Cannabis Legalization

The price isn’t right for legal pot says consumer group

“It’s time to re-evaluate the taxes on cannabis,” according to a Toronto-based North American consumer affairs group.

The Consumer Choice Center said the growing gap in price between legal cannabis and illegal pot shows that it’s time to re-evaluate cannabis taxes.

Earlier this week, Statistics Canada released data on the price differences between illegal and legal cannabis. It found that over the past three months, the price of a gram of cannabis bought illegally has fallen from $6.23 to $5.93 but over that same time, the average price of a gram of legally purchased cannabis rose from $10.21 to $10.65.

“The data from StatsCan is troubling, because it shows that the legal market is getting less competitive over time,” said David Clement, manager of the Consumer Choice Center.

He said there are some simple solutions that could be enacted to help the legal market compete when it comes to price. Clement said the federal government could get rid of the minimum tax amount, and simply tax cannabis on its wholesale value, which would immediately allow for discount products to hit the shelves and decrease prices. He added the government could also change production regulations to make the industry more dynamic. Clement said shifting production regulations to be in line with food-grade rules, as opposed to pharmaceutical-grade restrictions, would go a long way in terms of reducing costs, which are passed down to consumers through lower prices.

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Legal Cannabis in Canada is More Expensive than the Black Market

“The taxes and fees create prices that are high out of the gate, and then a lack of competition prevents those prices from being slowly pushed down,” David Clement, the North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center, told CBC Radio-Canadaat the time. “It costs half a billion [over five years] to enforce the rules and regulations in the Cannabis Act, so in order to generate the revenues to cover that, they’ve implemented fees and licenses on licensed producers.”

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Continued cap on pot shops draws criticism

The Ford government’s decision to hold a second lottery for retail cannabis store licences is drawing a mixed review from the Consumer Choice Centre.

The centre said it is pleased Ontario plans to open another 50 stores, on top of the 25 operating across the province now, but criticized the decision to maintain a cap on the number of stores.

North American Affairs Manager David Clement said the announcement is both good and bad news for Ontario consumers.

“It is great the government is moving to increase the number of storefronts, but the existing cap, and the prequalification criteria, miss the mark,” he wrote in a release. “We don’t see any justification for the cap to continue to exist when the province has stated that it is committed to uncapping the retail market in the long run.”

The centre said the confirmation of $250,000 in cash or the equivalent, a letter of credit for $50,000, and a secured retail space is “a huge barrier to entry, and significantly increases costs for retail operators. Those costs will ultimately end up being passed on to consumers.”

It pointed out that other businesses like bars, clubs, restaurants, corner stores, and grocery stores that sell alcohol and cigarettes do not face the same heavy burdens.

The centre believes the increased cost for consumers and the limit on locations to buy legal cannabis will drive users to the black market.

“A very simple solution would be to approve all applicants who already have retail space acquired, and do so without a cap on the number of stores — This would ensure that applicants are serious, without the heavy-handed financial requirements,” the statement said. “Doing so would drastically improve Ontario’s retail market for cannabis, which would significantly increase the likelihood of Ontario consumers purchasing cannabis legally.”

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Could CBD Be Snatched From Traditional Retailers?

Yael Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, described himself as being “on the side of consumers” and called for the FDA to set some standards and regulations but also “allow companies and brands to exist. That’s the only way consumers can differentiate between good products and bad products.”

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Health Canada’s new grow-ready demand could squash entry of micros into the cannabis space

Also likely to take a hit are consumers. The U.S.-headquartered Consumer Choice Center (CCC) argues the new licensing process will hurt consumers. “This move is a significant blow for Canada’s cannabis market, especially cannabis consumers nationwide,” David Clement, the CCC’s Toronto-based North American affairs manager, says in a statement.

“The process to qualify as a licensed producer is already incredibly rigid. These changes will simply make it harder for new producers to enter the market, which, ultimately, ends up hurting recreational consumers and medical patients,” Clement argues. “More red tape will translate into higher prices for consumers, and less product availability. Higher prices and poor access will encourage consumers to continue to purchase in the black market, which runs directly against the federal government’s stated goal for legalization.”

