I am a criminal in the eyes of the federal government.  They just introduced federal funding to the tune of a whopping $274 MILLION DOLLARS to protect people like you from people like me. My crime? I work for a non-profit, strictly medicinal dispensary; the first in Canada, it has been illegally operating for over 21 years. Everyday, people just like me go to work at their dispensary, providing access and guidance to people who need their cannabis but for one reason or another, don’t fit into our government’s Licensed Producer program. According to the public safety announcement made Sept. 8, 2017 by Public Safety Canada, part of the money being used in this giant disaster is to strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis. Here’s why this is a disaster:

Common sense and clinical data are being ignored

Cannabis is not alcohol and it is impossible to fatally overdose from. The area of the brain controlling your heart and lungs can never be overstimulated and shut down from THC. There are over 30 legal substances in my line of vision right now that are legal and all will kill me. The entire justification for this horrific misuse of tax dollars is a fabricated risk to youth, driving under the influence and to combat organized crime. However, recent studies in places where cannabis has been legalized show:

Youth: A recent Drug Policy Alliance data report on states where cannabis is legal said, “Despite the belief that marijuana is widely available, preliminary data show that the legalization of marijuana has had little to no impact on the overall rate of youth use of marijuana.”

As more and more evidence is being collected and analyzed, a connection between cannabis access, legalization and increased youth consumption has not been shown to exist. In many cases, according to multiple reports, studies are proving youth cannabis rates have slightly decreased or remained the same.

Driving:  This is a theoretical risk, not a real one we are facing. “In Colorado and Washington the post-legalization traffic fatality rate has remained statistically consistent with pre-legalization levels, is lower in each state than it was a decade prior, and is lower than the national rate,” the DPA writes, citing federal traffic statistics through 2014. More recent data through 2015 and 2016 analyzed by the Cato Institute yields similar conclusions.

Organized Crime: The only effect cannabis access has had on the population is a reduction in crime as shown by multiple statistics. It is very frightening to see that although crime rates are dropping as cannabis is becoming more available, the government is ignoring the evidence and increasing the police budget.

Denver saw a 2.2 percent drop in violent crime rates in the year after the first legal recreational cannabis sales in Colorado. Overall property crime dropped by 8.9 percent in the same period there, according to figures from the Drug Policy Alliance. In Washington, violent crime rates dropped by 10 percent from 2011 to 2014. Voters legalized recreational marijuana there in 2012.

If crime rates are dropping, the youth aren’t at risk, traffic accidents are at about the same level and taxpayers are saving money on police, why is the law enforcement budget being increased by $274 million dollars?

Access

The reason Ted Smith decided to open a dispensary in the first place was because he recognized the gross negligence of our government in providing access to medicinal cannabis. At great personal risk, he opened a dispensary illegally so that sick people with incurable illnesses could access a sometimes lifesaving medication, knowing it would never fatally harm anyone. Today, there are millions of Canadians who are unable to access the medicinal cannabis they need under these current regulations and dispensaries fill in the gaps.

Variety is awesome and medically necessary for some

Just because you can go to an LP (licensed producer), doesn’t mean they will give you what you need. Edibles are a shining example of that. For someone who cannot smoke cannabis but needs the benefit of it, they have one choice of an LP to get their medicine and very few of them make any edibles at all. Furthermore, variety is not possible as the current law insists that all medical cannabis patients delegate a single LP.

The right to consume cannabis in any form was set in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2012 by a dispensary fighting a previous raid. The legal fees to fight for that right were paid into collection jars from the pocket change of sick people. They recognized that their government wasn’t advocating for them, but their dispensary was.

Precious information will be lost and replaced with …?

Health Canada and the College of Physicians and Surgeons will not get behind any new medical information unless there have been long term human studies. These 10 to 15 years studies are just starting to happen and with them, fear-based myths are being debunked and replaced by exciting breakthroughs.

The growers, packagers, budtenders and membership of a dispensary carry a collective wealth of knowledge on how this plant interacts in the body and how someone can maximize that. Most dispensaries are very vocal about the fact that they are here to help and guide but are not doctors and cannot replace that care. At the end of the day, dispensaries have been the most frequented source of trusted medicine and information, picking up the slack for a lagging Health Canada.

To single handedly supply the cannabis market with information and access, with no experience or evidence to go by, is not just incredibly naive, it is negligent. Cannabis is medicine and the roadblocks to get to it wouldn’t be in the rearview if it weren’t for the bravery and frontline work done by Canadians who have a lot to lose.

The fact that the cornerstones of Canadian cannabis history are not part of the legalization plan and are furthermore being penalized, is a shining example of how irresponsibly out of touch Health Canada is; I just wish it didn’t mean life or death.