Don’t Bogart That Joint My Friend – Monetize It.


The O’Cannabiz Conference and Expo held at the Sheraton Centre this past April 21-23 conveniently allowed those celebrating 4/20 to have their pot, and eat it too.  ocannabiz 2017

The history of hemp and cannabis, that mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves that comes from the hemp plant, has, so far, been written by the victors –  those who fought to prohibit use and access to the plant. That they did so for their own, often muddled, generally financially rapacious,  reasons, impacts us to this day.

from Vice: “ How did that (criminalization) happen?

When Harry Anslinger, who was leading a federal agency that would later become the Drug Enforcement Agency, was confronted with the end of prohibition in 1933, he panicked because he and his man were charged with enforcing prohibition… He was worried that he didn’t have a mission in life, that he and his men would be out of a job. That’s when he began to lead the crusade against marijuana. They very deliberately, systematically chose marijuana as their new whipping boy.

When Anslinger was participating in federal hearings that would eventually culminate in the passage of the Marijuana Stamp Act in 1937, which essentially made marijuana illegal, the arguments against marijuana use were not at all grounded in scientific evidence. They were grounded in hearsay and stereotypes: That this was a drug black men used to seduce white women. That it was a drug that led Mexicans to murder their white neighbors. ” reefer madness.gif

So dangerous was it deemed that even today, with a supposedly more enlightened people, and science as advanced as we’ve ever seen it, trained professionals continue to ignore current studies, preferring to rely on what they’ve been told. Only 8% of Canadian doctors are open to prescribing cannabis medically, regardless of new information. Clinical studies have been made even more difficult to conduct due to North American legislation that forbids study of prohibited substances. I kid you not. The legislators are like children with their fingers in their ears, going “nyah nyah nyah, I’m not listening,” while the people carry on toking.

Marijuana-FactsAs the tidal wave of inevitable legalization sweeps over North America, it’s illuminating to watch the different factions argue over how this potential cash crop can be best exploited. For sheer capitalistic greed, look to legislators who foresee that shaking this particular money tree will fill not just tax coffers, but their own pockets, and focus solely on how they`ll spend those yummy new tax dollars.

Shares in marijuana stocks have ballooned over the last few months, as high as 5000 times over first purchase price. And many of those who bought early, and at the lowest rates, were family members of politicians who saw which way the wind was blowing several years ago.

Pure activists tend to lean on the medical aspects of legalization, and that is a very good thing indeed. While further studies will allow researchers to help sufferers ease pain, I’m already watching friends soothe their nerves without toxic side effects, having happily dumped costly pharmaceutical antidepressants and sleeping pills, in favour of edibles.

Jodie-Emery-and-Bill-Blair.jpgTo my mind, appointing Bill Blair,  the ex-Toronto police chief who’s tasked with shaping the legislation  as the Chairman of the Committee, was a giant mistake. It’s inevitable that a man who spent his entire life and career policing drug offences is going to have a different spin on legalization. His mere presence at the table draws a pall of doom and gloom over the very idea. And his dour focus on law enforcement over potential benefits reinforces social and racial biases over who exactly gets to indulge, or profit commercially from sales and distribution.

His presence hearkens back to the days when pot was a cheap pacifier for slaves in the Caribbean and the cotton fields, and reflects current times, when prison populations boom with low end drug offenders, serving sentences that have a long term negative impact on the futures of those prisoners and their families.

But there are literally countless avenues of commerce about to open in Canada, based on this proposed legalization. At the Expo, I learned exactly how clueless most  Canadians, including myself, are about the economic possibilities and future of this upcoming advance.