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Health Canada shows, again, that it can’t properly regulate cannabis

Just this week, Health Canada announced that it would be making significant changes to the process for approving licensed producer (LP) applications. Specifically, it stated that all new applications will have to have a fully built and regulatory compliant facility at the time of their application. Health Canada has justified the move by citing that 70 per cent of preapproved applications have not ended up having their production site built and compliant with current production regulations. This change is incredibly problematic for the cannabis industry, and more importantly, for cannabis consumers nationwide.

The first issue with this policy change is that it will make it significantly harder for new producers to enter into the cannabis market. Now, because of the change, entrepreneurs and firms looking to enter the market will have to get financing without any indication from government that they will be approved. From a financing side, this makes investment into new cannabis firms extremely risky, with the potential for millions in sunk costs if an applicant doesn’t get approved after already building a fully compliant facility. This will drastically increase upfront costs for those who do enter the market, and those costs ultimately end up getting paid by consumers via higher prices.

The second issue with the change is that by adding more red-tape into the production process, Health Canada is actively limiting supply. Supply issues have been a dark cloud over Canada’s legalization process, and this change will only make that worse. As consumers, we want a free and fair market with appropriate access. This is important because appropriate access and product availability is what will help shift consumers away from the black market. Making it harder for new producers to get approved is yet another example of federal policy tying the hands of the legal market. If the legal market cannot properly compete with the illegal market, it is naive to think that consumers will shift their purchasing behaviours.

The third reason why this policy change is misguided is that it demonstrates a complete and utter lack of self-reflection on the part of federal regulators. One of the biggest issues with Canada’s legal market is that the regulations, for the most part, have not changed since the medical cannabis industry was formalized under the Harper government. When his former Conservative government had to deal with the reality of medical cannabis, they created a regulatory framework that mirrored how pharmaceutical products are produced. Those regulations were over-the-top and heavy-handed then, which makes them downright ridiculous now in the context of recreational production and use.

Unfortunately, the federal Liberal government never picked up on those regulatory mistakes. In fact, their own release on this policy change justifies the change because it bringscannabis production regulations more in line with pharmaceutical regulations. It is baffling that in the face of supply issues, and a prevalent black market, the Trudeau government has decided to further cement Stephen Harper’s mistakes.

The final issue with this change is that the proposed solution does nothing to address the problem that Health Canada was trying to fix. If Health Canada has an issue with the amount of preapproved applicants who end up with approved production sites, then they should address the hurdles these applicants are facing that prevent them from being build-ready. The solution here would be to liberalize the production regulations so that these paper-reviewed applicants can get to the production stage as soon as possible. Instead of going the route of liberalizing, Health Canada has doubled down on red tape, which benefits nobody.

All of this stems from the fact that the federal government has never really known how to properly regulate cannabis. When it comes to production, all the federal government would need to do to help solve these issues would be to have production regulations that mirror how breweries, distilleries, and wineries are regulated. Or, better yet, the government could simply apply food-grade production restrictions on legal cannabis. Simple changes in production regulations, as opposed to more red-tape, would go a long way to creating a more dynamic and responsive cannabis market here in Canada, one that best serves the needs of patients and consumers, while stamping out the black market.

The Unlikely Saving Grace of British Cannabis

The global crusade against cannabis is finally beginning to falter. As the attitudes of citizens and lawmakers alike begin to soften, the prospects of full legalisation have gone from a stoner’s pipe-dream (if you’ll pardon the pun) to very feasible in only a couple of years. With a fifth of the US legalising the plant for recreational use, alongside Canada and Uruguay, as well as numerous European states opting to decriminalise its use, progress has been quick and promising.

This is cause for optimism. Newly-legal markets in the US and Canada have already seen booms in market growth and innovation, not to mention the positive effects of decriminalisation on the harm felt by users. In decriminalising or outright legalising cannabis, legislators in such countries have helped foster an environment in which entrepreneurship and consumer well-being are welcomed and encouraged.

