Day: December 19, 2019

What NZ can learn from Canada’s cannabis experiment

New Zealand and Canada, despite being 13,000 kilometres apart, have a lot in common. Both countries are small in terms of population, punch above their weight economically, and are politically compassionate.

If New Zealand votes to legalise cannabis in 2020, that will be one more similarity that these two Commonwealth countries will share.

The draft policy positions for New Zealand’s cannabis referendum have been released, and for the most part, they mirror what Canada has done for recreational cannabis legalisation.

As a Canadian, I can tell you that legalising cannabis is the right thing to do. I can also say that New Zealand should avoid the regulatory approach that Canada took.

There are several mistakes that Canada made which New Zealand should steer clear of replicating.

The first major one is the failure to differentiate between THC products and non-intoxicating CBD products.

The draft policy positions state that any product produced from the cannabis plant is to be considered a cannabis product. This puts CBD products that are not intoxicating on par with THC products that are.

If New Zealand is to succeed where Canada has failed in legalising cannabis, it needs to create a more consumer-friendly regulatory regime, says Clement.

Following what Canada has done fails to regulate based on a continuum of risk, and runs against the New Zealand Government’s goal of harm reduction.

If the Government cares about minimising harm, it shouldn’t regulate non-intoxicating low-risk products the same way as intoxicating psychoactive ones. Harm reduction should mean making the least harmful products more available, not less available.

The second major mistake in the draft policy positions is the ban on all cannabis advertising. This proposal takes Canada’s very paternalistic advertising laws and exceeds them.

Complete marketing and advertising bans for legal cannabis products are misguided for two reasons. The first is that they are wildly inconsistent with how New Zealand treats other age-restricted goods, such as alcohol. Alcohol has a much higher risk profile when compared to cannabis, but does not have such strict advertising rules.

The second reason is that a complete ban fails to properly understand the role marketing has in moving consumers over from the black market. Modest forms of marketing allow for the legal market to attract existing consumers, who are buying cannabis illegally, into the legal framework.

Legal cannabis accounts for only about 20 per cent of all cannabis consumed in Canada, and that is in large part because the legal industry is handcuffed by regulations that stop them attracting consumers from the black market.

For purchases, and a personal carry limit, the proposed policy is that no New Zealander be allowed to purchase more than 14g of cannabis a day, and that no-one should exceed carrying more than 14g on their person in public. This is extreme when compared to Canada’s 30g limit, and inconsistent when compared to alcohol, which has no purchase or personal limit. It is reasonable to assume that the people criminalised by this arbitrary limit will be the same who were most harmed by prohibition: the marginalised.

Lastly are the policies on potency and taxation. The Government wants to establish a THC potency limit for cannabis products, which is understandable.

That said, whatever the limit is, the Government should avoid setting it too low. If the limit is excessively low, consumers are likely to smoke more to get their desired THC amount. That runs directly against the Government’s harm reduction approach. Secondly, if the limit is too low, it creates a clear signal for black-market actors that there is a niche to fill.

It is important to keep taxation modest, so that pricing can be competitive between the legal and illegal markets. Canada’s onerous excise, sales, and regional taxes can increase the price of legal cannabis by upwards of 29 per cent.

Poor tax policy in Canada is in large part why legal cannabis can be more than 50 per cent more expensive than black-market alternatives. Incentivising consumers to stay in the black market hurts consumer safety, and cuts the Government out of tax revenue entirely.

New Zealand is on the right path regarding cannabis legalisation, but it is important that regulators learn lessons from Canada’s process. For the sake of harm reduction, and stamping out the black market, it is vital that New Zealand has a consumer-friendly regulatory regime, one that specifically avoids, and not replicates, the mistakes made in Canada.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 

After Brexit, let’s embrace gene editing

EU rules are killing vital innovation in biotech.

Virus-resistant tomato, disease-resistant ricestem-cell treatment for paralysis, for heart disease, for spinal-chord injury and even for cornea repair — these are just some of the many innovations made possible through gene editing.

Canada has created permissive rules for these technologies, as has Japan, where scientists are working night and day to find therapeutic treatments that root out cancer and the Zika virus.

