Spliff Magazine

Uniting Local Canna-Businesses to Fight Ontario Bill 45

This bill would devastate your local cannabiz, patients, and canna consumers across the province.

Just months after many in the canna culture rallied around the federal Liberals and Justin Trudeau’s promises of legalization his provincial counterpart, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has presented some extremely disturbing legislation.

Sections of Bill 45, to go into effect as of July 1 unless it is stopped, very seriously encroach on the rights of patients who use cannabis as medicine and the businesses that serve them. Among other new restrictions, Ontario’s many longstanding successful vapor lounges would be shut down.

Abi Roach, the owner of The Hot Box in Kensington Market, was an early cannabiz trailblazer… and she is leading the fight against the draconian Bill 45, founding The Cannabis Friendly Business Association, which had an emergency meeting at The HotBox Cafe, one of the cities’ first cannabusinesses.  They are fundraising to continue to pay a professional and effective lobbyist to take our concerns directly to Queens Park in the extremely limited time available.

I caught up with the extremely busy Abi at her home in Kensington Market on March 12th to hear more about their plans.

Abi, you were a pioneer in Toronto’s canna business. The Hot Box was the very first space in Toronto that allowed vaping cannabis in public. What is the most disturbing thing about Bill 45 from your perspective as a long time cannabiz owner? How will it affect your business and your employees?

What is most disturbing is that the Wynne government has made this decision without any consultation, thought, or research.

Cannabis lounges not only offer Medical Marijuana patients a safe and comfortable setting in which they can consume their medicine without hassle, but also offer a greater good to the public as a whole.

After speaking with my community Police officers, they had revealed to me that their main concern is the consumption of cannabis in public spaces and parks.

Cannabis lounges take cannabis consumption off our streets and into private, ventilated and staffed spaces. Our staff is there to ensure the consumers safety and well being.

The other bothersome point is that vaporizing cannabis is the safest and fastest way to medicate: edibles may be safer for the lungs but take longer to metabolize and many people have dietary restrictions. This has been proven by scientific research and is public knowledge. IF this ban passes not only will consumers be banned from using this healthy alternative but also won’t be able to receive proper education of use and options when purchasing, as the ban will make cannabis vaporizers the same as cigarettes under the Smoke Free Ontario Act.

This ban will be carried through as a way to ban Cannabis shops, better known as dispensaries, since they are now adding Medical Marijuana to the Smoke Free Ontario act.

This bill is Death by fines to our industry in Ontario.

What worries you the most when you think of how it affects the lives of patients who use cannabis as medicine?

This law affects everyone who consumes Cannabis. They are using the guise of Medical Marijuana to add cannabis to the Act and pre-empting legalization.

This law will put Cannabis consumers back into hiding, after years of normalization efforts, which have now succeeded.

This by-law will hit the most vulnerable of Cannabis consumers first. For those living in Public housing, this will mean the can not even consume their medicine in their own home, as public housing is included in the Act.

Tell us about the Business Association and who is involved. Are you happy with industry response and cooperation to this crisis so far?

The CFBA was formed to fight an attempted City Of Toronto ban of cannabis lounges. We formed a strong unified voice, properly lobbied for the industry, and managed to have the motion dropped.

We hope to grow this month to include ALL aspects of the Cannabis Industry, small and large. We all face the same set of problems, and we must tackle them together.

Can you explain the thinking behind addressing this issue in a formal lobbying way, as opposed to the traditional on the ground activist/protest response?

Currently the government is studying how to carry through the legalization of Cannabis. Our protests were heard, and are now being acted upon. We must have a say in the way legalization is carried out or we will be left with policy that echoes Bill 45.

What can we expect to see over the next few months? And how will the Association keep people updated?

If we can pool our resources together you can plan to see a strong Lobby in all levels of government. First and most pressing is Bill 45 on a provincial level accompanied by a court injunction necessary to protect the rights of MMPR & MMAR patients.

This will be followed for a municipal push for PROPER and FAIR licensing of Cannabis shops & lounges. Lobbying is to follow through on the provincial & federal levels.

We will also lobby the financial sector to take out the Anti-Cannabis clause in their merchant underwriting process. Maybe add how people can follow the lobbying campaign.

What would you personally like to say to Premier Wynne about Bill 45 if you had the chance to sit down with her?

I’d like to tell Ms Wynne to take her decision slower, with longer consultation period and with clear solutions to the mess she will create in peoples lives.

How can individuals – patients, cannabis consumers, and their advocates – best support your efforts on our behalf?

Our best support will come in three ways.

  1. SHARE – Spread the word to other canna- businesses and customers about the effects and urgency of the Bill
  2. DONATE we need raise over $120,000 this year to cover all expenses for lobbying fees, lawyer fees and administration.
  3. SUPPORT – Letter writing campaign to your MPP, MP & city councilor. The CFBA will be posting sample letters for the most effective results.