Free The Weed! Lift & Co Expo 2018


status of cannabis in CanadaAs Canada slinks towards that moveable feast, the day when cannabis becomes legal and regulated, a couple of conference groups have seen the future – and it is pot friendly.

” TORONTO – Canada’s top cannabis policy bureaucrat says every time he travels outside of Canada, he is reminded anew of just what a novel enterprise this country has embarked upon.

“Canada is moving into a place that no country — other than Uruguay, the only other country that has made recreational marijuana legal at the federal level — has ventured to go,” Eric Costen, director general for the federal government’s cannabis legalization and regulation branch, told a conference Thursday.

The world is watching Canada’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana, Costen said at the cannabis business conference in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The federal government aims to have pot legal by this summer. The exact date is up in the air because senators now debating the Cannabis Act are expected to propose amendments.” (Ottawa Citizen, May 24, 2018)

I’ve put it out there before – I sincerely believe that the legalization and fair use of cannabis in Canada could save our country’s economic bacon. Oil is scarce, and costs billions to coax out of the earth. Pot plants grow and pay off year round. It’s crazy not to see the direction we could and should be heading. I am for dumping dilbit and bitumen oil … and picking up on medicinal oil.

Those who believe that this is about Cheech and Chong-ing the planet with smokeables have completely missed the boat on how much good full legalization can be for Canada, her people, and her financial future.

This weekend featured the Lift Expo, Canada’s premier cannabis event, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where more than 60 speakers, and the industry’s most exciting movers and shakers, gathered with over 250 exhibitors from around the world.

“The Lift Expo has become a nexus for the cannabis industry,” says Lift’s CEO Matei Olaru, “We offer an educational and interactive experience unmatched in North America, for the burgeoning and established cannabis business, as well as canna-curious consumers.”

To my surprise and delight, the Lift people were gracious and generous in offering media a complete carte blanche entry to the conference and exposition, and including a media lounge, where we could relax with free wi-fi, and complimentary beverages. The inclusion of an interview area expedited thoughtful one-on-one voice or video taping for future broadcasts.

After picking up my pass, I headed for the escalator, en route to the show floor. The size of the exhibition was impressive, with booths stretching endlessly to the left and right of the North Building. When faced with that much ground to cover, it’s best to choose a simple walking pattern and keep your eyes, ears – and swag bag – open.

The Lift’s hundreds of exhibitors include all major licensed producers, growing supply industries, accessory lines, artisans, specialty medical cannabis products, advocacy and awareness groups, and more. Sponsors include Green Relief and the Jamaican Medical Cannabis Collective.

On the main stage, there’s everything from live cannabis cooking demos to a start up pitch competition. There will also be discussions on female representation in the cannabis industry, how to help your pets heal with CBD oils, craft cannabis products and the new wave of ‘bespoke’ brands. The event also boasts an onsite vapor lounge for medical patients to explore the latest and greatest vaporizers.

There is even a Cannabis at Work Career Fair, which features lightning talks on cannabis career topics, such as the training and experience most attractive to prospective employees, and how to build a ‘cannacentric’ resume.

big bambuThere’ve been slim pickings at a lot of the musical fests and conferences I’ve attended over the past few years, but the Lift Conference is filled with people brimming with excitement, knowledge, and faith in the future, and that makes their companies generous. Within a few minutes of arrival I was already struggling with a big bag of freebies, of everything from pot plant fertilizer to multiple cell phone accessories, to bottled water and water bottles, magazines, rolling papers, pens, candles, hats, t-shirts, and samples of non-infused goodies.

The most plentiful supply of all, however, is the information on the formidable breadth and depth of the cannabis trade, when exploited properly. Get your head out of the smoke of the Big Bambu and into big business, because the possibilities of the herb span everything from medical research, to an entire industry devoted to controlling insects naturally, improving green house and solar powered growing. The worlds of accounting, finance, and banking converge as legalization hashes through what happens when the current illegality of banking funds made from selling a controlled substance ends.

