When I spoke on a media panel last week, one member of the audience was adamant that he was not a big corporate licensed producer. He was an licensed producer, mind you, but for intents and purposes, he was a small-business. He had sunk all his own money into the business and wasn’t making a profit.

“But you are incorporated,” I reminded him, and meanwhile, although he didn’t personally demand the federal government shut down dispensaries, many of his contemporaries were.

And just as one explosion puts all dispensaries in a bad light, so one group of licensed producers calling BC’s activists “criminals” and “drug dealers” poisons the well.

It’s unfortunate that this has become the narrative since him and I both agreed that the problem here are burdensome government regulations.

Other members of the panel and audience dismissed the idea that there was a “small farmer versus big corporations” battle going on.

Based on most licensed producer applicants being smaller and unable to profit in Health Canada’s strict regulatory environment, I suppose we’re to feel sympathy for the entrepreneurs and investors who thought cannabis in Canada was going to be a lucrative and easy business to get into.

This is the problem with the licensed producers — cannabis is not your ordinary business. What worked in mining won’t work here. There’s a public relations dance that requires some delicacy and it’s started off on the wrong footing.

A medical cannabis regime wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the decades-long hardwork of activists, particularly in British Columbia.

Activists who occupied public spaces and smoked cannabis in defiance of old, racist legislation. And, now that cannabis has lost most of its social taboo, many of these activists have taken to opening dispensaries. Public protests have morphed into farmer’s markets.

To refer to these people as “goons” or criminals because recreational cannabis is illegal, or because they have not gone through the “best practices” of Health Canada is an insult to the entire movement.

Civil disobedience is a tactic reassuring liberty when the judiciary or legislature fails. Demanding that cannabis connoisseurs follow archaic regulations and accept the authority of the same apparatus that prohibited the plant to begin with — well, that’s not going to happen.

If there was one message I tried to get across last week, it’s that legalization will have to form around the BC Bud community. Otherwise, people will continue to break the law and if the results are fines and jail time, then there is no legalization.

It’ll be legal for companies — both big and small — to invest, produce and sell, but if people with cannabis criminal records are barred from “infiltrating” the industry, then perhaps you can understand why there is a “us versus them” mentality.

The issue for the licensed producers is public relations. They need to attack dispensaries less and criticize the federal government more.

Cannabis victories have never come from the legislature. Breaking unjust laws forced the legalization debate, to the point that the federal Liberals campaigned on it last year.

Asking farmers and vendors to wait or sign up through Health Canada isn’t the next logical step.

You might as well tell them to stop smoking until Justin says it’s okay. That they shouldn’t smoke any strains that aren’t derived from licensed producers.

That’s not how civil disobedience works.

If the business world wants to get into the cannabis industry, they are more than welcome.

But, keep in mind who made this business venture a reality. The people who’ve risked criminal records and jail time will continue to break the law until every adult has the right to grow his or her own cannabis and sell it to whoever wishes to purchase it.

Anything less is another form of prohibition that may satisfy vested interests looking to profit, but it won’t work for the cannabis connoisseurs who supplement their income with cannabis and whose primary interest isn’t making money.

If licensed producers don’t take the time to recognize and understand this viewpoint, then the narrative won’t change.

All licensed producers, both big and small, profitable and unprofitable, will be lumped together as crony-capitalists working with the federal government to undermine a free market of cannabis farmers and vendors.

  • Wayne Phillips

    “Cannabis victories have never come from the legislature. Breaking unjust laws forced the legalization debate, to the point that the federal Liberals campaigned on it last year.”

    Legislative victories regarding cannabis have never happened because legislative victories can never happen. When cannabis was initially criminalized, how it was done effectively manufactured a social problem that would be – and continues to be – pointed to as a societal evil meriting harsh rebuke. (That could be the only intent given the fact that the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, as onerous as it was, was a legitimate attempt to deal with what was seen as socially relevant concerns in a purportedly democratic way. The addition of cannabis to the Restricted List, via altered documentation, heralds the sanctioning of procedural corruption where cannabis is concerned.) During a period of (legislative) incubation 1923-1938 cannabis marijuana was then thoroughly demonized by media and politicians alike guaranteeing the continuation of legislatively harsh penalisation.

    When medicinal use was recognized by the Courts (even though the Courts effectively ignored how cannabis was initially criminalized) CANADA was forced to consider other viable means of respecting the Courts’ ruling while maintaining the right to continue implementing legislatively harsh rebukes. Three medical programs later and the promise of legalization, regulation and restriction looming, the only thing the government has managed to accomplish rather successfully to date is the enabling of the principles of divide and conquer.

