FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE HISTORY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAN LAW, YOU CAN GO TO JAIL FOR SIMPLY BEING HIGH ON CANNABIS
Justin Trudeau promised to legalize Cannabis. And yet his federal legislation has opened the door to new, harsher penalties for all kind of “crimes” involving the plant. The federal law would punish offenders with up to 14 years in prison for selling Cannabis to a minor– while selling alcohol to a minor results in a stern letter. While Cannabis reduces binge drinking, alcohol is related to 1.9% of deaths in Canada . What kind of legalization scheme is this? The laws seem designed to fill prisons with young people, minorities, and the poor.
And what of John Horgan’s NDP government? Their new Cannabis law is absolutely grotesque. It creates new Cannabis crimes; for the first time in BC history, it’s a provincial crime to possess Cannabis, or be “intoxicated” with THC. What are the punishments?
First offence for being high in public:
- 3 months in jail, $5,000 fine.
- Second offence, up to 6 months in jail and a $10,000 fine. 
That’s right: you can get fall-down drunk in B.C. and be punished with a night in the drunk-tank. But get caught high on THC in public? You can go to jail for months.
Even more horrifying is how the RCMP plans to determine if you are high. They cannot find a reliable breathalyzer, so you can be convicted on the say-so of a “trained drug recognition expert,” which is an RCMP officer who has taken a brief course.
Is this legalization? Did anyone in the country who voted for Justin Trudeau think that THIS would be result? A corporate Cannabis structure, legal use for rich and entitled people, and harsher punishments for everyone else?
OVERTHROWING VANCOUVER AS THE CANNABIS CAPITAL OF CANADA
Vancouver has been a pioneer in the Cannabis field, thanks to a regulatory system that provides a path to legal legitimacy for dispensaries.
But now Vancouver City Councillor Melissa De Genova wants to force Vancouver’s dispensaries to sell Cannabis only from Licensed Producers— despite the fact that this is illegal under upcoming federal Cannabis legislation. In the new bill, LPs cannot sell their Cannabis from licensed storefront, which means the new measure would effectively make all the dispensaries illegal.
Melissa De Genova voted against the licensing of Vancouver’s dispensaries because she claimed that it would adversely effect medical Compassion Societies. In early 2016, she tabled a motion to cease the licensing programme and shut all the existing dispensaries.
The idea that Vancouver is a bastion of support for Cannabis is challenged by these overt attempts to roll back the achievement of the past decade. The city’s leaders clearly do not respect the rights of Canadians to access Cannabis and will not stop trying to disempower and silence the community.
BREAKING THE POWER OF SMALL GROWERS, THE BACKBONE OF CANADIAN CANNABIS
Dispensaries in Vancouver are currently required to perform background checks on their employees and directors, but they are not required to determine the legal status of suppliers. To these people, all “black market” Cannabis cultivators are criminals. But in reality, small producers are a major force in BC’s economy, with estimates of $5-10 billion per year in Cannabis crop , . For comparison, BC’s film industry brought in $2.6 billion in 2017– a record year.
As to small growers bringing a criminal element, RCMP officers might argue quite the opposite. A National Post reporter spoke to RCMP in the Kootenay region, who said that legalization and issuing business licences allows the police to target serious crimes more easily..
Sgt. Mike Wicentowich of the RCMP’s provincial general investigation section has been involved with enforcement at hundreds of cannabis facilities in the Kootenays since 2000, when one of his first investigations was of a shootout over an outdoor grow.
“If you’re growing it illegally, we still treat it like a crime — that’s the directive,” he said. “But the legal ones, it’s actually refreshing. We’ve taken a lot of work off our plates as police so we can focus on other things, and we’re focusing on the harder drugs, which I do believe are way more destructive.”
In the rush to federal legalization, the people who have made Canada– and B.C. in particular— famous for Cannabis are at risk of being legislated out of the picture. This will be excellent for the corporate Cannabis producers, but a disaster for B.C.’s middle-class.
And the RCMP seems to have little concern about organized crime. In fact, they see licensed and regulated dispensaries as part of the solution to black-market crime.
Wicentowich said Kootenay police are also aware of the flow of cannabis from small producers to dispensaries.
But as long as a dispensary is a “well-run place that is respectable, that is open to the police, that allows inspection, that doesn’t sell to kids, that monitors and regulates,” officers won’t be in a rush to shut it down, Wicentowich said.
