the risks that such edibles pose for children. As well, there need to be sufficient punitive measures for irresponsible parents whose child found some treats and ended up in the ER. Some will oppose any such measures based on what they perceive as continued ‘Reefer Madness’ drug war propaganda. The reality is that a child who stumbles upon a bag of 80-mg gummies and eats a handful of them could be in very serious danger.

Some of the earliest products that became available to me via the Canadian online grey market were completely snack based. Rice Krispie squares, peanut butter cookies and gummies were some of the most common. Novelty effect is real and trying a few of these treats was kinda fun. They certainly tasted better than the party cakes of the past and such products led to me and my Mrs. discovering our required dosages for noticeable effect, 350+ mg and 30 mg respectively.

It was fun trying those treats. Learning how much more effective orally ingested cannabinoids are for therapeutic purposes was, however, the valuable take away for us. Dosage consistency and ease of ingestion — you don’t always want a cookie — led us away from treats and into using CBD and whole-plant THC oil in a capsule as a daily-dose medium. Any treat-based edibles we now consume are only what we make from our own butter.

I do not even have full exposure in Canada to the incredible range of products found in different parts of the world. Seeing 1000 mg chocolate bars online seemed fairly inert at first glance and may have elicited the thought, “That might be fun”. Yet, something seemed off and gave me pause for thought.

There have been plenty of times in recent years where cannabis edibles have made the news in some notorious fashion. Children mistakenly taking them to school or unfamiliar adults calling 911 in fear from an edible-induced anxiety attack are just a couple of examples. Social media responses are predictable, ranging from blind disbelief because “cannabis is harmless”, mockery and even abuse from the ‘no regulation’ side. Those advocating for common sense controls are typically shouted down and end up muted in the din of recreational outrage. Such is the modern internet.

An objective venture into the issue circles around some key basic questions:

  • Is the availability of infused sweets a public health issue?
  • Is the availability of infused sweets an education issue?
  • Is the availability of infused sweets an enforcement issue?
  • What is the most responsible approach?

The above questions are easy to ask, yet answers pose more of a challenge. As a public health issue, adding additional concerns to the sugar addiction our society is already dealing with is never going to be a good idea. That, however, is truly minor in comparison to how serious an edible episode can be. It is not at all uncommon for someone to experience some mild anxiety from ingesting edibles. For some, the anxiety can be extreme and downright terrifying. Imagine being in such a state of fear that you feel you are going to die. While those stories seem to draw much ridicule, it is anything but funny to those facing an overwhelming and impending sense of death.

An education issue?

I don’t think that anyone would be opposed to a well-informed public. That may remain difficult, however, while there is still such distance between the opposing sides and inconsistent positions among governments. One person’s information is another’s propaganda. It turns out that another victim of the drug war is clear and concise truth.

An enforcement issue?

It would be unsurprising to see some governments attempt a heavy-handed restrictive approach that mirrors past prohibition policies. Legalization in Canada, for example, has in its initial approach taken a very restrictive ‘harm reduction’ stand with clear lines between legal and illegal activities. We do not yet know what the laws regarding edibles will be until the federal government releases them later this year. Those laws are to go into effect as of Oct 17th. I think it is very likely the laws will be extremely restrictive in the THC levels that can be present, as well as what can be sold.

What is the responsible approach?

Each side will have a very different answer on the outer edges, ranging from outright banning to fully unregulated. As with anything however, agreement on some basic truths on each side usually points towards a happy medium. Or a balanced discontent.

Is banning prepackaged, cannabis edibles that are too easily indistinguishable from normal dessert treats from being sold the right approach? Perhaps. An entire sector of the cannabis industry is very much hoping for minimal regulation knowing this could potentially be a huge market. Some believe the edible market share will come to rival the dried flower market. The possibility of a billion dollar marketplace is squarely at odds with public health.

Is there a form of prepackaged edible that fully appeases health care concerns? It’s unlikely. Is there likely to be a version that is far more acceptable and meets some of the main concerns? Chief among such concerns are edibles looking like anything a child might find in the candy isle of the local general store. Finding an acceptable product could be a tough call. Sweet treats were a natural evolution from the brownies and cakes of old. There is no obvious substitute. The next best — frankly, for some, better — alternative is the active ingredients in a capsule form. While it would be very effective, it’d hardly be the fun of a good cookie.

