Last year, Canadian Therapeutic Cannabis Partners Society received an email from Health Canada to be part of the legalization round table consultations. I thought it was spam or a joke. I nearly fell out of my chair when I opened the email and realized it wasn’t.

Immediately I contacted Ross Middleton, our Secretary and my right-hand man, to tell him and he had also received one. We were elated, and excited to respond and attend, Ross in Ottawa and myself in Vancouver on Dec 14th, 2017.  Being the CEO of this not-for-profit organization opened that door and I couldn’t have been more honoured!

I booked my flight and arranged to stay with friends. I was excited, to say the least, anticipating what the government had to roll out to us. We had already received an agenda of what the day would entail.

Soon I was packed and off on a little plane to Vancouver, arriving the evening before the legalization round table.  The Cannabis Culture Headquarters Christmas party was that night, where I met up with some old friends. That too was a highlight of this trip.

Legalization Round Table

The next morning I arrived at the Metropolitan Hotel bright and early. A representative from Health Canada greeted me and gave me my name tag and a coffee. Then I found myself a seat. Phillipe Lucas from Tilray was the first to arrive that I recognized. Kirk Tousaw, John Conroy, and Sarah Campbell were among those in attendance that I knew.

There were also laboratory and Licensed Producer representatives, Police Chiefs associations reps, Veterinarian associations members, and Indigenous Chiefs. The rest were bureaucrats from Stats Canada (Health Division), Provincial Health and Safety, and the entire staff of the Cannabis Ministry, which I found out has been in existence for two year now.  

The legalization round table consultation opened up with an introduction, and we all also introduced ourselves. Then the program head started rolling out the Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis and took questions after each section. We were all able to make comments and ask questions.

Proposed Regulations

Overall I feel that the regulation of cannabis will be a good start to an evolving process. But it’s not done yet.

Medical Cannabis

They did state that the medical program isn’t going anywhere. And there will be some improvements: ending storage amounts, creating interactive applications, and not backdating applications to when the doctor signed.

The problem is they still don’t recognize Cannabis as a medicine; I asked point blank when that would happen and received no real response.

Doctors are still the gateway. Without approval from Health Canada there is still a barrier for patients to get what they need. My doctor has refused to sign my renewal, stating that after legalization through the BC College of Physicians doctors will only be prescribing to patients with cancer and MS. And in small amounts, the maximum being 2-5 grams.

I was appalled, knowing that this is a lie. But that said, until Health Canada actually rescinds their stance against medical cannabis, and quits deterring doctors from prescribing, we will have more people with medical need left out of the loop.

Recreational legalization is kind of a double-edged sword when it comes to medical access. In the battle for all patients to be able to grow their own part of the reason was the lack of access otherwise. With legalization, many who couldn’t obtain a prescription from their doctor will have legal access. And those that don’t have access to a doctor to begin with will have the ability to take care of their own medical needs without a prescription. But it also leaves out patients needing higher prescriptions than recreational limits.

During the round table I asked about children that need medical cannabis. Legalization will give them access without a doctor’s prescription, but their parents could face criminal charges by obtaining and giving them what they need. No one had a position on that. Unfortunately, my question was kind of brushed off.

Cultivation

There are four growing licenses: Standard Cultivation, Micro Cultivation, Industrial Hemp, and Nursery. Security for the producer types will be different and they will have some changes with vaulting and testing.

The fact that the government is looking at micro-growing and crafting again is a huge step forward, allowing more people the ability to get into the industry. But it will still be a million-dollar venture, leaving many small growers out of the loop of legalization too.

And the Nursery rules I will say have issues. The proposed regulations want to barcode every existing clone or seed and have it all tracked. Yet nurseries won’t sell to the general public, just to the large scale cultivators. That restriction will lead to black market clones.

Beyond the Legalization Round Table

There is a lot of work to be done on all aspects of this new bill, but ten years ago we didn’t even have this option. Now we have a start.

As a Canadian activist, advocate, and patient I see the downfalls in this bill. But many advocates don’t understand that the average Canadian thinks it’s great. The closet cannabis consumer sees that they aren’t going to be busted for a joint, they will be able to dabble in growing a pot plant, and have access to cannabis strains from all over the world. And there are still some people with the “Reefer Madness” mindset who don’t want to see it pass at all.

Overall I felt like they were hearing us. And I know we have many good organizations and people pushing for this to be done right. But from my perspective, anything having to do with crime attached to cannabis is not legalization, it’s over-regulation.

You can put in a proposal through [email protected], or fill out the Online Questionnaire (with links to the relevant sections) and I encourage everyone to do so. The deadline is Friday, January 20th.

Lets see what the future holds, cuz we still aren’t quite there yet.