Pubdate: Fri, 21 Apr 2017
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Will Johnson
Page: A3
Referenced: Cannabis Act:


Nelson-Creston candidate calls federal legislation announcement

The stakes are high.

Members of the Kootenay craft cannabis community are worried federal
legalization will leave them out in the cold, and are concerned the
new laws will be invasive and draconian - leading some to dub the
Cannabis Act "Prohibition 2.0."

With the cannabis industry making up an estimated 25 to 35 per cent of
the local economy, the potential effects of legalization on the Nelson
community will be far-reaching. Sensible B.C.'s local representative
Herb Couch is one of the voices speaking out against elements of the
new law and calling on both provincial and municipal politicians to
take action.

"Provinces and territories may get to sort out distribution and
regulation, but, unfortunately, the federal government will retain
sole control over who can grow cannabis commercially," he told the

"This means the licensed producer crony system will likely continue
and licenses to grow cannabis will continue to be rare and expensive.
If that happens, Nelson will lose out."

Concerns have also been raised about the proposed penalties, with new
measures being introduced to combat impaired driving and keep the
substance out of the hands of minors.

Provincial candidates react to announcement

The implications of the Cannabis Act announcement aren't lost on the
candidates currently vying for Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall's
spot in the legislature, and some have concerns about how exactly the
legalization process will play out at the provincial level.

"What would have a negative effect on the cannabis community is
skewing the regulations to only enable large producers as opposed to
allowing a broader range of people to get involved in the business,"
Greens candidate Kim Charlesworth told the Star.

"We allow craft breweries and wineries, there's no reason why we
shouldn't support the same thing with cannabis."

Liberal candidate Tanya Wall believes the large-scale operations,
including one currently being built in the Crescent Valley, should be
held to stringent standards - and she's not concerned the bar has been
set too high.

"We definitely need to work with the federal government, though, so
it's a fair market for everyone," she said.

But Charlesworth's concerns are shared by independent candidates Jesse
O'Leary and Tom Prior, who both feel this version of legalization
could result in wealth moving from the pockets of Kootenay residents
into the bank accounts of corporate producers.

"The province needs to stand up for the craft cannabis community, who
have supported this area for years," said Prior.

"If we lose that, we lose at least 25 per cent of our local

According to Mungall, she's already been working to ensure that
cannabis professionals from the Kootenays have a place at the table.

"I've been talking with growers and distributors about how to ensure a
strong craft industry continues to exist, because we know how
important it is for our local economy."

'It's coming and we need to manage it'

Another issue on the forefront of candidates' minds is enforcement, as
the Cannabis Act proposes stricter penalties for selling to minors and
other infractions.

"I think the penalties should be similar to selling alcohol or tobacco
to a minor," said Charlesworth.

"We want to manage it in a way that keeps our community safe and

That's not how Wall feels. As a mother of a teenager, she feels
strongly that cannabis should be kept out of the hands of minors and
she feels the penalties are appropriate.

"I absolutely think that if someone is caught selling to a minor,
that's something we have to take very seriously," she said.

Prior called the multi-year prison sentences proposed for selling to
minors "draconian" while O'Leary said elements of the proposed
legislation are "over the top," especially the introduction of
roadside testing for cannabis use.

"I think we all need to step back, take a breath, and recognize that's
there's some scary stuff coming down the pipes," O'Leary, who
personally consumes cannabis, said.

"It seems like the government is doing some shady stuff, trying to get
people so excited about the legalization of weed they're not concerned
with the scary elements that come with it."

Mungall is unhappy that cannabis won't be decriminalized before
legalization hits, noting "police are going to be arresting and
charging people as though they're criminals for something that will be
legal a year from now. It makes no sense."

Dispensary director: 'The fight continues'

Though the Cannabis Act is being lauded as a step in the right
direction, many in the cannabis community feel it hasn't gone far
enough, and could have a harmful effect on the local economy.

The Nelson Cannabis Compassion Club's Phil McMillan - who has been
providing medicinal cannabis to the community since 1999 and currently
has over 1,000 patients - found the announcement disheartening.

"I'm a socialist, I don't support the corporate model whatsoever, and
what I'm watching is a corporate monopoly trying to shove its way into
the Kootenays," he said.

The Kootenays Medicine Tree's director Jim Leslie feels the same

"My number one concern is that we know the vast majority of people
growing cannabis right now are honest, hard-working individuals who
want to play a role in rural economies," he said.

"This bill puts Health Canada in charge of issuing licenses, and then
the provinces get to decide who gets to sell it and that's not fair.
My fear is this bill might exclude them and we'll end up with a whole
new black market."

'They're doing more harm than good'

McMillan and Leslie both feel the cannabis community will have to
oppose the penalties being proposed for things like driving under the
influence of cannabis and selling to minors.

"The fight continues. If you look at the end of alcohol prohibition,
right after they legalized the regulations were strict and harsh, but
they were relaxed over time as alcohol became normalized," McMillan

Leslie thinks the impaired driving elements of the new law are
politically savvy but unconstitutional.

"The Liberals are trying to come across as tough without looking at
the science first, and that's going to cause problems in court," he

"They've included unconstitutional provisions around impaired driving
to satisfy groups like MADD, but what we're aware of is that apart
from novice users and people taking large amounts of edibles, we
simply don't see the road carnage that they fear."

Since impaired driving is already illegal, he feels Canadians would be
better served by the system currently in place - rather than resorting
to saliva, blood and urine samples.

"It really seems like the government hasn't even taken the advice of
the task force that reported to them, and it's like they're legalizing
but making the penalties harsher at the same time - I'm worried
they're doing more harm than good."

'The federal government should not have sole control'

Regardless of how the provincial candidates and local dispensaries
feel, Sensible B.C. plans to advocate for local jobs, said Couch.

"We need Nelson city council and our provincial government to speak up
and support our local craft cannabis industry and local jobs. The
federal government should not have sole control over which businesses
can grow cannabis commercially."
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