In Europe, however, the prospects are bleak. Bureaucrats and politicians are stifling the speed with which scientists can make breakthroughs available to consumers and patients. Granted, wealthy elites will always be able to fly to Tokyo or the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to get treatments. But for Brits who cannot afford this, we need laws and regulations that will allow for the research and development of innovative treatments.

Gene editing is effectively banned throughout the EU. The slightest word in favour of innovative technologies such as CRISPR (a prominent genome-editing technology) gets you yelled at by politicians and EU-funded NGOs alike. With Brexit on the horizon, the UK has a unique opportunity to embrace innovation.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel on the continent. At the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin next month, approximately 70 ministers of agriculture from around the world intend to adopt a communiqué about the global direction of agriculture. The hope is that these delegates will recognise the value in technologies like gene editing. In Germany, some green activists like the Youth Greens seem to be waking up to the problem. Several activists have warned that strict regulation makes the application of gene technologies more expensive, meaning only big corporates can afford it.

However, we cannot rely on what happens internationally. Britain has an obligation to its citizens to allow scientists to develop new cures and new foods for the 21st century. Brexit offers a unique opportunity to rethink biotech regulations as we break away from the EU’s anti-science dogma. We cannot let Britain lag behind in global innovation.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 

Vaping ban in Alberta would harm public health

Alberta should rise above the vaping hysteria and follow harm reduction principles when developing regulations on e-cigarettes.

There’s a panic brewing about the use of e-cigarettes following reports by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that hundreds vapers in the US have contracted severe lung injuries, with a handful of fatalities. Politicians responded quickly to the reports, and several states moved forward with vaping regulations. These ranged from bans on flavoured vaping products in New York to a four month ban on all vaping products in Massachusetts. However, a later report by the CDC in November revealed that none of the recent patients with lung injuries had used conventional nicotine vapes, but instead used black-market THC products – many in states where marijuana is illegal. 

Unfortunately, various Canadian provinces have put further vaping regulations on the agenda. Nova Scotia has banned all flavoured e-cigarettes and vaping juice as of April 1st, and Ontario is considering a similar ban. So far, it looks like Alberta is headed down a similar path. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has committed to developing regulations on vaping products as part of a review of the province’s tobacco and smoking laws, with the hope that any amendments will be in place by spring 2020. It would be misguided for Alberta to follow the bad policies that have been proposed and implemented in the US, in Canada, and abroad.

If our goal is to save lives, it is important to compare the harms caused by vaping products with their closest substitute: cigarettes. Acomprehensive report by Public Health England suggests that while e-cigarettes are not risk-free, they are comparatively much safer than traditional cigarettes. While it is nicotine that causes cigarette addiction, it is the thousands of other chemicals contained in cigarettes that causes almost all of the harm. E-cigarette vapour does not contain tar or carbon monoxide, which are two of the most harmful components of tobacco smoke. While e-cigarette vapour does contain some of the chemicals also found in tobacco smoke, they are present at much lower levels. Additionally, Public Health England reports that in a recent study, cancer potencies of e-cigarettes were under 0.5 per cent of the risk of smoking. For these reasons, Public Health England’sadvice on vaping remains unchanged: “There is no situation where it would be better for your health to continue smoking rather than switching completely to vaping”.

This is especially important considering that most people who use e-cigarettes are current or former smokers. Arecent survey administered by Statistics Canada found that among people who had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, 65 per cent were current smokers and 20 per cent were former smokers. If vaping products were banned or regulated in a way that made them difficult to access, it is reasonable to suggest that these people would increase their use of traditional cigarettes. For this reason, stock prices of cigarette manufacturers jumped when India announced they would enact a vape ban. This response is in large part because there is evidence that e-cigarettescan be used as a cessation mechanism. Restricting access to e-cigarettes may be in effect taking away a tool that helps people quit smoking.

Even if e-cigarettes were as dangerous as their critics say, there is no reason to believe that restricting access to them would be good public policy. One of the main lessons from the war on drugs is that if there is demand for a product, it will be sold regardless of its legal status. Banning flavoured e-liquids or significantly limiting access will only create an unregulated black market for the product, exacerbating any existing safety concerns. E-cigarette users will no longer be able to have confidence in the safety of their products. 

