A Greater Victoria-based cannabis stakeholder group says a North Saanich councillor’s call for an industry-based trust fund to pay for health care costs associated with the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, is misguided.
“Jack McClintock is creating associations with alcohol and tobacco … and that is not borne out in science around cannabis,” says Travis Lane, director of the BC Independent Cannabis Association (BCICA).
Lane and BCICA President Courtland Sandover-Sly met with the News Review after McClintock outlined his idea to have the burgeoning cannabis industry create a $500 million trust fund to address issues of health and addiction.
McClintock said he hopes to take his idea to Vancouver Island, B.C. and nation-wide municipal organizations, to support this idea. He also is calling for the federal government to use more of the anticipated taxes from legal cannabis production and sales for education and health-related issues. The North Saanich municipal councillor said he wanted the country, and local communities, to be prepared for the effects of legalization — and to avoid the mistakes of the alcohol and tobacco industries over their health and societal impacts.
Lane said McClintock is “cherry picking” his information about cannabis and an already planned $180 million draw from anticipated taxes by the federal government for an addictions strategy, goes far enough.
“Addiction is a loaded term here,” Lane continued. “The negative outcomes of dependence (on cannabis) is not in the same realm of tobacco and alcohol.”
He pointed to studies being done out of the University of British Columbia looking into whether cannabis can get people off of harder drugs.
Sandover-Sly added much of McClintock’s reasoning seems to stem from the ongoing opioid crisis. He said information coming out of the U.S. states which have legalized recreational cannabis “shows the lowering of opioid issues by five per cent.”
Both he and Lane say cannabis does not have the same kind of addictions effects as alcohol and tobacco — and those industries aren’t being asked for multi-million dollar trust funds to cover health-related costs or lawsuits.
“A lot of this feels like blaming,” Lane said. “A lot of people like their stigma. I think this is an overreach.”
Sandover-Sly said there’s potentially a lot of good news to come in the legalization of cannabis. That includes the level of control and regulation being given to municipalities in regards to commercial and industrial cannabis operations. While the federal government and province of B.C. have allowed pot growing on agricultural land, Sandover-Sly said towns can control hours of operation, where they go and what they look like. In some cases, municipalities can even ban retail cannabis operations.
“I feel like communities have the right to make those kinds of determinations.”
Neither Land nor Sandover-Sly said they don’t want taxes gleaned from cannabis production and sales to go to health care issues — quite the opposite. They agree there could be a lot of issues coming out of legalization but point to the fact there are a lot of cannabis users now and those numbers might not fluctuate wildly in the wake of legalization.
They also realize there will be a lot of growing pains after legalization.
“This really is the first time (a government) has sought to regulate a black market,” Lane said, “and do it on a grand scale. We are going to make a lot of mistakes.”
He added it’ll probably take three or four years for the legal industry to make a dent in the black market for cannabis — and that’s mostly due to the low supply of legal weed right off the start. Lane said they anticipate legal cannabis will sell out relatively quickly as producers ramp up their ability to meet demand — which is only natural in a relatively new agricultural crop.
“It’s going to be a bumpy road for the first few years.”
The BCICA is a non-profit stakeholders organization whose primary focus is on education, with a goal of informing the public and policy makers in a clear and comprehensive manner. To that end, they hold regular public meetings at Camosun College. Their next meeting is Wed., March 21 at 7 p.m. Membership to the BCICA is an annual fee of $5. For information, visit independentcannabis.ca.