Medical Cannabis Voices Are Finally Heard at Toronto City Hall

On Monday July 25, a group of medical marijuana advocates and supporters had the opportunity to voice their concerns and share concepts for regulating dispensaries and compassion clubs in the city. This open discussion forum comes weeks after the city of Toronto decided to mobilize its police force to enforce the shutdown of many of the city’s dispensaries.

Many have stayed closed, but just as many remain open in a valiant act of civil disobedience to continue to provide dignified access to the medicine given that the current MMPR legislation has already been found to infringe on s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Councilor Jim Karygiannis of Scarborough (Ward 39) held the meeting but was the only councilor in attendance. The Councilor held the meeting to allow the community the opportunity to express their concerns about the crackdown on dispensaries and propose ways to create regulations after being denied a chance to do so in June.

Some of the issues raised pertained to the differences between recreational dispensaries and medical compassion clubs and their proposed licensing and registration fees. Other major issues such as the appropriate distances to schools, appropriate distances between competing dispensaries, the total allowable number of dispensaries in the city, hours of operation, and public outreach for education on medical marijuana were also on the table.

There were also extensive comparisons to current legislation in place to regulate alcohol, other prescription medicine and other natural health products.

On June 27, the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee deferred a discussion on the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries in order to wait until August 24 when the federal government is set to introduce new rules on access to medical marijuana.

Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ

Tweed Going to Germany and to the TSX

Canopy Growth Corporation (CGC), owner of Tweed and Bedrocan, announced on July 25 that it has received necessary approvals in Canada and Germany to begin the exportation of medical marijuana for sale to potential patients in Germany.

German patients may presently access legal medical marijuana through existing conventional pharmacies for a variety of medical conditions. However, adequate domestic production has not yet been established in the country.

Furthermore, CGC became the first medical marijuana producer this month to be listed at a major exchange moving from the TSX Venture Exchange to the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). CGC became public with an initial offering in 2010 and traded on TMX Group’s junior Venture Exchange. This Venture Exchange is home to smaller enterprises and generally has less restrictive requirements for public listing. Once companies grow to meet the listing requirements for the more sophisticated, bigger public market, they have the option to graduate to the TSX.

Edgar Bernal-Martinez, @EdgarBMZ

Globe & Mail Tests Dispensary Cannabis

The Globe & Mail articles indicated that the great majority of product being sold met Health Canada standards despite being precluded from lawfully testing their product before sales to the public. Further, there is some debate about the consequences of the remainder of the product that did not meet such standards.

Where are the reports of significant issues over the last 100 years or even just since the 1960’s?

What do we do with the plant food that we grow and eat? Just wash it, visually inspect it, and eat it without lab testing. Isn’t that right?

We need to open up the producer market to include craft growers, allow for testing, packaging and labelling and distribution through independent retail stores.

The age limit should be 16 following the recommendations from the last Royal Commission of Inquiry, the Nolin Senate Report, so that the criminal law does not continue to be used to prejudice and stigmatize 25% of the current market that is made up of young people between the age of 15 and 19.

The need for separate and distinct medical regulations will depend upon whether the legal model is broad enough to cover the standards and requirements of medically approved patients. Washington state is an example of how legalization failed to do so regarding medical patients.

John Conroy, QC, President and Founder of NORML Canada

Law Enforcement and SAM Fight the Inevitable in California

Legalization activists in California have obtained enough signatures to put legalization in California on the ballot this November. They easily passed the required number of signatories. Proposition 64 or the proposed Adult Use of Marijuana Act includes a 15% excise tax on all recreational cannabis sold which would translate into a billion dollars in revenue for the impoverished state. Proposition 64 is supported by a long list of prominent organizations, politicians, professors, and citizens. The initiative is well-placed to succeed. However, law enforcement organizations in California are opposing the initiative and have formed the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies in order to oppose legalization in California.

The coalition is primarily composed of groups who make money arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people for cannabis offences. Police, district attorneys, and prison organizations are over-represented in the coalition. A report published by the Intercept in May 2016 revealed that over half the money raised by the coalition has come from law enforcement and prison guard organizations. The coalition has raised $159,150. The pro-legalization forces have raised $6.5 million.

The law enforcement coalition has now been joined by SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), the anti-cannabis organization. SAM was founded by Patrick Kennedy (son of Senator Edward Kennedy), Kevin Sabat (an Obama drug policy advisor), and David Frum (conservative journalist and son of Barbara Frum). SAM has raised over two million dollars towards fighting legalization. They indicate that although they intend to spread the money around the bulk of it will go towards fighting legalization in California.

SAM advocates for extensive drug treatment for all cannabis users while ignoring the dangers of alcohol and opioid drug use. In 2006 Patrick Kennedy had a public alcohol-opioid fueled car crash, despite his own experiences with alcohol and opioids he has made it his mission to oppose cannabis. Patrick Kennedy’s family made a vast fortune selling alcohol. There is a SAM Canada. Pamela McColl, on behalf of SAM Canada has said cannabis is “not a soft drug.” She advised that the normalization of cannabis use is one of the lurking dangers of legalization. She is in favour of stigmatizing cannabis users. The SAM Canada web site mentions no advisory board or board of directors. Under the tab ‘Partners,’ there is listed only one person or group, “Parents Opposed to Pot.”

In California legalization is currently polling at 67% in favour. Legalization is inevitable, not just in California, but all over the world. However, as with all progressive movements, there are those who oppose the forward march of progress. The prohibition of cannabis was good to the cops and the private jails. For law enforcement and the prison industry, legalization will mean the end of a golden age. For Patrick Kennedy, perhaps he can spend some time and money on more pressing matters such as the role alcohol and opioids play in today’s society.

Paul Lewin, @PaulLewinLawyer

Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Driving Simulation Study Results to be Released Summer 2016

How many have heard the pharmaceutical drug advertisements that include warnings about side effects that could cause impairment? How many know how the drug affects them before operating motor vehicles? The impaired driving issue is a whole lot bigger than just the effects of cannabis alone. Distracted driving and walking is impaired behaviour. Lack of sleep, stress, human emotions, mental health and more are all part of the important impaired issue.

The University of Iowa conducted a test for impaired driving. 18 participants, 13 men and five women between the ages of 21 and 37, who reported drinking alcohol and consuming cannabis no more than three times a week. Drivers with blood concentrations of 13.1 ug/L THC showed increased weaving that was similar to those with a .08 breath alcohol concentration. U.S. states with THC limit laws vary from 0 to 5 ug/L THC.

A Canadian driving simulation study at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto focused on 19 to 25-year-olds who are regular cannabis users is planned to be completed in the summer of 2016 and submitted to the government.

NORML Canada urges the government of Canada to enact sensible laws around cannabis use and driving. Many chronic pain sufferers and regular to heavy cannabis users may register a high nanogram reading when tested for THC, yet these individuals are not necessarily impaired. Whatever regime is enacted should be fair, sensible, and just. The war against this plant has gone on long enough.