There are training programs and certificates available from accredited colleges, including KPU (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) where you can find out about cannabis career training.

Some companies .. and provinces! … are more into the idea of legalization than others. New Brunswick, for instance, is aiming to be a major Canadian player in the pot world.

The province’s 2016 Economic Growth Plan named cannabis as a priority sector, and business development experts at Opportunities New Brunswick predict a growth of 3,000 cannabis-related jobs by 2022.

Edison Cannabis Co is so eager to introduce the rest of us to their product and province that they’ve a wonderful contest going on, that will net you a personal guided tour of the Edison growing facility in New Brunswick, including round trip airfare, three nights accommodation, $500 in spending money, and double guest passes to the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. I’m in! (get thee to EdisonCannabis.Co to enter.)

abi roach hotbox liftI discovered booth after booth, filled with upbeat, positive business people (including our own Kensington Market entrepreneur, Abi Roach of Hotbox) who can see and appreciate that there is a lot of money to be made in giving the people what they want.

After all, as our own Captain Cannabis, Verne Andru, said to me, we were promised legal marijuana forty years ago, by Trudeau Senior, and here we are, 40 years later, watching Trudeau Juniorcapt cannabis 40th

dragging his feet on bringing this product to market. (Verne’s a brilliant artist, whose career animation assignments include Hanna Barbera‘s Saturday morning line-up, and work on Nelvana’s ‘Rock & Rule animated feature. Verne continues producing comics; illustrating stories for Phantacea, ink and colour on Captain Canuck, cover art for Charleton Comics Group and inking for Marvel Comics Group in addition to his own titles.

With so many economic and psychological benefits to be had by investing into cannabis research, it’s difficult to understand why the governmental reins are being pulled in so hard – aren’t most Canadians anxious to get into legal pot?

Well, as it turns out, not as many Canadians as you would think are on the Cannabis Band Wagon. Prohibition in Canada hasn’t worked; 30 per cent of Canadians aged 20 to 24, and 21 per cent of those aged 15 to 19 said they used cannabis at least once in the previous year. At least seven per cent of Canadians already use weed on a daily basis. And while that is a big market, it’s not close to counting those who are willing to try something natural to manage their pain, and even, potentially to help with getting off opioids and other more dangerous pharmaceuticals.

So while some worry that it will be a free for all once marijuana is legalized, the facts based on the 2016 data study conducted by Deloitte, and featured in the ‘Recreational Marijuana: Insights and Opportunities’ report is that attitudes may not be so easy to change.

For those of us who grew up in the heady sixties, our ‘will I/won’t I” try pot or hash moment was a long time ago. For those who didn’t have an opportunity to try it out then, there’s a natural and understandable fear that there might be a danger in even a medicinal puff.

“You would expect that when the stigma is removed of a criminal offence you may have more people who that would otherwise not be willing to take that risk might be prepared to,” said Chris Lavier, a criminal defence lawyer in Saskatoon.

Meanwhile, an IPSOS poll shows that about 34 per cent of Canadians will at least try smoking marijuana once it’s legal, as opposed to the just 12 per cent of users who currently smoke pot recreationally now.

legalization support in canadaBut the big draw will be the 29 per cent of those surveyed who have said they will be buying edible marijuana products, up from seven per cent now.

Too bad, so sad, and incredibly foolish, then, that the LCBO, who will be our main pot purveyors in Ontario, have decided against edible offerings for at least the first year of sales. Foolish, especially since there will be a market of about 9.6 million recreational pot users after legalization, and for many of them, edibles will be how they experiment to find what works for their own conditions and needs.

Where Ontario falls down in the support of what should be a viable competitive industry, is that they are trying to walk a knife’s edge. On the one hand, they will tell you that the purpose of legalization is to improve public health by minimizing cannabis use harm. No stone, no matter how irrational, has been left unturned by those who, quite frankly, fear what they do not really comprehend.

reefer madnessOn the other hand, they know very well that there are trillions to be made from all the aspects of selling hemp and cannabis.

