Pubdate: Wed, 22 Nov 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Authors: Solomon Israel and Dylan Robertson
Page: A2


Ottawa seeks to undercut black market using 'small-scale growers'

OTTAWA - The federal government has revealed part of its strategy for
regulating recreational cannabis when it becomes legal in July,
proposing to allow "micro-cultivation" while modifying the existing
federal licensing scheme for medical marijuana producers to let them
sell into the future market.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor released a 75-page
consultation document Tuesday afternoon kicking off a 60-day period
for officials, groups and citizens to respond to the plan.

"We want a system that will better protect the health of Canadians,
and that will enable a diverse, competitive and legal industry
comprising (of) both large and small players," the minister told reporters.

The plan would give the health minister the power to grant security
clearances to prospective cannabis-industry players and exclude people
with connections to organized crime, corruption or drug trafficking.
The proposed regulations could, however, leave the door open to
clearing certain black-market participants deemed "non-violent" and

New licensing categories would be created for different kinds of
businesses, including four for cultivation and two for processing,
along with licences for testing, import/export and research.

Although regulating sales of recreational cannabis will be the purview
of individual provinces and territories after legalization, the
proposed regulations would let the health minister issue sales
licences if "a province or territory has not established a retail
environment with appropriate safeguards to enable the purchase of
legal, regulated cannabis by July 2018."

In its bid to undercut the black market, the document says Ottawa
seeks "both large and small players in regions across the country" to
cultivate and sell cannabis products. The proposed "micro-cultivation"
licences would "enable the participation of small-scale growers in the
legal cannabis industry."

In a technical briefing, a government

Oof Canada official said cannabis cultivators of all sizes would have
to have their product processed for sale by a company with a
processing licence before it could be sold to consumers. Companies
will be able to hold multiple licences of different types, so some
companies would be able to process their own crop.

"It's recognizing that, over time, we're seeing an industry that
becomes less vertically integrated and more horizontal, if you will,"
the official said.

On Parliament Hill, Liberal MP Bill Blair stressed cannabis
distribution will fall under provincial regulation, and the provinces
can place further restrictions on things such as the minimum age for
purchasing cannabis and personal possession limits. The postal service
is largely exempted from those regulations, as it follows federal rules.

Under the federal government's proposed Cannabis Act, the minimum age
for purchase and consumption will be 18 and an adult will be able to
possess up to 30 grams of marijuana on their person.

"The provinces will be able to obtain from any licensed producer for
distribution within their jurisdiction," Blair said.

Building off the current federal regulations for licensed medical
cannabis producers, the proposed regulations call for mixed security
measures based on the size of the company involved.

The proposed regulations would diminish some existing security
measures for large licensed producers, doing away with certain strict
storage requirements, reducing the length of time for which
surveillance video must be kept on file, eliminating the need for CCTV
in cannabis-growing areas and easing the requirement for
security-cleared individuals to supervise employees in any room where
cannabis is present.

Ottawa is asking the public whether such permits should be available
for people with "histories of non-violent, lower-risk criminal
activity," such as small-scale growers. That could be a boon to
existing black-market participants in the industry, many of whom have
expressed a desire to join the legal, federally licensed regime.

Petitpas Taylor acknowledged more than 500,000 Canadians carry a
criminal record for comparatively minor offences related to marijuana.

"We're just asking the question, you know: should these people with a
small amount of personal possession - should they be excluded from the
market, or should we consider them? We haven't made a decision on that."

During the technical briefing, a government official said the call for
feedback was "acknowledging that there are a number of individuals in
Canada right now who will be interested in becoming part of the
regulated market, yet who have a past experience with cannabis."

A national "cannabis tracking system" would be established to follow
it from production to point-of-sale, including how much is grown, sold
and destroyed. The proposed regulations note, however, the minister of
health "could not require the reporting of any personal information
about consumers who purchase cannabis at the retail level."

Winnipeg MP Doug Eyolfson, a Liberal who sits on the health committee,
said Tuesday's proposed packaging rules are "stringent enough," but he
hopes they will go further.

Single-dose products meant for inhalation, such as ready-to-smoke
joints commonly called "pre-rolls," would not be able to contain more
than one gram of dried cannabis. Cannabis products meant for
ingestion, including oils, would be limited to 10 milligrams of THC
per dose, in line with the approach taken by legal U.S. jurisdictions
such as Colorado.

The proposal notes provinces and municipalities can "tailor certain
rules in their own jurisdiction," such as a higher minimum age or more
restrictive limits on growing or possessing marijuana.

Some Manitoba communities are considering restricting pot, and some
have called to outright ban the sale or use of the product, though it
would still be available through an online, mail-order system or by
travelling to other jurisdictions.
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