If you grew up in the 60s or 70s, you likely remember the joy and awe of trying your first ‘reefer.’ That’s when $5.00 bought you a nickel bag – one ounce – of pot. Or a big bag of oregano, if you were a first timer and gullible. These days, it’s a lot more expensive, and my oh my how the hit has changed!

big bambu cheech chong.jpgResearch, mostly conducted at street  (grass roots) level, and over many years of advanced cultivation by dedicated growers, has not only produced more effective highs, but highs that can be calibrated as efficiently as high end pharmaceuticals. Not having kept up on my cannabis education, I had no idea that the both the homegrown  and imported versions now came in different grades and strengths.

When I thought about legalization, my mind threw back to the days of head shops, lava lamps, rolling papers, pipes and hookahs.  Edibles, peace, love and groovy. Strolling down the first aisle of the Expo disabused me of those hippie limitations.

Booth after booth of exhibitors offered brochures that explained and extolled their particular fields of interest, from medical research, to how to better cultivate strains to meet advanced criteria, to an entire industry devoted to improving green house and solar powered growing. Several companies offered natural insect control products to protect the quality of medical or recreational cannabis.

There were accounting, financial, and banking experts available – it is currently illegal to bank money made from selling a controlled substance. These experts will lead the way in changing those regulations.

cannabis-industry-jobs-599x435There were schools offering accredited course programs in Quality Assurance for Medical Marijuana,  and Management Quality and Laboratory Certificates.

There were high end research labs working on 21st Century scientific techniques meant to improve the ability to pinpoint specific illnesses and to create medical marijuana solutions to ease pain and diseases.

There were companies who’ve specialized in the distribution of, and means of ingesting, product, for both medical and recreational pot.

ancillarybusinesses cannabisAnd yes, there were a few exhibitors who rocked the old hippie spirit, focusing on rolling papers, hookahs, black lights and groovy accessories.

But it was the middle aged business person that was the focus and main attendee of this Expo, the former middle and upper management types that either were forced into redundancy during the recession of a decade ago, or who simply had the foresight and imagination to realize that this legalization could create the largest, across the board, economic boom Canada has seen in decades.

The conference and seminar aspect of O’Cannabiz brought in spokespeople as varied as Gold Medal Olympic snowboarding champion,  Ross Rebagliati, and music legend, Melissa Etheridge,  to expand on their personal experiences with cannabis, and how regular usage has improved their lives. The Green Chefs, Mike Morgan and Guy Kramer, specializing in culinary preparations of edible marijuana, had suggestions for those who would rather eat, than smoke, their meds.

pets and pot.pngAnd on the Sunday, seminars discussed everything from pet-proofing your stash and avoiding possible risks and hazards to household pets, to the growing essentials of good cannabis cultivation , and the medical effectiveness of cannabis in treating veterans for PTSD.

Ms Etheridge has often said, “I believe anybody who smokes cannabis is using it medicinally.” (Or as duo Fraser/Daley puts it .. “all marijuana, is medical marijuana.”)

I had my eyes opened to a brave new world in Canada, if the process of legalization is not hampered with outdated and prohibition type thinking as the process rolls out. The future is truly up to forward thinking Canadians, and literally anything is possible economically if we can leave the “Reefer Madness”  prejudices behind and embrace the possibilities of this beneficial plant.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can benefit and possibly profit from the legalization of cannabis in Canada, there’s another conference coming to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this month, May 25-27. Info on that can be found here … http://liftexpo.ca/

Smoke ’em if you got ’em!

Legalize It!


charlie-brown-footballI’m sure it wasn’t the Canadian government’s intention to play Lucy snatching the football away before Charlie Brown can kick it. But it’s getting harder and harder to trust that the Trudeau government has any intention of following through on promises to legalize and/or regulate marijuana use, medically or recreationally.

Canadian voters feel betrayed. We all had our own reasons to reject the Harper government, but the Liberal election campaign put the pot issue front and centre as a large part of the Liberal Party policy initiatives, that “breath of fresh air” we were told was coming to Ottawa. A lack of action on this issue betrays the constituency that voted the Liberals into office, and paints the party as no different to the Conservatives, who at least made their rejection of legalization cut and dried.

