Spliff Magazine

Preparing for Legalization

The federal government of Canada has announced legislation is to be released by April 2017; however, the target date for cannabis legalization is July 1st, 2018.

Once federal legislation has been announced the onus will be on each provincial government to determine how adult use cannabis will be retailed in their respective jurisdictions. Private storefronts, pharmacy models, and LCBO-type establishments have all been discussed as possible channels for the sale of cannabis. While nothing has been determined Ontario’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, has openly expressed her preference toward the LCBO style stores controlled entirely by the provincial government. The time for protest is now over. Legalization is happening. Now is the time to lobby so that the existing cannabis industry can influence how legalization happens.

The cannabis industry must demonstrate to the province that we are both willing to work with them and that we are proposing options agreeable to the general population — not just to cannabis consumers. We must be willing to compromise and we must demonstrate that this is a platform topic for the provincial election June 2018. For this reason the Cannabis Friendly Business Association will be moving forward with Counsel Public Affairs lobbying on behalf of small business owners in the industry.

Counsel Public Affairs (Counsel) is a well-known lobbyist group with experience in “grey area” markets having influenced the province in areas such as the legalization and regulation of AirBnB. While there are many differing opinions on what legalization should look like it is important to recognize that we must make requests that will be perceived as reasonable to the province while still being fair to business owners.

There will be two main objectives in this lobbying effort:

  1. Preserving a role for private retail storefronts in the
    cannabis market, even if product must be purchased from a province-run distribution warehouse as a compromise.
  2. Allow cannabis lounges to continue offering social
    spaces for cannabis users, and address the barriers posed by existing smoking and vaping laws to medical cannabis users.

The Vice President of Counsel, Sheamus Murphy, acknowledges the urgency of this action:

Regarding timing, cannabis legalization will come into effect just after the next provincial election, expected on June 8, 2018. This means that cannabis legalization has the very real potential to become a political football, as the opposition parties will have additional incentive to come out against the government’s plan when announced. Given that fact, and the possibility of both a change in government and/or a minority Parliament, it will become increasingly important to engage all parties, in addition to non-partisan civil servants, to ensure that all sides take your perspective into account.

These lobbying efforts are crucial to impacting pending decisions in regards to the sale and consumption of cannabis in Ontario. However, they also cost upwards of $20K monthly. If you are a small business owner please consider becoming a member of the CFBA and contributing to our efforts. If you are not a small business owner but still have a vested interest in the future of cannabis in Ontario please consider donating to our lobbying efforts or reaching out to your MPPs to let them know your opinion (a list of MPPs and a sample letter can be found at cannabizassociation.ca).