Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jul 2016
Source: Georgia Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 The Georgia Straight
Author: Travis Lupick
Page: 11


In another sign that Canada's booming marijuana industry has gone
corporate, dozens of companies have registered as paid lobbyists ahead
of Ottawa's plan to legalize the drug's recreational use next spring.

As of March 19, the federal government's lobbyist registry listed 88
paid positions with interests in marijuana or cannabis. The companies
named range from small, independent businesses like Vancouver's Eden
Medicinal Society to large corporations, including the Loblaws chain
of more than 2,000 supermarkets across Canada.

An analysis by the Straight revealed the vast majority of lobbyists
remain focused on medicinal marijuana, while 24 can be described as
focusing entirely or partly on recreational cannabis.

One sector of the industry noticeable in the registry for its relative
absence is that of storefront dispensaries. Their leading industry
association, the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries
(CAMCD), once had paid lobbyists in Ottawa but abandoned those efforts
years ago.

Looking for individual dispensaries, there are barely more than a
handful of storefront chains with lobbyists in Ottawa, and just two
from B.C. Those are Eden Medicinal Society and the Victoria Cannabis
Buyers Club.

Philippe Lucas is vice president of patient research and advocacy at
Tilray-a Nanaimo-based company authorized to grow and distribute
medicinal marijuana-and interim executive director of the Canadian
Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC), a national industry association of
authorized producers.

Of the 88 registered lobbyists, 10 are associated with Tilray and
seven are on CMCC'S payroll.

In a telephone interview, Lucas said the primary goal is simply for
cannabis to be treated like any other medicine.

He told the Straight that priorities include securing health-insurance
coverage for medicinal cannabis, removing taxes on prescription
purchases, and facilitating government approval for new product
formats such as oral-mucosal sprays.

There is one Tilray lobbyist with a registry description that mentions
recreational cannabis.

"We have been lobbying for increased patient access through regulated
storefronts as an additional delivery option for licensed products,"
Lucas confirmed.

The federal government's mail-order system for medicinal marijuana has
grown since its implementation in 2014 but is likely still moving less
marijuana nationwide than Vancouver's illegal dispensary industry.

During the second quarter of 2014 (the first three months following a
revision of regulations), licensed producers together sold 408
kilograms of medicinal marijuana, according to Health Canada
statistics. That had increased to 1,371 kilograms one year later, in
mid-2015, and went up to 3,082 during the first quarter of 2016, the
latest period for which data is available. By the Straight's
conservative calculations, Vancouver's roughly 80 dispensary
storefronts move somewhere between 2,660 and 8,040 kilograms of pot
each quarter.

According to CAMCD president Dieter MacPherson, one reason the
lobbyist registry might be short on names from the dispensary industry
is because storefront operators predict Ottawa will leave
nuts-and-bolts regulations for the distribution of recreational
marijuana up to the provinces.

"The federal government and its legalization platform is going to be
setting a stage that the provinces then get to dance on," he said on
the phone from Victoria. "Lobbying dollars spent at the federal level
may not be as effective."
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MAP posted-by: Matt