Why are city councillors concerned about this, when the RCMP are not? The RCMP enforce the law; they know best. The RCMP’s hands-off approach to medical Cannabis and independent dispensaries indicates that they are not a target for fighting organized crime: in fact, quite the contrary.
STUFFING THE CANNABIS GENIE BACK IN THE BOTTLE
Those with a federal exemption for medical reasons are, accordingly, exempt from some of these punishments. But the federal ACMPR program is under threat too– by doctors. Specifically, the Canadian College of Family Physicians, who currently sabotage the medical system by issuing doctors outdated directives claiming no clinical evidence for Cannabis use. Does the CCFP not have Google?
Currently, Canadian law allows designated growers to produce for a handful of medical patients; the ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes) system. Growers regularly end up with excess Cannabis, not needed by their patients. The law requires them to destroy this product, but the heavy financial burden of maintaining a professional Cannabis garden is a strong incentive to sell the Cannabis to compassion societies and other Cannabis access points.
Most clinics charge a matter of hundreds of dollars to complete the required paperwork– and we ‘ve seen how bodies who regulate our doctors, like the Canadian College of Family Physicians, dissuade general practitioners from signing forms for their patients.
The CCFP produces anti-Cannabis pamphlets to be read by doctors, making false claims like,
“The patient may report initial benefit from smoking cannabis and, as with many mood-altering substances such as alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and cocaine, experience temporary relief from pain or anxiety. However, these products have the potential to cause harm by impairing memory and cognition, worsening performance at work and school, and by interfering with social relationships.” 
Notice that they change the topic from Cannabis to (Cannabis + dangerous drugs and pharmaceuticals) mid-sentence, conflating substances with no pharmacological relation to each-other. And their central claim is false as well: hundreds of studies that show Cannabis is safe and effective at relieving anxiety, for example this Washington State University study which found “there was also a significant reduction in the ratings of anxiety [which was] reduced in 93.5% of tracked sessions, they were exacerbated in 2.1% of sessions, and there was no change in symptoms for 4.4% of sessions.”  As for their final claim that Cannabis might interfere with social relationships, this study show that the more Cannabis a couple uses, the less likely they are to experience domestic violence.
The College also recommends that doctors try prescribing opioids before considering Cannabis– despite the fact that opioids create and intensify chronic pain. A published recommendation reads “If considering authorizing dried cannabis for treatment of neuropathic pain, the physician should first consider a) adequate trials of other pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies and b) an adequate trial of pharmaceutical cannabinoids (Level I).
The medical value of Cannabis is firmly established, but that won’t stop our leaders from using their corporate-friendly, highly restrictive recreational program as a wedge to remove our medical Cannabis system.
ONE STEP FORWARD, FIVE STEPS BACK
So where does this leave the fate of our Cannabis community?
The federal Liberals under Justin Trudeau are interested in only two things;
First, to draw a line around the medical Cannabis market and hand it to their friends in the Licensed Producers.
Second, they will draw a line around the recreational market and ensure maximum tax income. It is not part of their plan to prevent innocent people from going to jail. Nor will they push for pardons for those with past non-violent convictions for Cannabis. On the contrary, they will use this opportunity to fill prisons with non-violent offenders.
The NDP in British Columbia also does not want to truly legalize Cannabis, as shown by their draconian new law. We hoped that the B.C. Green Party would stand up for citizens, but we were mistaken.
And the Conservatives? They are visiting Republicans in the United States to pick up anti-Cannabis talking points from Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who once said that Cannabis dealers should face the death penalty. Elsewhere, a former Conservative staffer was fired from his job as a lobbyist for forging a memo demanding that the vote for ‘legalization be delayed. He put it on Senate letterhead to convince other officials to go along.
Historically, our only friends have been in Canada’s judiciary. Their rulings, based on our Charter rights, have provided a shield for medical users and a glimmer of hope for those defined as criminals simply because they choose to smoke Cannabis. In effect, these rulings disabled the federal Cannabis Prohibition system. The National Post reports, “Federal data shows there were 59 people charged with cannabis production in B.C. in 2015, down from 361 in 2011. By comparison, in Ontario, 271 people were charged in 2015, down from 363 in 2011. In Quebec, 683 people were charged, down from 997 in 2011.”
They were losing control of the issue, and lack of control is intolerable for drug-warriors and elitists.
With their most powerful tools taken off the shelf, Cannabis has been incrementally seizing ground from the prohibitionists. So, is this really legalization? Or are the Liberals, with help from the NDP, trying to put the cat back in the bag?
