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The news from Premier Wynne's office came as a collective kick in the shins to many in the fight for cannabis freedom, and sounded a shrill warning to other independent dispensaries and retail outlets across Canada.
The Ontario government upon legalization will install a monopoly on cannabis retail distribution within its borders with upwards of 150 stores and a separate Cannabis Control Board.
Yasir Abbas Naqvi MPP and Ontario's Attorney general says, "One of the government’s priorities involves clamping down on illegal distribution channels." He made it clear that will include dispensaries that have cropped up in recent months in anticipation of widespread legalization.
“Illicit cannabis dispensaries are not legal now and will not be legal retailers under the new model,” Naqvi said. “… These pot dispensaries are illegal and will be shut down. If you operate one of these facilities, consider yourself on notice.”
The words echoed through my head, as my precaffeinated mind was struggling to grasp the implications of what those words meant. Like a train wreck about to unfold, I couldn't look away. Would other provinces follow in those same shoes?
The thought that folks who care and had fought for decades to bring us to this momentous time in history were going to be shuttered and criminally prosecuted was a shot straight to my heart. The weight of that decision to omit all of the hard working, creative, and innovative men and women that poured blood and tears and risked persecution and imprisonment to build Canada's cannabis industry to world highs, made me feel nauseated.
It left me with more than a few questions and concerns. It seemed the police and government had a new plan, and the people that strived for so long to get us here were being ignored or hunted to extinction.
The renewed push against dispensaries in several provinces has left many people wondering if this had been the plan all along; to eliminate the dispensaries and replace them with government run systems to maximize the impact on the public purse. It wouldn't be a far reach to see that was the primary focus behind the decision. Many alternate approaches could have been used to include those that are most familiar with the industry, such as licensing existing shops and attempting to begin to repair some of the damage caused by years of governmental ostracism.
I was left wondering if, now that legalization was falling into favor with the corporate elite, would an all out attack on section 56 and the ACMPR be far behind?
It seems reasonable to surmise that the government's plan upon legalization would be to lump medical patients into the general pot by removing the barriers to reasonable access that are the basis for the majority of court decisions. In doing so, the government will have effectively removed the arguments.
By continuing the persecution of growers and retail operators, the police and government have succeeded in fractionalizing the movement and dividing support. Often using one off examples as the basis for demonizing an industry, the too-easily swayed public opinion often sides with the misinformation and propaganda perpetuated by the highest levels of government.
The thought that tens of thousands of people that have spent decades fighting for this moment are being left out to dry is appalling. The audacity of government to think that after raining terror upon the cannabis community for as long as anyone can remember would make them accepting of a tyrannical monopoly hell bent on dismantling everything they had achieved.
Ontario had the opportunity to extend an olive branch to the community and set a shining example of inclusion to the rest of the provinces, but chose the path that seems most doomed to initial failure. It only shows that the fight is far from over.
Other provinces are in the midst of consultations and development. Don't wait to voice your concern with a monopoly system. Call your local representatives and tell them that there is room for everyone at the table.
Together we can prosper. Advise them that small business is the heart of any industry and leads innovation and brings much needed jobs and revenue to local municipalities. Artisinal growers ensure diversity among crops and lead the way in new growing methods and strain development, while allowing diversity in choice to consumers.
Stand up and show your pride for the men and woman who have made and continue to make Canadian cannabis a familiar name on the world stage.