Cannabis in Canada and the Spirit of the Law

Cannabis in Canada and the Spirit of the Law
Posted on December 3, 2016 | Keith Chadwick | Written on December 3, 2016
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Letter type:
Op-Ed

History

This year there has been several court cases regarding Cannabis for medical usage. Of note, the most recent federal case found that the law requiring people with medical cannabis prescriptions have a constitutional right to ease of access. The court found that given the limited number of federally licensed medical cannabis growers in the country coupled with means of access to said growers placed an unduly high burden on those Canadians needing medical cannabis. Thus, the federal court found that the previous federal laws for Cannabis, a scheduled substance, where unconstitutional.

In response the federal government, under Prime Minister Trudeau, changed the laws to allow those with prescriptions for Cannabis to grow there own. The number of plants legally allowed to be grown was based on the number of grams per day within a prescription, a surprisingly common sense law. A fairly simple formula of number of grams per day times 12 weeks vs 12 weeks grow cycle and average ounces/grams of cannabis per plant. The federal government then set up the ability to apply for a licence to grow that was based on a 'valid' prescription. A fairly simple process for anyone familiar with dealing with government bureaucracy.

The changes in the federal law where implemented as a stop gap measure to meet the requirements of the court. They are by definition short term because at the time of implementation the federal government was already in the process of having a committee write a report on a path to full legalization within Canada. The federal schedule and public face on full legalization was Spring 2017.

The spirit of these legal changes was to ensure that those who had legitimate medical needs to access Cannabis did not suffer!

Where we are Today

As an individual who grows produce, peppers/lettuce, in hydroponics in a fairly large seasonal green house, I have been approached on numerous occasions to grow cannabis. I have made no secret of the fact that growing Cannabis in the future is something that I will seriously consider. I do not smoke myself and have not in 20 years. I view cannabis as a business opportunity that would allow me to expand my hobby business into a legitimate business. This business is not growing cannabis, but rather supplying local fresh produce to people within the city and to help support food banks. Another aspect of this venture is to teach others the benefits of “hydro-culture” and the various methods that can be employed from Hydroponics and Aquaponics to full on loop farming.

As I stated above I have been approached on numerous occasions to start growing cannabis. The sales pitch is basically we can get you a licence to grow under a medical prescription and then you can grow. In fact it goes further than that. The pitch is, we can get you several licences so you can grow a lot more. Of course getting these licences isn’t free and in fact it is not even cheap! The more licences, the more you have to pay. Take note that getting a prescription is free and applying for a personal grow licence under that prescription with the government is as well. So the money being charged is to pay for a convenience and I imagine a doctor that is on that payroll. Note when you pay it is of course cash only, you don’t want the feds knowing about these transactions, right! I also imagine the doctor(s) getting a yellow envelope is happy as well. Another selling tactic is that the full legalisation of Cannabis will not happen in the spring of next year. In fact it will not happen for years. Another tactic is ‘better get on board now’ or you will be behind everyone else when it becomes legal. Kind of reminds me of a pushy stock broker who states he has a guy on the inside and he knows things but can’t tell you but you need to buy this stock right now!

Remember I stated that I do not smoke or consume cannabis and have not for 20 years. In fact I stopped because it started to give me panic attacks! In the name of full disclosure, think I have had maybe 2 or 3 puffs late at night at house parties in the past 20 years but that is about it. Now lets go back to the spirit of the law “The spirit of these legal changes was to ensure that those who had legitimate medical needs to access Cannabis did not suffer!” Do you believe that a person growing hundreds of plants under multiple bogus licences then selling it cash only to store fronts goes against the spirit of the law? Well, of course it does! Not only does it break the spirit of the law but I will go one step further and state that it falls under the classification of fraud. Not only is it fraudulent to hold prescriptions you have no need for but it is also fraudulent to not declare income. We can all be honest and say that this cash only, none taxed, money is a key driver for legalization for many!

The Arguments

The proponents for the legalization of cannabis, of which I am one, have many reasons for their support. From my point of view I see the benefits in the savings to law enforcement, the judicial system and the penal system. I recognize that there will indeed be some social costs, but I believe they can be offset by the combination of savings in other areas as well as income through taxation of the industry. I think that it is also important that the government recognize that more money will need to be put into social services and associated addiction centres. Not because Cannabis is chemically addictive but rather it can, for a subset of the population, be socially addictive. In essence, similar issues we have with alcohol or for that matter, even gambling. Via legalization we can approach the issue as being medical vs criminal. This approach has had significant success in countries like Portugal that legalized everything around 10 years ago. The argument over the war on drugs is over and we know it does not work.

I also recognize that for many proponents of legalization that opening up a Cannabis shop is a form of protest. It also provides, to some extent, access to cannabis for those with a medical need. They are attempting to meet the spirit of the law though they certainly have one foot in the cash register. At present there are 27 companies that have been licensed to grow medical marijuana in Canada and in the spirit of the law there product should be available in every pot store front. I also recognize that these store fronts are the public face of the movement and as such help to push the federal government towards a legal framework. To many a politician I imagine they see money being burnt in the bowls of bongs across the country.

Conclusion

While some of you may contend that being a grower falls into the same category as the pot shop. That growing helps to push the government towards a legal framework, that it is a form of protest, I contend it is not. To be a form of protest with these goals it has to be done in a public fashion. The fact is the face of the grower is hidden in warehouses with no windows or in white covered greenhouses. That is not protest that is just greed in its most abject form.

In essence these types of operations, those using bogus licences, undermine not just the spirit of the law but it undermines the very legitimacy of those who are suffering. It undermines soldiers with PTSD, it undermines those in chemo or those with anxiety and other mental disorders. It takes advantage of those in need and as a result works towards delegitimizing both the movement and those in need.

I for one will not participate in taking advantage of other peoples suffering. It is not moral nor is it Canadian in my opinion. When it becomes legal then we can talk. Until such time, don’t bother trying to lobby me with promises of big money under the auspices of being a trend setter. It is disingenuous and I for one see it for what it is, greed!

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