Legalization Task Force Members Listed as Having Conflict of Interest

The Liberal government cannabis regulation task force chair Anne McLellan is listed as having an indirect financial conflict of interest in the legalization process.

McLellan has served as a Senior Advisor at Bennett Jones since 2006, a law firm that has lobbied for licensed producers like Tweed (owned by Canopy Growth Crop).

The government writes that, “the firm represents some clients with interests in the legal marijuana business.”

In a Jan. 25, 2015 Toronto Star article titled “Bay St. Law Firms Cash in on Pot Industry,” Bennett Jones partner Hugo Alves said his firm wanted to “be the go-to advisors.”

“Bennett Jones is just one of several law firms trying to get in on the ground floor of an industry that Health Canada figures suggest could be worth $1.3 billion within a decade,” the Star wrote.

The task force will decide who will supply cannabis to the recreational market, with Bennett Jones associate Michael Lickver previously saying that the current licensed producers are in a position to make that transition.

“It would make sense. They’d be the incumbents. They’d be the ones with the state-of-the-art, secure facilities,” Lickver said.

Health Canada required all members of its task force to declare any possible conflict and lists those identified on its website for transparency.

While members with “direct financial interest” (listed at “current employment, investments in companies, partnerships, equity, royalties, joint ventures, trusts, real property, stocks, shares, or bonds) may not participate in discussions on certain items, McLellan is listed as having an indirect financial interest.

“Within the past five years, payment from the regulated industry for work done or being done, including past employment, contracts, or consulting; or financial support, including research support, personal education grants, contributions, fellowships, sponsorships, and honoraria,” Health Canada writes, describing the type of conflict related to McLellan’s appointment.

As the task force chair, McLellan is responsible for examining members’ conflict to agenda items and, if necessary, limiting those members’ participation.

Health Canada says that, without oversight, McLellan will be responsible to limit her own participation.

“On receipt of the meeting agenda, members are expected to review their own affiliations and interests against agenda items and advise the chair and secretariat if they see a potential cause for concern regarding the integrity and objectivity of their participation,” guidelines state.

Task force vice-chair Mark Ware is also listed as having several conflicts of interest in the legalization process.

The government has listed Ware as having direct financial interests in the cannabis industry as the executive director of the not-for-profit Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids a group “established to promote evidence-based research and education concerning the endocannabinoid system and therapeutic applications of endocannabinoid and cannabinoid agents.”

The government also lists Ware’s position as chairman of the board of directors of the International Association for Cannabinoids Medicines, which Health Canada notes has “issued a declaration on the right to access cannabis medicines.”

The government goes on to detail Ware’s participation in a November 2015 edition of McGill Talks in which he discusses cannabis’s medial use as a conflict of interest.

How this limits Ware’s ability to participate in the task force’s agenda is unknown.

The government did not list any intellectual conflict for McLellan, who once reportedly described cannabis as a “scourge.”

No other task force members were listed as having any conflict of interest.

The task force will submit a report or recommendations for recreational legalization of cannabis in November, with the government expected to announce their legislation in the spring of 2017.