Where do common sense, public health and public demand all find acceptable common ground? Surely public health concerns are better met with legislated controls. Ensuring safe dose levels would, in all probability, put an end to the 1000mg chocolate bar type offerings.

Perhaps the only solution is strict dosage limits. It serves harm reduction well, but not perfectly. Nothing I can think of, in fact, serves to fully appease any of the relevant positions. It may be in that grey zone where the only possible solution is found. One thing is certain: No one side is happy, but all are equally unhappy.

Farewell, Justin — We’ll Miss You

It’s with sadness that MellowMeds has learned of the passing of Justin Marshall. Justin was a cannabis advocate who recently graced our pages in a blog post.

For me, the poignancy of his happening serves as a reminder that none of us who deal with cancer — I currently am dealing with skin cancer — have to take every possible avenue of treatment to improve our odds of success. Personally, I’ve been remiss in doing all I can. I’m not eating as well as I could be and I still have a relationship with that demon alcohol.

Putting my situation into a broader context is that my MellowMeds partner, Al, lives in Canada and is a long-time cannabis producer. With the legal landscape in Canada, his access to cannabis is assured. I, on the other hand, have been in Japan since 1991, where cannabis and even CBD oil are illegal. The frustration is real.

When Justin shared his story with us, I was excited at the prospect of JMO (basically, uncooked RSO) as a solution of getting a high-CBD product without the high. Excited and frustrated, because as promising as JMO sounded, I have no legal means of access. And I am disinclined to explore illicit means of access here in Tokyo. Incarceration is simply not an option.

The availability of cannabis products should be universal. Cannabis is a naturally occurring plant and it is positively ridiculous to me that it somehow became illegal to possess something that grows in nature. People are messed up. Anyway, I’m currently looking forward to being able to visit Al in Canada to sample his fine product. I’ll be looking forward to sampling some herb, RSO and — courtesy of Justin — some JMO.

Godspeed, Justin. Your passion for cannabis lives on. You can visit Justin’s memorial page via the link below:

Canadian Black Market Cannabis- A Protected Landscape

It’s been almost five months since adults in Canada have had the legal right to consume cannabis for recreational purposes. The reality of the new legal landscape is that so much has changed for so little to change.

There is a vast number of people who have been working in the cannabis underground, supplying literally millions of Canadian cannabis consumers. Recent polls have shown that cannabis use among adults post legalization has not risen noticeably. These results show not only that usage has remained mostly stagnant, but that those who wanted to use cannabis prior to legalization had no problem doing so morally. Moreover, the adult-use cannabis market in Canada was in truth far larger than the government ever imagined.

The adult use numbers run somewhere around 4.5 million Canadians, and those are poll estimates that cannot factor in how many choose to say no based on decades of stigma. Pondering for a moment just how big that number is, consider how many people would need to be involved in that underground market from producer to consumer. Also consider that the underground market has next-to-no automation or factory farms and labor use is extremely high. Add to that the quality of the product being supplied; one can find product as good as anything found in the best markets around the world.

Within this underground market, we have a labor-driven, experienced workforce with a start-to-finish market providing some of the best product in the world. This workforce numbers in the many tens of thousands. Accurate estimates are really impossible to glean, but how many people would it take to service up to 5 million Canadian consumers with reliable supply of quality product?

Then came legalization, something a great many had been calling and hoping for for a very long time. With legalization, many looked forward to being able to step proudly from the shadows of the underground market into legally doing what they enjoy as a profession, with a skillset honed over years and an eagerness to continue. We saw in other markets, where legalization came with an inclusive approach that was not overly restrictive, that smaller underground growers were able to transition to craft status. The result? Markets that without undue — and expensive — harm reduction policies are reaping incredible benefits through tax revenue. Not only that, market demand is dictating what people want and what they are willing to pay.

In Canada, however, our hopes quickly began to fade as the players who would be in control were announced and the direction of the legislation defined who would supply Canadians. So many limiting changes have taken place in the last two years that the public perception of legalization amounts to an attempt to hand corporations and cronies the golden key to riches. And Canadians are none too happy about it. Nothing has done more to reinforce that opinion than when consumers were finally able to purchase Licensed Producer (LP) cannabis.

Since legalization, Canadians have seen everything from recalls, illegal black-market purchasing of product by an LP (one way to get good product), mold, seeds and stems in prerolls — suggesting they are floor sweepings (a tobacco producer trick) — and more commonly, reports of dry, flavourless, weak-potency product.

