Watch the panel discussion from the Cannabis Hemp Conference, Jul. 9, in Vancouver.

The panel, moderated by BC Compassion Club Society Founder and Bedrocan Patient and Community Services Director Hilary Black, discussed dispensaries, licensed producers and medium and small sized cannabis growers with a range of experts from the industry.

Speakers included federally licensed MMPR producer Aurora Cannabis Inc. Chief Brand Officer Neil Belot, Cannabis Growers of Canada Executive Director Ian Dawkins, Canadian Association of Medicinal Cannabis Dispensaries president Dieter MacPherson, Quintet Ventures Founding Member Andrew Robinson and Craft Cannabis Association of BC board member Teresa Taylor.

One topic discussed by the panel was the Liberal government’s plan to legalize cannabis, the task force it has assembled to do it, and its choice not to decriminalize cannabis use until regulation is in place.

The panel urged the task force to consider that the cannabis community is made up of normal people from all walks of life, not a group of criminals that needs to be contained.

Teresa Taylor said it’s important to note that less than five per cent of those involved in the industry have any ties to crime and that it’s the simple act of dealing in cannabis that is the connection to illegality.

“By large, people in the cannabis space are breaking one law and one law alone, and that is a bad law and that is why we’re changing it,” said Dieter McPherson. “You can’t expect that this industry will be able to transition overnight, it’s something that’s going to take a long time.”

McPherson said other jurisdictions, like the U.S., have incorporated the preexisting cannabis community into the legalized market because they bring a lot of experience and then enter into the regulated market instead of continuing to operate outside of it.

Ian Dawkins said that, regardless of the Liberal plan going forward, the government’s unwillingness to decriminalize cannabis has created a terrible situation for those caught up in-between legalization.

“All it takes is a basic understanding of statistics to know that that’s an inherently racist thing to do, because more minorities, more disadvantaged people, are going to be arrested for cannabis possession over the next year or 18 months than there’s going to be people that look like me, I guarantee you that,” Dawkins said.

“It’s just a fundamental, irresponsible thing to do to create this black hole for all of us to live in and, if the government wants to be serious about doing this properly, they need to back off the criminal prosecutions and actually let us sort this mess out for them.”