Pubdate: Fri, 11 Sep 2015
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2015 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: D.C. Fraser
Page: C8


Over the next six weeks, federal leaders will be rolling out campaign
promises on a wide array of issues. The Leader-Post and StarPhoenix
will take an in-depth look at some of these every week until you head
to the polls on Oct. 19

In Saskatchewan, green may be the colour but the future of marijuana -
for medical and recreational use - is cloudy.

The outcome of next month's federal election (which features some
parties musing about decriminalization and legalization) and the
decision of a Federal Court judge on how medical marijuana can be
grown and distributed in the country will have a direct impact on the

"Depending on what the winner suggests about medical marijuana
legislation, (it will have) a direct impact on the economy, and on
this sector of the economy," said Lucas Richert, a medical historian
at the University of Saskatchewan.

Brent Zettl, for one, hopes that political parties do not go the
legalization route.

Zettl, president of Saskatoon-based Prairie Plant Systems Inc., set up
the first company in Canada to become a licensed medical marijuana

He believes Saskatchewan could become a leader in the field if the
medical marijuana industry is allowed to expand.

"This is where we make things happen, and it works for the rest of the
country," said Zettl.

But a Federal Court decision on whether medical marijuana users should
be able to continue growing their own plants or be forced to purchase
from a licensed grower is looming over the industry. Arguments in that
case wrapped up in May, but a ruling has yet to be made. In the
meantime, patients aren't required to use the licensed producers.

When the federal government made changes to medical marijuana
regulations in 2013, it forced patients using the drug to buy their
medicine from a licensed grower.

At the time the changes were made, Health Canada estimated that
handing the reins of the medical marijuana industry to private
companies would unleash a free market that would create $1.3 billion
in sales by 2024, with an estimated 450,000 Canadians using medical
cannabis by that time.

Zettl thinks that estimate was low.

"There's an unmet need there," he said, adding that there are now more
than 160 health indications allowing patients access to medical
marijuana than there were under the old regulations.

That means more people are medically cleared to buy cannabis from
companies like Prairie Plant Systems Inc.

While legalization of any kind could hurt the medical side of the
industry in Saskatchewan, others see it as an opportunity for growth.

Roberto Apodaca, a sales associate at Regina's Vintage Vinyl & Hemp
Emporium, has already seen signs of the industry expanding.

"It's more than just a business, it's a culture," he

Apodaca says that the expansion of medical marijuana has already led
to more customers.

"It's going to drive us, just in the fact that people are going to
have a lot of questions and learn a thing or two," he said.

Opening up marijuana to recreational users - and allowing dispensaries
to sell it - would only continue that growth.

Apodaca says Saskatchewan is already home to some of the best and most
experienced marijuana growers in the industry.

"The roots are here, and the work has already been done," he

Many of those growers have continued planting, even though they don't
have a licence. If the winning party in the election decides to keep
marijuana laws as is, many growers in this province will no doubt
continue to supply - and profit - from the illegal, recreational
marijuana market.

Already, there are signs of a willingness of marijuana consumers to
skirt the rules.

Not all medical marijuana users are going to licensed producers like
Prairie Plant Systems.

There are roughly 40,000 people in Canada who can access medical
marijuana right now. Some estimates show more than half of those
patients are still growing their own plants rather than buying from
one of the 26 licensed producers.

Companies like Zettl's aren't making as much money as they expected to
when they sought out a licence.

Until a ruling in the Federal Court case is made, the industry isn't
growing as fast as expected and there is some fear the supply market
might become too saturated - if it isn't already - with licensed producers.

"The problem is that every last one of them are losing money in that
area, and so it's only a function of time before a couple of them
start going broke," said Zettl.

Some producers have merged, while others are still waiting for a
positive cash flow. One British Columbia-based producer had to lay off
a third of its workforce this summer.

"The market is not growing nearly as fast as it could" says

No matter what happens in the election, it's clear the marijuana
industry will keep growing.

What that will look like is, well, cloudy.


The promises on marijuana as of Sept. 10


Are against the legalization or decriminalization of recreational
marijuana. Campaigning to up the amount of money given to the RCMP to
crack down on illegal drug labs and marijuana grow ops.


Believe spending millions of dollars on enforcing drug laws has
failed. Green MPs will advocate for the creation of a regulatory
framework for the safe production of marijuana by small, independent
growers to establish the sale of marijuana to adults for medicinal or
personal use through licensed distribution outlets.


Believe the current "tough on crime" stance when it comes to marijuana
is a failed policy. The Liberal Party thinks passing laws and taxing a
strictly regulated marijuana market will prevent criminal
organizations from profiting off of it.


Does not believe anyone should go to jail or have a criminal record
for possession of marijuana for personal use. They pledge to
decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana

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Poll findings

A 2014 federally commissioned poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid found more
than two-thirds of Canadians want marijuana laws softened.

Among the poll's findings:


say marijuana should be legalized;


want possession of small amounts of marijuana decriminalized, leading
to a fine rather than a criminal record;


say the marijuana laws should stay the same;


want penalties increased.
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MAP posted-by: Matt