Pubdate: Thu, 21 Sep 2017
Source: Valley Voice, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Valley Voice
Author: Art Joyce


The Kootenay Outdoor Producers' Co-op, a local coalition formed to
create the first legal marijuana production operation in the West
Kootenay, has elected its first board. The inaugural meeting for the
co-op was held at Taghum Hall May 16 with a standing-room only
audience. But president Todd Veri says there remain many uncertainties
as Ottawa and the provinces drag their feet on finalizing

"We have been patiently waiting for some word or direction on the
upcoming regulations from government and how they will apply to our
business plan," says Veri. "Unfortunately, no information has been
forthcoming. Will it be - as we initially feared - that preference is
once more going to be given to large corporate weed factories?"

Veri says the co-op - and other non-corporate cannabis producers -
will need to focus on convincing Ottawa that the co-op business model
"is in the best interests of Canadians, and to make sure their
upcoming regulations allow it."

And in fact, the Justin Trudeau government has so far been more
encouraging of the small business model than the former Harper
government. The November 2016 Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and
Regulation recommended using licensing and production controls to
encourage a diverse, competitive market that also includes outdoor
cannabis grown by small- and medium-sized producers.

The co-op's business model is to produce all-organic, outdoor grown
marijuana for recreational use that is not bred for maximum THC and
does not use agrochemicals. A secondary marketing stream may include
value-added products such as oils, seeds and plant starts for the home

"For our model to succeed," says Veri, "we need to make sure that new
federal regulations don't accidentally shut out the possibility of
this method of production in favour of the corporate indoor model that
has already become established in the Canadian medical marijuana sector."

The Trudeau government has set July 2018 as the deadline for final
adoption of the legislation. Veri's board has met with MP Wayne
Stetski, and is asking the public to make their support for the co-op
model known to the MP. "I believe that whether or not you agree with
what the Liberals are doing with legalizing recreational marijuana,"
says MP Stetski, "then assuming it proceeds next July, we should make
sure the local economy benefits, and the co-op is a great model."

However , provincial governments are concerned that there isn't enough
time to address the legal, social, and health challenges of ending
marijuana prohibition. Some governments such as Manitoba are asking
for an extension to the deadline. In June this year, Prime Minister
Trudeau rejected the idea, stating that governments at all levels have
been given plenty of time to enact legislation.

But Stetski understands why some are requesting an extension. Some
months ago, he met with RCMP representatives concerned about their
ability to conduct roadside screening for cannabis intoxication. They
were reassured by the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada had
granted them the right to do roadside testing. The problem is,
currently the only effective test for THC levels is a blood test.

"Technology needs to catch up, like a breathalyzer that would work
with cannabis," says Stetski. "So I understand groups that want to
delay legalization to make sure the negative part of it is minimized."

Legalization is a complicated issue on many fronts. A representative
from the Canadian Nurses Association has told Stetski that since
Colorado's legalization of recreational marijuana, the number one
thing bringing people into emergency wards there is traffic accidents
due to cannabis-impaired drivers, or people suffering paranoia
attacks. The College of Family Physicians Canada does not endorse
either medicinal or recreational cannabis use, citing a lack of
research during the country's decades-long prohibition.

"At the same time," says Stetski, "I have constituents who have told
me that medical marijuana has absolutely improved their conditions,
particularly arthritis and epilepsy. Once it's legalized, I'm sure
there will be much more research opportunities available and better
decisions based on that research."

Another concern is how to set the legal age for cannabis consumption.
Neurological studies have shown that the brain's development isn't
finished until about age 25. There may be a risk of neurological
damage by regular consumption of drugs or alcohol prior to this age.
The federal government is proposing 19 as the legal age for cannabis
use and wants to keep it out of the hands of youth, while also
eliminating the black market. But Veri says these concerns are
directly addressed in the co-op's constitution.

"Given that, and the reality that our region is awash in black market
activity and has a high rate of youth use, we feel that if our co-op
model is licenced we would be in the best position to help reverse
this locally through economic development, engagement, and funding
local education."
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MAP posted-by: Matt