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Canadian public, activists have different priorities as weed legalization looms

Canadian public, activists have different priorities as weed legalization looms

Dina Al-Shibeeb
A Canadian flag with a marijuana leaf is flown during a 4/20 rally to demand the legalization of marijuana on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 20, 2012. (File image via Reuters)

Kevin from Toronto is leaning towards the Progressive Conservatives (PC) party in the upcoming Ontario election on June 7.

Kevin, who doesn’t want to share his last name, said he is choosing the PC’s Doug Ford because he doesn’t want to see “tax money wasted.”

But when asked about the PC’s stance on marijuana, he admits his lack of knowledge about the party’s take on the ongoing marijuana legalization process.

Sue, who is also not sharing her last name, was in Toronto on Sunday to attend the NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s rally.

Sue praised Horwath, her Hamiltonian counterpart.

“Andrea has kept every promise she ever made. I have followed her since she was a city councilor for 25 years ago,” Sue said.

“I believe in Andrea, she is for Hamilton people. Because it is a steel town, we are losing our businesses, and she is fighting so hard to keep it going.”

But when asked about what the NDP’s policy on marijuana, Sue, an electrician, said: “I don’t know. I haven’t heard much about it.”

Ironically, Sue smokes weed. “I use it for pain. I think it should be legalized,” she added.

The Hamiltonian, however, expressed some partial thinking in line of the NDP.

“They [government] should get rid of pot charges that people have accumulated on their records,” she said. “If it is going to be legal, then wipe it clean.”

The NDP said previously it wanted to revoke charges over “simple” possession of marijuana but it had taken a rather “wait and see” approach on the ongoing legalization process.

For Christy, she is voting NDP because Horwath is about “equality” and “leveling the playing field” irrespective of gender, age, or income. Like Sue, she isn’t sure where does the NDP stand on marijuana

“Red flags”

For pro-marijuana advocates or those in the industry, there are many “red flags” especially as the Senate is inching closer to its final reading vote on the Cannabis Act by June 7.

However, these “red flags” were not part of any real debate between the two contesting parties in Ontario.

As they raced, the NDP and the Conservatives have not made any bold statements on marijuana. Instead, they competed around polarized ideals, with Horwath’s fight for the poor and the disadvantaged versus Ford’s savvy business plans to create more jobs and reduce taxes.

Key changes to the Cannabis Act

Members of the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) on Monday approved many key changes to the Cannabis Act or Bill C-45.

SOCI said there should be “no further loosening of the proposed regulations on branding, marketing, and promotion of cannabis” until the societal impact on youth can be measured.

SOCI also urged the federal government to “impose a moratorium on loosening the regulations on the branding, marketing, and promotion of cannabis for 10 years.”

It also called to cap levels of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis that gives people the “high.”  

Click HERE to read their full recommendations.

All these recommendations have been criticized by activists and producers in the marijuana industry as nothing but a boon to the black market. They also viewed it as strict and aimed at only squeezing freedoms they thought they would be enjoying once the stigma associated with cannabis is gradually peeled away with legalization.

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Dana Larsen is seen with another prominent Canadian activist, Jodie Emery. (Image via Facebook)

Not letting go of activism

Dana Larsen, a prominent marijuana activist from Vancouver, who has long advocated for the legalization of the green herb, is sounding the alarm.

On his official Twitter account, Larsen said he is not letting go of his activism despite the imminent legalization.

“Civil disobedience has been our best tactic for changing Canada’s cannabis laws,” he wrote. “I don’t see any reason to give that tactic up now,” highlighting his reservations about certain clauses – on both provincial and federal levels – he sees as red flags.

He added:

“If anything, we should be redoubling our efforts to break these awful laws to create the change we need.”

Before SOCI’s amendments, Larsen had criticized the B.C. government’s proposed recreational cannabis laws, which could land offenders up to one year in jail.

The Senate

While the Senate has rejected a blanket ban on homegrown marijuana, like others, Larsen criticized the Upper House for giving provinces and territories the authority to ban home cultivation — as Quebec and Manitoba intend to do — or restrict the number of plants even further than the proposed four per dwelling allowed under the bill as originally drafted.

People in the industry also expressed their concerns.

Greg Engel, CEO of Organigram Holdings Inc. (“Organigram”) (TSX VENTURE: OGI) (OTCQB: OGRMF), called on the Senate to use a “common-sense approach” to strike a balance between “social success” and “competitive market” when it comes to the legalization of cannabis.

But for voters, marijuana is already being legalized. The nitty-gritty details are only for the pot connoisseurs, and not for medical marijuana patients, who will continue to pay taxes on their cannabis prescriptions even after legalization. 

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