In the meantime, the underground market trundles along. Big-city, same-day service is becoming the norm. Online providers continue doing business, with increasing numbers of customers becoming aware of them due to failed legalization. Post-legalization, there was no mass exodus from the black market. If anything, they have become more entrenched due to not only a continued failure of the legal providors to supply product that is comparable in either price or quality, but in some cases impossible to legally obtain. With no legal storefronts, Ontario citizens have only the OCS online store as a legal option. Unless, of course, you do not have a credit card. Such roadblocks leave many with a sense of financial discrimination and lead them to the underground market to hook up.

In the move to legalization, lawmakers failed to sufficiently examine other jurisdictions that had legalized the cannabis market to see what was most effective. Public consultations were minimal and pubic opinion seems to have been largely ignored. The result left us with no real sense of normalcy in the Canadian Cannabis market. Nothing in the past two years welcomed the millions of cannabis consumers into a new and emerging legal marketplace. Nothing in the last two years was intended to include the thousands of Canadians who served — and continue to serve — the needs of millions.

We want to see and be serviced by cannabis professionals with experience in the industry, who understand the needs and wants of the customer base, speak the same language and who have earned the trust of millions for decades. An entire industry of talented and experienced people are there, willing and wanting to become part of a massive legal-cannabis marketplace. Until we start to see these skilled professionals being included, far fewer reports of expensive-yet-inferior product and fewer pictures of massive, factory-automated farms (corporate dick pics), nothing will change.

The hearts and minds of the consumers cannot and will not be won by reaching even further into the pockets of Canadians for poor quality. As well, many provincial laws surrounding legalization are so restrictive that many users find themselves facing incarceration anyway. Overbearing laws seem to serve the courts more than the public.

We are not a cash cow waiting to be milked by the rich and connected. Let small growers grow and provide craft product without needing investor millions. Let a free and sensible market dictate supply and demand. Let corporations compete on a playing field that is even for all.

For goodness sake, let common sense prevail. This is madness.

