The Ontario Chamber of Commerce recently urged Premier Wynne to consider a “private-sector, licensing based, and locally-oriented approach” to the distribution and production of recreational cannabis. They caution against an approach so onerous that it inadvertently keeps the black market alive. They recommend municipalities have a say in the varying approaches to distribution and production. This, according to the OCC, empowers communities. In other words, they want private dispensaries regulated by local government.
They do not want LCBO cannabis. They are not the first to condemn the Premier Wynne’s liquor and cannabis idea. Perry Kendall the BC Public Health Officer called the idea contrary to the public health ethos. Addictions and Mental Health Ontario described the plan as problematic. The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce denounced it as, among other things, outdated. In a May 2016 Forum Poll of Ontarians found a majority of those polled favored private dispensaries over the LCBO liquor and pot model.
It is time for private dispensaries to be regulated by government. The dispensaries would love to be regulated. The municipalities could set out rules governing where dispensaries can operate, when they can operate, who they can sell to, what they can sell, and how old you have to be to purchase. If they are concerned about the quality of the cannabis being sold then they could require testing. If they are concerned about labelling of edibles then they could set out labelling rules. If they are concerned that the dispensaries do not thoroughly screen for medical use then they could set out protocols that the dispensaries must follow before they can sell to a patient.
Instead of sensible rules, the federal government has decided to prosecute the dispensaries. It is such a bad idea that it warrants little debate. Aside from the fact that the prosecutions are expensive and unconstitutional, without dispensaries cannabis patients would be forced to purchase their medicine in back alleys which is bad for the patients and for the community while empowering organized crime. Everybody knows this and everybody also knows dispensaries will be legal soon. So why prosecute the current dispensaries? Money. The federal government wants to use their criminal law authority to stop cannabis people from running the current dispensaries so that their corporate friends, the licensed producers, can open their own dispensaries. The federal government admitted as much in their Discussion Paper. It is a corrupt, mean-spirited, expensive, unconstitutional, and probably illegal use of the federal government’s criminal law power.
-Paul Lewin, @PaulLewinLawyer