Cannabis Growers of Canada executive director Ian Dawkins spoke to members of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association in Toronto, Jul. 26, to discuss the state of the industry and talk about what businesses can do to protect themselves.

Dawkins said since the last time he spoke in Toronto the CGC has grown to 220 member businesses, representing dispensaries, growers, concentrate providers and other related operations.

He told the crowd that the cannabis industy in British Columbia, where the CGC is based, are deeply invested with what happens in Ontario and want to share their knowledge and expertise, after having gone through a period of raids and enforcement, similar to what businesses in Eastern Canada are experiencing now.

Dawkins said the federal government’s legalization process hasn’t been inclusive of the industry and the largest voices at the table are those with the money to be there.

“You have the pharmacies and some LPs and then you have the liquor stores and the liquor store unions, those are the two blocks that have formed that are throwing a lot of money around,” Dawkins said.

According to Dawkins, the Liberals seem to have made up their minds about going forward with a very restrictive cannabis marketplace — pointing out the government’s consultation documents available online imply that authorities will outright ban legal sales of concentrates in the country.

“If you know anything about dispensaries you know that around 50 per cent of the cannabis being sold right now in a retail environment is concentrates, so apparently they just think $3 billion worth of business is just going to disappear overnight,” he said.

“Frankly, I don’t think the federal government’s listening to us and I don’t think they ever will,” he said. “I don’t think we can steer them anymore, I don’t think they’re willing to listen to reason.”

Dawkins said he sees the best opportunity as the provincial government of British Columbia speaking up on behalf of the cannabis industry in that province and the Cannabis Growers of Canada is starting to see traction in alerting the province to the potential loss of revenue it will experience if legalization is too restrictive.

“We’re hopeful that if we can begin getting the BC government to partner with us across Canada and see this as a national issue for BC’s exports we can start to fund and support what [the Ontario cannabis industry] is doing out here,” he said.

Dawkins said with updates to the government’s medical cannabis regime expected Aug. 24, the large growers are worried about how it will impact their business.

“The Allard decision scared them, and it should … the myth that the LPs are still enshrined in law while the rest of you are criminals is in fact, the opposite,” he said.

Dawkins also called out police forces across the country, and specifically in Toronto, where Project Claudia saw authorities arrest dozens.

The executive director said the reason these charges sit in limbo and seem to disappear is that police are on shaky legal ground.

“They know that if they go up before a judge and say ‘hey, we popped this kid making $15 an hour and we want him wrung up on five-year trafficking charges’ the judge is going to say ‘please exit my courtroom, you are an idiot,'” he said. “And what you’ve essentially done then is decriminalized cannabis. Because if judges are throwing out trafficking charges, then it’s anarchy and the system knows that.”

Dawkins said the aim from authorities is to try and scare business owners out of the industry without having to go through the lengthy legal processes to accomplish it.

“The reality is that you are so close to doing what you’re doing proudly and openly, and don’t stop now just because you’re scared by people who, frankly, don’t have a leg to stand on.”