There are concerns about security and policing in a post-Reefer Madness world. Strangely, though, the police departments, tribal reserve security forces, and our own RCMP have been strangely lax to begin these discussions on how to deal with Canadians under the influence. I have to wonder if this reluctance has to do with a belief that the legalization will be pushed back, and back, until it becomes just another Charlie Brown football in the next federal elections.

The government is betting on a legal cannabis market that will restrict use amongst young people, and will work to squeeze out the black market. But that’s unlikely to happen under the restrictions the vendors will labour under, which they say will prevent companies from educating consumers.

The government has also proposed plain packaging with prominent warnings about addiction and other health problems associated with cannabis.

“People will be going into stores and will have no idea what they are looking at,” said Cameron Bishop from cannabis company Privateer Holdings.

So, not to put too fine a point on it – Canada already knows that, like a Trump Casino, they’re gonna be watching the house lose for at least a couple of years. Poor planning means they will be looking at several years of multi-million dollar loss before they ever see a profit.

OCS Ontario Cannabis Store“The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, an LCBO subsidiary created to manage sales and distribution of recreational pot in the province, is expecting an $8-million loss in 2017-2018, followed by a $40-million loss in 2018-19, largely due to initial startup costs to establish the retail network.” 

However, by 2019-20, the province is forecasting OCRC net income of $35 million, followed by $100 million in net income by 2020-21.”

So the tide will turn. Eventually legal cannabis will be as enshrined in Canadian society as those other monopolies, Labatts and Molson, and will feature many of the same players, and many soon to be millionaire pot dealers, most of whom are former and present members of the Liberal party, getting caught drooling over the profits they’ll be reaping in the very near future.

There are many groups that will help consumers who want to know more about the benefits of medical marijuana, or the recreational varieties that will be available. I’d also recommend an online magazine called BotaniQ, that has both industry and secular information on who exactly is on the cutting edge of pot technology and use. (http://botaniqmag.com/)

One of the products I was searching out at the Expo was edible CBD treats, and I was not disappointed. I am a huge proponent of CBD oil, since this is a product that walks the line on the benefits of hemp/pot; you won’t get high, but you’ll definitely get some physical relief. Used in everything from edible jelly babies to arthritis creams and body lotions, there is anecdotal evidence that the cannabidiol oil naturally helps with sleeplessness, depression, chronic pain, and PTSD.

” Thank you so much for telling me about this product. I can’t believe the change in me. Last night, I wasn’t that tired but decided I should go to bed at 11:30 anyway. I took a dropper of the tincture under my tongue and went to bed. I fell asleep almost instantly and slept for several hours before a bathroom break. Went back to sleep immediately too.

It has also helped with my depression. My depression was just getting worse and worse. I was beginning to think “not nice thoughts” even though I lied to my doctor. She has changed my meds several times and nothing has seemed to help. Today, I don’t feel depressed at all. Haven’t for several days, actually. I think this may be the answer. I am going to recommend it to my great nephew who suffers terribly from depression and his meds don’t’ seem to work either. One knows instinctively that medical doctors won’t recommend it as it is not part of the “big pharma lexicon”. What a shame.”

As I said last year after the first O’Cannabiz Expo, it used to be that, when I thought about legalization, my mind went back to the days of head shops, lava lamps, rolling papers, pipes and hookahs. Strolling down the aisle of the Lift Expo disabused me, once again, of those hippie limitations.

I’m encouraged by the existence of the Lift Expo, (and the Oh Cannabiz conference next month) and continue to have faith that this is, overall, the best and most sensible course Canada should be pursuing over the next few decades. More pot, please!

o canada cannabis

 

 

Perspective


getting betterIs there anything more glorious than feeling better after being ill? We often take our human bodies for granted, and whimper when they’re damaged. But wondrously, for most of us, the majority of our ailments can be repaired by modern medicine.

We take a lot of things for granted until they’re gone or disappear for a while. Sleep, for instance. I’m blessed to be an ‘insta crash.’ When I’m tired, the slip between awareness and deep sleep goes almost unnoticed. I sleep, perhaps dream, and then awake, refreshed and ready for another day.

