Pubdate: Thu, 22 Feb 2018
Source: Intelligencer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018, The Belleville Intelligencer
Author: Tim Meeks
Page: A1


Liberal MP says he wasn't thrilled about it at first, but changed his

Cannabis was on the menu at the Belleville & District Chamber of
Commerce's monthly breakfast Wednesday at the Travelodge Hotel, and
Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis was pushing it - from a business point of

With Bill C- 45, the Cannabis Act, expected to be law by July 1, Ellis
said the business of marijuana will provide many opportunities, not
just from production of both recreational and medical cannabis, but
from the many sideline businesses it will create.

The times are certainly changing and Ellis quipped that when he was
going into Grade 9 at Centennial Secondary School, "if I had said to
my guidance counselor that in 20 or 30 years I'd like to speak to the
Chamber of Commerce about legalizing cannabis you'd thought I was crazy."

Ellis said it's all about risk management.

"When I became a Member of Parliament and saw that legalizing cannabis
was in our platform, at first I wasn't really for it. But I looked at
it with my business mind, and remembered when the casino was coming to
town when I was still mayor there were a lot of people who seemed to
be against it and thought the sky was falling. We look now after a
year and there has been a million visitors and there's money coming
back into the economy. I said, it's all about risk management.

"What are the alternatives to legalizing cannabis? We can keep it the
same way as it has been and continue to spend $ 2 billion annually on
law enforcement chasing cannabis. In 2016 there were still 17,733
charges for simple possession of cannabis annually in Canada. Is this
a war that we've won? I don't believe you can honestly say that we
have. You look at supplies, contamination and risk management, and
from the business end it wasn't working.

"The NDP say they want to decriminalize cannabis, so it would be
similar to a speeding ticket, but it wouldn't take away the $ 7
billion annually that's going to organized crime," Ellis said.

"So the third option would be to legalize.

"As a Member of Parliament I receive a lot of information and a lot of
input. This year there has been pilot project kicked off by the
University of Toronto that does a lot of surveying of this riding, and
it's a non-partisan organization run by two professors, so I've had
the advantage of having a lot of research done on cannabis and other
events in the riding. In November during polling in the riding, the
question was asked, Marijuana, should it be a criminal offence? and of
those polled 66 per cent either strongly disagreed or disagreed that
it should be a criminal offence, so therefore we know in our riding
decriminalizing or legalization is what people feel. Strongly agree or
agree that it should be a criminal offence was 18 per cent. They did
polling in 10 ridings that are similar to the Bay of Quinte, and the
results were similar. "So it's time to look at what it's going to mean
for our riding, and I look at the business side and there are
companies looking to set up! here, medical companies. In this riding
the food industry is our largest, so we have lots of opportunities
whether it's for security and alarm systems, refrigeration, packaging.
So we can hide our heads in the sand and say we don't agree or we
don't want to do this, but this business is going to bigger than the
wine industry. Is it out there now? Yes it is out there now. Are we
stopping it? No we're not, so our point is risk management.

"So there are many opportunities, not in terms of production, but
sidelines that are going to be needed in this business also.

"Currently 100 per cent of the illicit market is controlled by
criminals. In Washington State the illegal trade in cannabis is down
to 28 per cent and they are slowly working that off.

"So it's about building a new sector. We have a lot of initiatives.
For instance, Loyalist College has been granted a federal licence for
research. We look at colleges in general, there is going to be a lot
of white lab coat jobs in the area that our college can provide, so
it's about us as a community welcoming this.

Part of it is harm reduction and in the cannabis products through a
legalized market, both for recreational and medical users. I've sat
down with many medical users and part of their concern is the supply
chain with medical cannabis. I sat down with a couple who lost their
daughter to cancer and she was on medical cannabis and their issue was
they couldn't get a supply going back a couple of years ago. When you
look through the medical chain and the research done there will be
strict controls on pesticides. Part of it is control, part of it is
education. The goal is to take an illegal product in our community and
try to make the best of it. We have to promote research opportunities,
evaluate new applications. We have noticed on health care, especially
on veterans files and other medical issues it does help. More research
has to be put into that and I think when you see legalization come
you'll see that happen and we can have that happen right at our college."
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MAP posted-by: Matt