Health Canada MMAR_CARDOn Wednesday, roughly 500,000 medical cannabis users in Canada over the age of 25 got a small reprieve from the fear of imprisonment for possession, when a Federal Court judge struck down a ban on home growing. The previous government had put that into place when Ottawa moved to a system of large-scale commercial producers, once more putting commerce before citizens’ needs.

Justice Michael Phelan ruled that those new bans were “over broad and arbitrary,” effectively forcing patients to choose between their medicine and prison, and added, “I agree that the plaintiffs have, on a balance of probabilities, demonstrated that cannabis can be produced safely and securely with limited risk to public safety and consistently with the promotion of public health.”

There are around two dozen commercial producers right now, who ship legal, dried marijuana and cannabis oils to about 30,000 patients. Even under the new math, that still means the other 470,000 patients are getting relief elsewhere.

One of the arguments put forward has been that if people are allowed to grow their own, ‘everyone’ will do it. Really? Just like ‘everyone’ brewing their own beer and making wine in their homes has decimated legal trade in alcohol? Neither the Beer Stormarijuana_poll_c_mfe nor the LCBO seem to be hurting for customers.

Having the right to grow your own doesn’t mean every user wants to do so. Not everyone wants to tend to plants, even if they’re looking forward to the harvest. The plants stink, for one thing, which might be a big deterrent to someone with cancer treatment induced nausea. And it’s hard to imagine that someone with a long-term or terminal illness wants to spend much of their precious time worrying that the plants are getting enough light, or that they’ve remembered to water and fertilize regularly.

But more importantly, a large percentage of Canadians admit to using marijuana, whether medically or recreationally, for the same reasons their parents used alcohol – relaxation and pain relief. The Liberals won the last election with a promise to legalize pot. We were told that process could take more than a year. What we didn’t expect was that Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice minister and Toronto’s former police chief, would be put in charge of the task force to consult and craft new laws around marijuana.

Blair, a by-the-books hard ass who famously oversaw the utilization of violent repression against protesters at G8/20, has insisted the government will take proper time to consult and proceed with caution — and he wouldn’t even commit to passing legislation before the next federal election.

At the same time, licensed producers have been lobbying the government for a role in recreational production. The big pharmacy chains like Shoppers Drug Mart are drooling over the chance to sell the drug. Municipalities, meanwhile, are dealing with the proliferation of illegal dispensaries.

Clive Weighill, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, is begging the government to clear up the confusion his officers are facing.

“Right now it’s just a big fog,” he said. “We know it’s going to be legalized, but we don’t know how it’s going to happen, who’s going to be consulted. If they could just come out with a real bare bones action plan, just so the Canadian public can say OK, these are the steps we’re going through.” 

cannabis-flag-crowds-560x420Enforcing a law that the government has declared it will eliminate is not just confusing, it’s unethical. There is no moral basis for enforcing a law that remains on the books, even as the government moves towards repeal. The people spoke to the ethical standards of the community when they elected the Liberal Party with a very strong mandate. I’ll say it again: It is unethical and immoral to continue enforcing a law that is in the process of being repealed.

As Blair fiddles, thousands of users keep getting burned for possession, and the black market continues to thrive.

BillBlairL4LBlair has said that the goal is to strictly regulate the drug, restrict its access to minors, and to take billions of dollars in black market sales away from organized crime groups. He’s just going to need … oh .. about four years … to do that.. Blair, it’s shit or get off the ‘pot’ time, indeed.

The Trudeau government needs to take a long, hard look at Blair, and admit he’s just not the right choice for the job. You’re allowed to make mistakes in hiring, as long as you admit to the mistake and correct it. Blair himself called the number of Canadians charged with possession “shocking,” noting that in 2014 alone there were 22,000 charges laid, and that minority and aboriginal communities are disproportionately affected.

alcohol-vs-marijuanaBlair says his concern is ‘public health.’ That flies in the face of science, as both Canadian and American scientists, amongst others, determined more than thirty years ago that marijuana was not dangerous and in fact had many scientifically-documented, medically beneficial, uses.

