Pubdate: Thu, 09 Nov 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Reid Southwick
Page: A8


Rick Hanson spent four decades in policing - more than seven of those
years as Calgary's chief - where he made a career out of fighting
organized crime and the local drug trade. Nearly three years into his
retirement, it may come as a surprise he is now involved in the
cannabis industry.

But Hanson said Wednesday he is among a growing number of former
senior police officers across Canada who are leveraging their
experiences to ensure legalization is done safely while eliminating
criminals from the supply chain.

"There are a ton of risks," said Hanson, an adviser at the Canadian
Cannabis Chamber of Commerce and a senior vice-president at Merrco, an
online payment processing firm for marijuana sales.

"You just don't go into the organized crime world and say, 'Thank you
very much, we're doing this now,' and they go, 'Oh, OK; we'll just
find something else to do.'"

As Calgary's police chief, Hanson was opposed to legalization, having
argued that loosening marijuana laws would send the wrong message to
Canadians, especially youth, that using the drug is acceptable,
despite health risks.

Hanson said his previous reservations have been rendered meaningless
by the federal government's decision to make Canada the first G7
nation to legalize cannabis.

"That ship sailed," he said, adding he remains concerned about pot's
impact on developing minds.

He said the question now is whether governments can approve
distribution and retail models that restrict access for youth and
prevent illicit marijuana from entering the retail chain. Hanson
believes in strong controls around the production and distribution of
cannabis, and is worried retailers could be "owned and operated by
frontmen for organized crime. Who's doing that check?

"Who's doing the check on the product coming through the back door
that's going to be sold?"

Hanson backs the publicly-run model adopted by Ontario, which plans
150 stores by 2020, beginning with a batch of 40, all run by the
Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Ontario, he said, recognizes "they want to legalize, but they don't
want to normalize."

Hanson wouldn't say whether he believes Alberta should follow suit,
noting it's up to the government to decide based on its own analysis.

The former chief's position places him at odds with the leadership of
the Canadian Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, where Hanson serves as
public safety adviser.

Peter Pilarski, the group's president, said the chamber believes the
government should set the rules for retailers and "get out of the
way." He said private stores stand a better chance of stamping out the
black market because there is more opportunity to cut costs and
diversify product lines to meet target markets.

Alberta has tapped the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission as the
sole wholesaler for cannabis, a move meant to ensure only regulated
pot grown by federally licensed producers is sold in Alberta.

But the province hasn't revealed whether it will follow Ontario's lead
for retail or adopt a private model, such as one rolled out this week
by Manitoba, which has asked provincial authorities to oversee and
regulate the market, with private companies running the stores.

The Alberta government said last month that online sales may not be
initially allowed, given concerns that technology cannot verify
consumers ordering and receiving the pot are old enough.

Hanson is a senior executive at a company that uses credit card
information to verify up to 200 data points, including age, to verify
a consumer is legally allowed to buy pot in their province.

The former police chief has registered as a lobbyist to convince
Alberta Justice and the premier's office that online sales "can be
implemented with all the regulations applied at the time of ordering."
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