In fact, the very hospitalizations that inspired the recent panic over vaping products are a testament to the dangers of drug prohibition. In November, the CDC linked the hospitalizations to vitamin E acetate, which is not found in legal e-cigarettes. However, it is often used by drug dealers to cut THC vape cartridges in an attempt to increase their profits. These products are illicit and thus unregulated in the United States. In Canada, THC vaping products were only just legalized, and nothing legally for sale in Canada contains vitamin E acetate. If vaping products are banned, we should only expect more harmful additives in an unregulated black market. 

Despite the facts, political responses to the CDC’s report have been anything but measured, and it would be misguided for Alberta to follow suit. Moving to ban flavoured e-liquids, or even worse, e-cigarettes in general, is a trigger-happy response that flies in the face of existing evidence about vaping as a harm reduction tool. Blanket bans on vaping are bad public policy and bad science, and will only serve to harm millions of vapers and harm public health. Alberta should rise above the vaping hysteria and follow harm reduction principles when developing regulations on e-cigarettes. 

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 

La propriété intellectuelle est bénéfique au consommateur

Pour beaucoup, les droits de propriété intellectuelle évoquent un concept abstrait loin des préoccupations d’un consommateur moyen. L’idée fausse selon laquelle la propriété intellectuelle comme pour les  brevets n’aide que les grandes entreprises, conduit à l’adoption de politiques qui nuisent à l’innovation.

Pour créer un environnement propice à l’innovation, plusieurs conditions préalables sont nécessaires. L’accès au capital en est une particulièrement importante pour les industries dans le domaine de la recherche et le développement de produits à long terme.

Les brevets peuvent jouer un rôle crucial en facilitant l’accès au capital de démarrage et au capital d’amorçage. Les investisseurs providentiels et les investisseurs en capital-risque ne sont généralement intéressés pour investir dans une idée ou un projet de recherche que si cela peut être non seulement commercialisé mais aussi protégé pendant la commercialisation. L’inventeur de l’autre côté peut être assuré qu’il peut partager sa recherche avec des investisseurs potentiels s’il l’a déjà brevetée. Le brevet permet à l’inventeur de conserver la propriété de l’innovation jusqu’à ce qu’il ait obtenu un financement pour la fabrication en série, les essais ou le perfectionnement du procédé. Un bon exemple est l’invention de la machine d’électrophotographie par M. Chester Carlson. Il a breveté sa machine en 1939, mais il lui a fallu  huit ans pour obtenir le capital nécessaire à la fabrication en série de la première machine à copier au monde.

Les dernières décennies ont été marquées par une transformation particulièrement forte. Le graphique ci-dessous montre l’amélioration massive de l’espérance de vie, de la mortalité infantile et du produit intérieur brut par habitant pour deux citoyens de l’UE nés en 1987 en Pologne et en Espagne. Trois décennies seulement d’innovation et de croissance économique ont permis d’améliorer considérablement la qualité de vie.

L’innovation exige non seulement des investissements massifs, mais aussi du temps et la capacité d’expérimenter par essais et erreurs. Cela se traduit par le fait qu’en moyenne, une seule des 5 000 à 10 000 substances synthétisées dans les installations de recherche parviendra à toutes les étapes du développement du produit et à devenir un médicament approuvé. De nombreux projets et même des entreprises de biotechnologie entières ne parviennent même pas à commercialiser un seul produit. Investir dans les sciences de la vie exige un appétit très sain pour le risque et, par conséquent, un système d’incitation qui récompense ceux qui sont capables de créer de la valeur avec leurs inventions est nécessaire.

Les innovateurs et les investisseurs en R&D devraient pouvoir compter sur la protection de la propriété intellectuelle. Si les voix qui s’élèvent en faveur d’un assouplissement, voire d’une suppression de la propriété intellectuelle dans l’Union européenne ont peut-être raison de dire qu’à très court terme, cela pourrait conduire à une plus grande accessibilité des technologies existantes, nous devons garder à l’esprit que cela compromet l’innovation future.