Oh, Canada! Our Home of Could Have Been

As of October 17, Canada implemented its promised cannabis legalization deadline. Along the way, various police chiefs requested the date for implementation be delayed, citing the reason as increased police costs in jurisdictions that have already legalized cannabis. As a half-centurion who has long been awaiting sensible cannabis reform in Canada, the announcement of legalization was met with incredible hope for the future. This marvellous healing plant that so many have been victimized for would finally be freely available.  Laws would at last align with social attitudes. The proud patriot in me who grew up believing my country was a beacon of hope and freedom to the world was beaming.  I Believed we would take the best examples of legalization seen around the world and make them our own to create something the likes of which never seen before.  Once again, Canada was about to stand on the forefront of global leadership and human rights. The initial announcement came as an election promise, one that served to ensure a majority  government with the parliamentary clout to actually get it done. When the now-sitting majority government announced they were indeed going ahead with full cannabis legalization as promised, it was an exciting time. Pride and hope were at peak levels; so much so that some of the legislators announced who would be involved in implementing this great change did not seem much of a concern. After all, legalization to any normal person strongly suggests things such as enforcement costs and criminal penalties would be drastically reduced. Optimism reigned supreme for many months; however, little holes were being put in the balloon at such a rate that deflation was inevitable. Now with ‘legalization’ here, the reality is disheartening to say the least. Looking back, the first sign we were in trouble really was at the very beginning, when a former police chief and long time anti-cannabis advocate, M.P. Bill Blair was chosen to lead the team charged with the task of reforming Canadian cannabis laws to reflect and represent a legal framework.  But, hey, this was new ground for both Canada, and Mr. Blair, so it was very easy to offer the benefit of doubt and believe he would do what was best for Canadians. The attitude of government at the time of the announcement was what we would want and expect. They said they would open dialogues and listen to those with years of experience on the forefront of the cannabis movement and make full use of the valuable contributions they were fully qualified to offer. That attitude suggested we could wait to have it done right and that it would be worth it. The sign posts were easy to miss if you were not looking or were distracted by the rare good news offered by large media. Media stories themselves were really the first indications things were heading the wrong direction, as they were always the same type of story ‘celebrity set to get richer as cannabis investment expected to reap huge profits’. The bulk of any other related story in the last couple of years were mostly focused on the persecution of brick-and-mortar suppliers, of which many were seeking to establish a place in the upcoming legal retail market. As time progressed more and more startling realities came to light, it became apparent that the balloon was fast losing air. More and more the most visible cannabis advocates were sounding the alarm of concern. Rightfully so, too, as all those at the forefront who were promised a voice by the government were going unheard. Any consultations that were done were purely agenda based, as shown when a group of Canadian legislators travelled to the U.S. to meet with staunch anti-cannabis believer A.G. Jeff Sessions, yet completely bypassed the opportunity to meet with state officials where cannabis has already been legalized. That was a hugely wasted opportunity. As it turned out, it was also a running theme. It was becoming very clear grassroots operations were seen as a threat and being treated as such. Not a threat to society mind you, but a threat to the greed-based business model over which the government was now salivating. The proposed tax that applied to recreational and medicinal use alike was the most clear indication to date; our government does not truly distinguish between the two. Age-old propaganda and blatant lies are still very much part of the vernacular, all carefully used to play on existing stereotypes and further a pure profit agenda. Profit itself is not a bad thing. A good business cannot continue without it. But we are not looking at a wealth of new private business opportunities on a bright horizon. We are looking at pure government monopolies and cash cow mentalities that seek to capitalize control and sales while incarcerating citizens who walk outside the lines with far greater penalties than prior to legalization. What inspired this rant was police seeking increased funding for cannabis legalization. Other states and countries that have legalized cannabis have all reported significant reduction in police, court and imprisonment costs. So why the strong press for more funds for Canadian police? Are we so unique in the world that legalization will have the opposite effect as elsewhere? Or is there something else at play? The fear-mongering going on in Canada is astounding, bypassing facts and realities for vague suggestions that the sky is falling. The truth is, the single biggest change that can and will come from cannabis legalization in Canada will be users switching from the black market to legal sources. It’s unlikely there will be a massive increase in the numbers of recreational users. There will be some new users, of course, as the freedom to choose cannabis over alcohol will sway people. The more who choose a healthier alternative to alcohol the better. That alone would see a reduction in policing costs: fewer drunken fights is never a bad thing. The true sadness is that biggest change will be strongly hampered by the greed based government monopoly. Prices and quality in government stores, particularly here in Ontario, will ensure the black market continues to thrive as it provides a superior product at a significantly reduced price. The next biggest change is very much looking like increased arrests and criminal cases brought before the courts for cannabis infractions. We are progressing from (I use the term lightly) 8 cannabis criminal offences to well over 40. Is that legalization or marshal law? Police are frothing at the mouth to get more funds to arrest more people. Why? Are they really expecting to be arresting that many more people for cannabis crimes? If so, why? I vividly remember, while sharing a puff as a teen, saying that if the government legalized cannabis, the tax alone would eliminate deficits and fuel the nation to immense growth and stability. This is nothing like what we had imagined. The government retail monopoly alone is a massive detriment and the biggest wasted opportunity. Free market, licensed retail operations would be able to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge currently existing in the population and create ten times or more the amount of new decent paying retail jobs. That would be a huge benefit to every community, particularly small-to-mid-sized communities that primarily rely on seasonal income. Perhaps it is foolishness on my part to have thought that Canada would shine on this issue as a global leader of progress. Right now I feel pretty foolish, and a little more so each time I see another story on the news about a wealthy celebrity cashing in on a system that is set to, and designed to, persecute or profit from everyday Canadians for either medicating with or using cannabis recreationally. Oh Canada, what have we become?                            

Legal Weed: New Canadian Dos and Don’ts (Part 2)

Part 2: British Columbia

As expected, British Columbia will enact some of the most common sense recreational cannabis legislation in the country. As with many other provinces, British Columbia chose to make use of their own established liquor control mechanism. BC’s Liquor Distribution Branch (LBD) will manage distribution and sales.

The LBD will become the sole wholesale buyer and supplier of recreational cannabis. Retail recreational locations will only be allowed to purchase cannabis products from the LBD. It is by this means the province seeks to ensure the safety of all products sold. How this will affect things such as variety and potency are a matter of ‘time will tell’. We have already one province that is legislating a potency cap on the amount of THC to be sold recreationally; we will get into that discussion more when we get to Ontario.

There will be a series of publicly owned retail locations and an unspecified number of licensed, private retail outlets. This inclusion of the vast experience already to be found in the B.C. cannabis labour pool is, to date, the most progressive model proposed in Canada. For anyone already involved medically or otherwise, this will provide tremendous opportunities to step out of the shadows of prohibition and turn their incredibly valuable experience and know how into a societally beneficial career.