Ah, but it’s not that simple, says Blair. Why yes. Yes it is. It’s as simple as buying a can of beer or a pack of cigarettes. Alcohol and tobacco are 100% legal and have risks for ALL users, and often, those around them. But they’re legal.

It is that simple. This was a hot button, contentious, election promise and it needs to be kept. Sell cannabis at liquor stores or pharmacies or dispensaries, tax it, and require government issued ID to purchase it. weedmarket_29001We already have an existing legal framework for the regulation of alcohol and tobacco. States in the U.S. have hammered out regulations, and are reaping the tax benefits and new employment from the sales.

It took Colorado 34 days, from November 6th, 2012 when the citizens voted to legalize, until December 10th, 2012 when it became legal. This is not a four year process unless you make it one.

Crocodile tears don’t cut it, Blair. What’s the real reason you’re dragging your feet on this, beyond your own bias? What’s your basis for continuing to prosecute and persecute people who use a substance less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco, or even over the counter aspirin? pot-law-300

Cannabis activist Jodie Emery may have nailed the problem. “We need a moratorium on arrests and we need amnesty for two million Canadians since 1965 who have been given criminal records,” she told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

Well, that just flies in the face of our bloated, inefficient prison system, doesn’t it! Continued arrests and prosecution of cannabis are a waste of taxpayer money, but they sure do keep the police and prisons busy! Why aren’t the police instead focused on pursuing hard drugs like meth, and cracking down on large importers and its producers? Is it because the low hanging fruit just looks so much juicier? cannibis charges

And devising complicated new laws and regulations covering every possible misuse or abuse of marijuana is nothing but a ‘make work’ project. There are already laws in place that cover every possible scenario. Some kid creeps into your backyard and steals your plants? That’s trespass and theft. Charge the kid. Some guy has 100 stinky plants growing in his house, or gawd forbid, his rented apartment? That’s a commercial business, not allowed on personal property. And destruction of rental property carries some hefty fines, if not jail time. Step away from the grownup blowing a joint, and go bust the real criminals.

pot smoking mountieThis is not rocket science. Every nitpicking argument has been discussed and discarded, to the satisfaction of everyone but the most self-righteous and sanctimonious pearl clutchers. There will always be those who are against the legalization of anything, be it booze, pot, or completely naked strippers. Get over it. This is supposed to be a democratic nation, where adults make choices at their own considered risk. Continuing to ‘police’ the consumption of a drug less harmful than most of the ‘prescribed’ drugs on the market is outrageous and condescending.

Legalizing it should be done arbitrarily and without debate, the same way that it was originally criminalized in 1923, when it was added to the list of dangerous narcotics. High handed prohibition based primarily on a need to control and on personal bias, disregards the people’s right to self-determination and denies them the right to make personal choices in their own lives.

charlie brown Oh no not againSimply taking what was once illegal and rendering it legal by government proclamation has been done throughout Canada’s history. Dragging out decriminalization/legalization as a policy point necessary for re-election will ensure the Liberals lose the ground they won in the last election. Just another promise not kept, the voters manipulated for political gain. The current government ignores that reality at their own peril.

***

Speaking of ignoring the voice of the people, the ‘unelectable’ Bernie Sanders continues to pick up momentum in the United States, despite a media that focuses on an increasingly bombastic and power mad Donald Trump, who very much seems to be in the grip of a psychotic break.

Sanders’ followers are as desperate to get out from under their current government as we Canadians were during the last election. His latest campaign ad captures the excitement and creativity inherent in his promises. Is asking for transparency in government, and real equality for all, doomed to failure? I guess we’ll find out in November.

Bernie’s new campaign ad rocks!

 

(first published Fe 28/2016 -bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/roxanne-tellier-legalize-it/)