Travelling to speak with politicians and government officials across Ontario, a cannabis advocate realized that there was a serious lack of representation from the community and is hoping to bring those voices to the table.
Jon Liedtke, who operates the Windsor vaping lounge Higher Limits, created the Canadian Cannabis Confederation a group that he said was born out of an urgency to create a unified front for the cannabis community.
“The people in charge of setting cannabis legislation have admittedly never consumed the substance,” said Liedtke. “It’s clear that these people just don’t know anything about cannabis whatsoever and there was a need for an organization to come together and unite voices in opposition to this.”
The project was born out of Liedtke’s efforts to combat the Ontario government’s plans to ban medical cannabis vaping in public.
While the discussions on possible exceptions for medical patients have been discussed with government officials, Liedtke said there’s still misinformation that he’s confronted with when discussing the topic with policy makers.
An official from the Ontario ministry of health asked Liedtke why patients couldn’t just use edibles instead of smoking cannabis.
“That just goes to demonstrate the lack of knowledge in cannabis that our organization is going to try and help, to raise that level of education,” he said.
Liedtke said while there are many organizations representing cannabis in the country for licensed producers, dispensaries or businesses, there wasn’t a group he could see that represented the industry on a national scale.
“We’re seeking to pull together all the existing groups under one umbrella and be able to respond quickly and effectively,” he said.
The group just brought in the Cannabis Friendly Business Association, which Liedtke called a coup for the organization, still in its infancy, bringing in close to 75 Toronto members.
Liedtke said the biggest issue is having so many players at the table all trying to be the voice of the industry, and, as issues begin to come up as legalization moves forward, the government can’t be expected to get policy correct with.
“Having all these different groups vying for messaging it just creates confusion around cannabis, broadly,” Liedtke said. “At least by putting together this organization the government would effectively have a point group to work with on the cannabis file. It’s no longer on them to reach out to who they think might be useful voices to have.
“The industry has been largely dominated by actors in it, that are either involved in it illegally or it’s the legal market and these are people who typically don’t know much about cannabis at all.”
With so many groups already looking to represent the cannabis industry, Liedtke said unifying them will be a difficult task.
“There’s a lot of egos that exist in the community and the industry over-all,” Liedtke said. “I hope they would realize that, out of this urgency, there is a need for us to act quickly and maybe put behind some of those egos that do exist for the movement and cannabis policy overall.”