Is Justin Trudeau’s ‘legalization’ only monetization for Canada’s elites?
Is this the greatest bait-and-switch in the history of Canadian politics?
Marcus Henry Weber is a health consultant and journalist covering the legalization of Cannabis in North America and the wider world. Follow him on Twitter.
SPEAK YOUR MIND TO OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES
Mike Farnworth is the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General:
|FARNWORTH, Hon. Mike (BC NDP)||mike.farnworth.MLA@leg.bc.ca|
John Horgan, our Premier:
|HORGAN, Hon. John (BC NDP)||john.horgan.MLA@leg.bc.ca|
Norm Letnick, MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country:
|LETNICK, Norm (BC Liberal Party)||norm.letnick.MLA@leg.bc.ca|
FIND YOUR MLA: https://www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/members
A full list of contacts for our province’s MLAs:
READ MORE FROM HEMP HERBALS NEWS:
- Examining British Columbia’s Cannabis Legalization Plan– With Rolling Updates
- “Legalization” Bill Does Not Legalize Cannabis: Canadian Bar Association Rep.
- Cannabis and Pregnancy
- Legal Cannabis Reduces Alcohol Use And Binge Drinking
- New Study Points to Cannabinoids as Potential Treatment For Autism
PROPOSED MOTION: http://council.vancouver.ca/20180515/documents/motionb3.pdf
109 (1) A person commits an offence under this Act if the person contravenes any of the following provisions:
(a) section 11 (1), 70 (7) (a) or (c), 71 (2), 73 (1) or (2), 74 (1) or 75 [confidentiality, offences by minors];
(b) section 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 or 80 (2) [general prohibitions and landlord allowing illegal sales];
(c) section 52 (1), 53 (1) or (3), 54 (3), 56, 58, 61, 62, 63 (1), (2) or (3), 64 (1) or (3), 65 (1) or (2), 66, 67, 77, 78 (1) or 81 (1) [possession limits, growing limits, public consumption, illicit cannabis, public intoxication, vehicle operation];
(d) section 9 (1) or (2), 19 (1), (2) or (3), 22 (2), 46 (1), (2), (3) or (4), 47 (1) or (2), 48, 49 (2) or (4), 50 (1), (2) or (3), 69 (1), (2) or (3), 70 (2) (a), (3) or (5), 71 (1), 72 (1), 79, 82, 85 (1), (2) or (3), 90 (1), (2) or (3), 93 (6), 102 (4), 107 (2), 114 (1), 115 (1) or (2), 116 or 117 [miscellaneous offences];
(e) a provision of the regulations, the contravention of which is prescribed to be an offence.
(2) Section 5 of the Offence Act does not apply to this Act or the regulations.
110 (1) A person who commits an offence under section 109 (1) (a) is liable to a fine of not more than $2 000.
(2) A person who commits an offence under section 109 (1) (b) is liable,
(a) in the case of a corporation, to a fine of not more than $100 000,
(b) in the case of an individual who is a licensee, to a fine of not more than $100 000 or to imprisonment for not more than 12 months, or to both, and
(c) in the case of an individual who is not a licensee, to a fine of not more than $50 000 or to imprisonment for not more than 12 months, or to both.
(3) A person who commits an offence under section 109 (1) (c) is liable,
(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not more than $5 000 or to imprisonment for not more than 3 months, or to both, and
(b) for a subsequent offence, to a fine of not more than $10 000 or to imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or to both.
(4) A person who commits an offence under section 109 (1) (d) is liable,
(a) in the case of a corporation, to a fine of not more than $50 000,
(b) in the case of an individual who is a licensee, to a fine of not more than $50 000 or to imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or to both, and
(c) in the case of an individual who is not a licensee, to a fine of not more than $10 000 or to imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or to both.
“The majority, if not all, retail stores licensed by the City of Vancouver MMRU [Medical Marijuana Related Use], as well as those open without a license, do not obtain their supply from licensed producers regulated by Health Canada,” reads the motion on notice posted on the agenda for the next city council meeting (May 15).
“Currently police information checks are required for the applicant and all staff (including directors and health professionals); however there is no requirement for the applicant to conduct police information checks for suppliers and/or growers,” it continues.
It goes on to mention recent robberies at Vancouver dispensaries, and warns councillors of the participation of “organized crime and/or gangs” in the city’s pot shops.
“Allowing organized crime and/or gangs to participate in business in the City of Vancouver could put public safety at risk, and could put strain on police resources,” it says.