L’innovation et les percées scientifiques apportent les solutions les meilleures et les plus durables aux défis auxquels l’humanité est confrontée : qu’il s’agisse de problèmes écologiques ou épidémiologiques, les nouvelles technologies et les solutions médicales innovantes permettent de relever ces défis. Si nous ne protégeons pas la propriété intellectuelle, nous risquons de finir par stagner sur le plan technologique et de parvenir à une situation catastrophique où l’humanité cesse de progresser. Plus de 7 000 nouveaux médicaments sont aujourd’hui  en développement dans le monde. Actuellement, plus de 1 800 médicaments oncologiques sont en cours de développement. Il existe 500 médicaments pour les troubles mentaux et près de 1 400 pour les troubles neurologiques. Plus de 1 200 médicaments sont en cours de développement pour lutter contre les maladies infectieuses, 600 pour traiter les troubles cardiovasculaires, 475 pour le diabète de type I et II et 1 120 pour les troubles immunitaires. Les patients diagnostiqués avec  une maladie actuellement incurable, comme la maladie d’Alzheimer, la fibrose kystique, le diabète ou le VIH/sida, méritent  de bénéficier éventuellement d’une cure.

Il y a eu des développements remarquables au cours des deux dernières décennies. Il y a tout juste 20 ans, être diagnostiqué séropositif était une condamnation à mort rapide. Bien que le VIH n’ait pas encore été guéri, la médecine moderne a réussi à en réduire la sévérité d’une condamnation à mort à une maladie chronique. Le cancer le plus fréquent chez les enfants et les adolescents, la leucémie infantile, peut maintenant être traitée avec un taux de survie de 90%. L’hypertension et le diabète sont traitables de nos jours, mais n’ont toujours pas de remède adéquat. Les percées encourageantes et les reportages médiatiques sur les nouvelles inventions médicales, comme la pleine croissance du foie dans un laboratoire, devraient faire espérer à la société que plusieurs des milliers de maladies qui ne peuvent pas encore être guéries ou traitées pourront éventuellement être guéries. Afin de raccourcir et même d’éliminer des listes telles que celle présentée ci-dessous, une approche réglementaire intelligente en matière d’innovation et de science est nécessaire, grâce à laquelle les innovateurs et les investisseurs en innovation seront encouragés.

Lorsqu’un médicament parvient au patient régulier, il s’est écoulé en moyenne 12,5 ans depuis la première découverte de la nouvelle substance active. Les investissements totaux nécessaires pour obtenir une substance active accessible à un patient s’élèvent à environ deux milliards d’euros.

Le potentiel d’innovation de l’Europe dans l’économie mondiale est actuellement à la croisée des chemins. Les populistes des démocraties libérales et des marchés émergents espèrent des gains à court terme en poussant à une érosion continue des droits de propriété intellectuelle. Les percées médicales ont montré à la société une direction positive au cours des dernières décennies :pouvoir guérir ou au moins traiter de nombreuses maladies autrefois mortelles. Bien que cette orientation soit encourageante, il faut aussi reconnaître que la science est encore loin d’être en mesure de traiter et de guérir les plus de 10 000 maladies connues dans le monde. D’autres défis sociétaux doivent être relevés en trouvant des solutions technologiques innovantes sur la manière de nourrir une population mondiale croissante et de faire face aux résultats du changement climatique. Seuls les innovateurs pourront réellement résoudre ces problèmes et aider l’humanité à surmonter les défis sans avoir à réduire le niveau de vie moyen. Il sera primordial de fournir un cadre politique en matière d’innovation qui encourage l’innovation autant que possible. La propriété intellectuelle est un fondement nécessaire à la capacité d’une société de continuer à innover.

La science progresse et peut apporter des solutions à de nombreux problèmes auxquels le monde est confronté. Les innovations dans les technologies environnementales, médicales et agricoles peuvent sortir des milliards de personnes de la pauvreté, nous permettre de vivre plus longtemps et en meilleure santé, et avoir plus de choix dans notre vie quotidienne. L’Europe doit être à la pointe de la science et soutenir des politiques qui favorisent l’innovation et permettent à l’humanité de faire face aux défis susmentionnés.

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