Why aren’t any of our candidates discussing the current industry and its future?
On October 21st, Canadians will decide whether Justin Trudeau should continue in his role as Prime Minister or make way for a new leader. This last year has been filled with political scandals (perhaps at an attempt to compete with our neighbours to the south) but all four parties have established their own platforms leading up to the election. From tax reform in the Conservative Party to climate action in the Green Party to economic stabilization promises from the New Democrats, all the major issues have been presented, discussed and debated. All except for cannabis.
According to BNN Bloomberg, under the platform ‘cannabis,’ almost every party states ‘no specific proposals to date.’ The exceptions are the Liberals, whose only commitment is one we’ve known for months – legalizing edibles by October 17th, and The Green Party. Sadly, Elizabeth May has made promises that don’t quite add up. Included in these are ‘lowering the federal price of cannabis to compete with black market pricing’ (there is no federal price for cannabis), and imposing organic production standards (this already exists – see 48North). Disappointing to see the once-cannabis-defending party fall so far behind in their knowledge of the current landscape.
In 2017, as promised by the Liberals, cannabis was federally legalized and the process for fair and regulated access began. It has been a long two years for consumers, facing strict regulations, licensing and packaging issues and low supply across the country. Many have criticized the process as being too slow and ineffective. There’s no question this is a huge undertaking; transitioning the entire country from a medical-only system with a thriving black market into a fully regulated medical / recreational industry is a massive task, but it’s one that Canadians voted for in 2015.
Back then this was a major issue in the Liberal agenda; the promise of fair access, the limitations to children purchasing cannabis and the dismantling of the black market were all issues that both consumers and non-consumers wanted. Four years have passed and yes, you can now purchase recreational cannabis – but can it really be called fair access?
Ontario has struggled to establish itself with enough licensed dispensaries, facing municipal disputes in rural areas and bureaucratic red tape in larger cities. This is the tip of the ice berg when it comes to cannabis let-downs. Stores have been forced to close due to shortages and a recent government report states that legal production has met less than a fifth of demand in 2019. On a federal scale the industry hasn’t produced even close to its potential in net profit, at least not compared to the United States, which is still operating on a state-by-state legalization program.
So, it’s surprising that within the bullet points of every federal party’s platform, cannabis is almost nowhere to be found. Given that the industry’s immense diversity potential could affect each and every one of these key talking points, why aren’t any of the candidates discussing the current industry and its future?
The recent scandal surrounding Trudeau has unfortunately taken the spotlight away from most of the issues up for debate. Could this in part be a distraction tactic for Andrew Scheer to avoid broaching the subject of cannabis at all? It’s true that in a 2015 debate, his former boss Stephen Harper professed that ‘tobacco is a product that does a lot of damage. Marijuana is infinitely worse and it’s something that we do not want to encourage.’ Is it still the party’s stance that cannabis use is dangerous?
The economic impact of cannabis can no longer be ignored and it’s a shame that it’s being left out of this election cycle. Cannabis investment from foreign interest has brought in more capital than oil, timber and mineral cultivation combined. This money could mean robust tax returns, environmental protection, and economic prosperity – all the issues our potential leaders are currently debating. Unfortunately, this is a typical Canadian approach to an exciting possibility.
Bill C-93, an act to provide no-cost expedited pardons for simple possession of cannabis is an exciting step forward, this was a campaign promise from the Liberals that is now in effect. This is the kind of change that affects everyone, not just consumers. On October 21, remember that your vote could mean more than just the platform your party is running on (we can hope).