But so many suffer from insomnia. There are those who dread night time, because their struggle to get a good night’s sleep is like trying to wrestle a wild animal into submission. And over time, that becomes what they expect to happen, and so the dread becomes normal, and waking up achy and groggy commonplace.

We take walking for granted too. And yet the differences in how we walk are mind-boggling. I’ll never forget watching this short film a lifetime ago, and marvelling at how very differently our bodies can move. The images have never left me, and when I see a real life example of some of the more extreme walkers, I even mentally hear the music that accompanied their animated gait.

things changeThat’s the thing about being human; what seems commonplace loses it’s mystery and beauty over time. Every decade, more wonders appear in our world, and we cast aside the things we had before, sure that our old toys are no longer relevant or worthy. And yet, someone from a place that has not reached our level of technology would seize upon what we so eagerly toss on the dust heap, with joy.

It’s all relative. We’re constantly balancing where we are with where we’ve been, and where we hope to go. We make internal compromises, knowing that some of our actions will harm us, but assessing just how much harm we can do to ourselves without suffering unduly. It is the human condition.

Over a lifetime, it becomes harder to shrug off what we remember of how it felt to be innocent of experience, and to embrace the new that is always beckoning. We remember how vibrant and alive we were as kids, and how passionate our emotions felt, and how everything we experienced was for the first time, fresh and intense and life-changing.

young people don't knowWe get better at the things we do, or maybe we just get more experienced. Either way, we become blasé, and start to judge those who’ve only just learned what it feels like we’ve always known. We forget the joy of novelty, and heaven help us, sometimes we mock those trying to do what we once did for the first time. How dare they try and do it differently and in their own way?

And with every year our fragile shells are getting older and less flexible, prone to wearing out and being damaged by a misstep or an unlucky chance encounter with something greater than ourselves, be it a virus or a Mack truck. Or a corporate raider, or a venture capitalist, for that matter. That’s when the rubber meets the road, and we find out what sort of base we’ve built for ourselves, internally.

bad times wake us upIf we were very lucky, our parents prepared us for both the good and bad that everyone encounters in life. I was blessed with a mother who survived hard times in her youth, and who instilled in me her ability to bounce back from whatever came along. Just last night I dreamt that I was penniless, homeless, and friendless, but in the dream, my mum appeared to show me the humour in the situation, and soon we were laughing and singing, ready to face the situation and begin again. Now, that’s a solid base. I’m a lucky woman to have had such a strong mother, who could put aside her own fears and troubles to raise me with the ultimate gift; the ability to survive any catastrophe that comes along, and to remember that we are stronger than adversity.

interesting timesWe live in interesting times. Some would say, we always have. Forces will always struggle to contain the masses who want autonomy over their own lives and thoughts. Change is inevitable, whether it be for the better or the worst. And yet we wonderful and very human beings seek to control what little we can; our bodies, our families, our fortunes, our realities.

In every generation, there will be those who revere the past, and those who want to destroy or rise about it. There will be those who say that today’s art is puerile and lacklustre in comparison to the art of their day. Some will plod along, making the best of their lot, while others will aim for the stars. Both will both fail and succeed. And it was ever so.

So, as awful as it is, it’s a good thing to get sick once in a while. Illness forces us to stop for a time, to step off the treadmill of what we and others expect of us. It’s a time to drink hot soups and read trashy magazines and sleep for hours while our antibodies and immune systems work tirelessly to get our fleshy selves back into a state fit to return to what needs to be done to keep us viable in our lives. We learn who cares about our well-being, who is kind, thoughtful and helpful, and sadly, we also learn that life will go on without us, no matter how important we think we are to the planet. Illness keeps us humble, because, in the end … we’re only here for as long as we’re supposed to be.

To quote David Lee Roth … “life goes on without me …”

(first published in Don’t Believe A Word I Say,  September 13, 2015)