  • Richard

    So true ……..the Both of You’s!
    Allard and Smith’s Victories also ‘Heralded-in’ the fact,….. the MMAR’s are a Letters Patent to create
    an Industry within Canada. Just like the ‘WheatKings’ were!
    I see one of the Viable Tactical Strategy’s We could do is to encourage Designated Gardeners!?

  • MJM

    Sadly, as much as you want to credit the progress to date as purely a function of “civil disobedience”, there have been a number of actors and stakeholders in other realms of the political economy and medical community that have pushed this agenda forward. It’s an equally sad exercise to opine on the early entrepreneurs who are risking valuable time and capital to play by the rules. We live in a capitalist democracy where any and all commercial enterprises must to abide by they current set of laws and regulations (and in more sensitive cases, a sharpe eye on public health and safety). Just as I’m not allowed to turn by backyard into a restaurant and my living room into a pub, it follows logically that I should not be able to sell a product (with known psychoactive effects) to my neighbour to “supplement my income”? and because your not “incorporated”? It shouldn’t be hard to understand that just because an illegal activity has persisted for an extended period of time, receiving little policing and enforcement (mainly due to a lack of resources) doesn’t mean it should be allowed to endure. Sure, the laws and regulations as it relates to this particular industry remain in flux, but there is a current framework within which the LPs have taken on the burden of participating at the risk of the ground shifting beneath them. So know that as thousands of individuals, including governmental and corporate actors, continue to push the progressive agenda of safe and responsible access to medical and recreational cannabis in Canada, the “civil disobedience” of a shrinking number of ganjavists run directly counter to the movement they’ve helped spur!

    • Wayne Phillips

      The idea that safe and responsible legal access to quality medicinal and recreational cannabis in Canada will be achieved is, at best, notional thinking. It hasn’t happened under two medical programs and, since the same dis-entitlements still exist within the ACMPR, it too will be found to be rife with issues around access, quality, price, reliability and source. The current framework within which the LPs have taken on the burden of participation continues to come with great rewards for LP’s. According to Canopy CEO, it now includes the aim to ‘dominate’ the world marijuana market. Those rewards, however, have come on the backs of patients who were able to gain access to the MMPR (and now the ACMPR).

      The ideology of “democratic capitalism” has been in existence since medieval times. It is based firmly on the principles of liberalism, which include liberty and equality. Economic theory, however, does not address either the fraud perpetuated in order to criminalize cannabis initially, or the resulting agenda of disentitlement rife within the existing medicinal cannabis program today. If legalization, regulation and restriction turns out to be little more than a cover for LP expansion and a seamless cannabis portfolio, all that will have been accomplished is a seamless sanctioned extortion racket that both provinces and municipalities will have a hand in.

  • http://www.whistler.tc/ Patrick

    Well written. The us versus them mentality just has to stop. The economic value of the ‘old’ system is BC has been pegged in the billions of dollars to the economy. Go back as far as a 2004 Fraser Institute report to see how entrenched it is to the economy.

  • bob

    lots of fun here…..as an LP applicant and a long time activist…i walk in all shoes…..but the simple fact is

    WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING GOVERNMENT MANAGING OUR PERSONAL CONSUMPTION..AS THE FELLOW FROM THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY WOULD SAY…

    WE STILL ALLOW COCONUTS IN CANADA AND THEY KILL 35 PEOPLE A YEAR…HAHAHAH WHAT ABOUT BRIDGES????CARS???SHARP KNIFES….

    I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED SINCE 1967 AND CAN TELL YOU ONLY THAT IN THE BEGINNING IT WAS MORE ABOUT SOCIAL CHANGE AND REJECTION OF THE VALUES OUR PARENTS SOCIETY HELD DEAR..

    NOW THE FOCUS HAS SHIFTED TO MONEY..VERY SAD…

    NOW TO SEE THOSE SAME PEOPLE WHO HAVE DESTROYED OUR CLIMATE AND OUR SOCIAL FABRIC..BENEFIT IN ANYWAY IS JUST PLAIN WRONG..

    AND IF THEY CONTINUE WITH THIS PLAN

    I CAN ONLY HOPE THAT HERE IN BC WE WILL REJECT THEM COMPLETELY AT LONG LAST AND SEPARATE…