For urban areas, private or public recreational cannabis stores are not allowed to be combined with another business, such as liquor stores or pharmacies. BC does acknowledge the differing requirements of rural locations, however, and it is clear that exceptions can and will be made for rural operators.

Initially, stores will only be allowed to sell dried cannabis, cannabis oils and related accessories. It is not yet clear how they define ‘oils’, so we can only presume that will include items such as hash, rosin, shatter, distillates, etc. Current regulation limits purchases to 30 grams of dried cannabis or oil equivalent per person. Edibles will not be available until a year later. We presume this is due to a lack of large scale edible providers that can offer the type of quality control the province requires in relation to potency and established food preparation/sales requirements.

Online non-medical sales will be exclusively handled by the province. Private retail outlets are not permitted to do any online sales for recreational use.  At the time this article was written, the province was in the process of seeking e-commerce proposals; as such, it is expected that recreational online sales will not be ready by July 2018.

British Columbia will begin accepting applications for private retail recreational cannabis stores in the spring of 2018. If you are reading this and wish to get in the B.C. recreational cannabis business, it’s almost time. May the Herb be with you.



Legal Weed: New Canadian Dos and Don’ts (Part 1)

Part 1: Introduction and Alberta

The most important do not is simple, do not break the law. MellowMeds does not advocate for anyone to put themselves in a position to face criminal penalties. The simplest way to avoid trouble is stay within the law, both federal and provincial. We will outline each proposed and/or passed provincial legislation, province by province, and what it means for you.

Alberta: Bill 26: An Act to Control and Regulate Cannabis (Ganley)

Alberta has bundled recreational cannabis in with the current provincial liquor and gaming laws, renaming the “Gaming and Liquor Act” to “Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act”. Sales and distribution will be controlled and regulated by the same body that oversees gambling and liquor, known as The Commission. All suppliers and retailers are required to be authorized and licensed through The Commission.

Age restriction requirements are the same as with alcohol and gaming, prohibited for anyone under the legal age. Anyone the age of 25 or under must be prepared to show photo identification at each visit and will be refused service without it.

Retail stores will be privately owned and licensed through The Commission. A store’s location must be approved by The Commission and cannot contravene Municipal by-laws with regard to location and hours of operation. A clause in the legislation makes a license non-grantable to any agent,  employee, member of The Commission, the board, as well as where the property owner or partial owner is any of the above. We consider these to be reasonable conflict of interest protections.

All licensed retailers will have the ability to access the same prices across the board for the same products. The result of this fixed pricing means that there will be no price advantage for larger retailers or chain stores. Those wanting to be successful will have to do it the old fashioned way: Friendly, knowledgeable staff and great service. Weed stores will sell only weed and weed-related accessories. As well, no employee is to be paid based on how much product is sold. Commission-based fast talkers don’t really fit the mellow nature of weed culture anyway.

Retailers are not allowed to enter agreements with any suppliers to promote their specific brand or product. My take is that there will be posters and displays for different items, but suppliers are not permitted to pay retailers directly or through product for promotion. All brands are equal.

Home growing has been left as deferred to the federal regulation proposed (it may pass amended) at 4 plants per household, with each plant being no more than 3 feet tall. The metric system apparently got lost with this legislation, having dropped on floor and rolled under the couch like a seed.

Permitted smoking locations are to be the same as with tobacco.

A change to  the laws gives police the authority to seize a vehicle if cannabis is found in it along with a concealed weapon or explosives. So, stick to the comfort of home. Bongs, not bombs! Also, don’t leave your weed lying around. Should a police officer find some weed with ‘no apparent owner’, he/she can confiscate it. You can get it back if you prove legitimate ownership,  but do you really want to be that person calling the Alberta courts asking how to go about getting your stinky buds back? Me neither! 🙂

For Albertans, this will be a welcome addition to the retail marketplace. With privately licensed retail stores, there will be a wide variety of styles and locations. A great deal of new jobs will be created and experienced ‘BudTenders’ will be in demand. Private ownership is good for smaller local economies and it will prove to be a steady source of employment, community support and involvement. Stoners are, after all, a kind, social bunch.

Good job, Alberta.

You can read the proposed bill yourself here >>

By Echando una mano – Coat of arms of the province of Alberta in the Canadian Heraldic Authority site, CC BY-SA 4.0,