But there’s still work to do. In many countries, reluctance to embrace cannabis is preventing them from enjoying the benefits felt by more committed nations. Legislators are, all too often, unable or unwilling to properly ride the green wave, preferring instead to watch from the pier.

Italy, for example, is a victim of this lack of commitment. Vagueness surrounding the legality of Italian hemp and cannabis has made it far more difficult for entrepreneurs and investors to know where they stand, damaging their confidence and potential to create a flourishing market. As such, progress has been far slower in Italy (a country which once held the number two spot worldwide for industrial hemp production), than in countries which are more willing to commit.

In the UK, the story looks rather familiar. Despite the nearly four-decade long prohibition on medical cannabis being overturned by Home Secretary Sajid Javid last year, access to the drug is still hampered by heavy-handed restrictions and high costs. Patients will have to wade through a sea of bureaucracy and extortionate bills to have access to the drug legally, rendering any benefits this would have over continued use of the black market very hazy.

Growers and entrepreneurs, too, are deterred by legal ambiguity. With the British government reluctant to go any further than this somewhat-legal medicinal cannabis, the country is at risk of following Italy’s footsteps and missing out on what seems poised to be one of the most promising markets of our time.

There is a silver lining though. While patients and consumers may have their wellbeing overlooked by the government in Westminster, an unlikely source shows far more promise when it comes to protecting their welfare. Across the UK, members of the police are beginning to relax their approaches to cannabis offences.

Rather than prosecuting those caught with small amounts of the drug, many police officers are instead opting for warning and recommendations for how to quit. This has prompted accusations that the police are pushing for de facto decriminalisation outside of the realm of legislators.

In practice, however, such action might be the saving grace for British cannabis consumers. A more relaxed approach from police allows for a far safer environment, with police attention shifted to the darker, truly criminal side of the market, and away from nonviolent consumers.

Moreover, the controversy surrounding this ‘blind-eye’ approach could be just the thing needed to get the ball rolling on higher-up decriminalisation. Rather than shell out thousands for legal medicinal cannabis, or to risk buying on the black market, some are now pushing the cause of growing the plant at home for treatment of certain ailments.

While the British cannabis scene is still hampered by a stubborn government, changing attitudes from law enforcement could revitalise the debate on harm-reduction and smart drugs policy, all the while making life easier for consumers. It may be early days, but there’s hope that legislators will see sense in the police’s decision.

Légalisation du cannabis à des fins médicales ou récréatives

Suite à l’annonce en décembre 2018 du gouvernement luxembourgeois de procéder à légalisation de la vente et de la consommation du cannabis à des fins médicales ou récréatives, le LCGB a rencontré le groupe de travail international Consumer Choice Center (CCC) en date du 25 avril 2019.

En tant qu’organisation internationale en contact avec les législateurs au niveau mondial et entre autres, avec les institutions de l’Union européenne, le CCC a exposé au LCGB ses préoccupations quant à cette légalisation et a souligné l’importance que la vente et la consommation du cannabis fasse l’objet d’un encadrement légal bien réfléchi.

Sur base des études réalisées dans certains Etats américains et au Canada, les représentants du CCC, David CLEMENT, Yeaël OSSOWSKI et Bill WIRTZ ont souligné la nécessité de mettre en place un cadre légal avec une politique de prix et de taxation raisonnable permettant de diminuer le recours au marché illégal de la vente du cannabis.

Le LCGB a profité de l’occasion pour se renseigner plus en détail sur la législation canadienne en afin de déterminer si un tel modèle est transposable au Luxembourg ou non et quels sont les impacts positifs ou négatifs pour les consommateurs. A noter qu’il faudrait d’abord tirer un premier bilan sur l’utilisation du cannabis médical, autorisée depuis début 2019 au Luxembourg et sur la consommation de chanvre, déjà possible dès à présent, avant de légiférer en la matière.

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Préparation à la légalisation du cannabis au Grand-Duché

La conférence concernant les recommandations accompagnant le processus de légalisation du cannabis au Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, donnée par le Consumer Choice Center (CCC) vient d’avoir lieu. Ce CCC défend les droits des consommateurs dans plus de 100 pays avec pour mission de les informer et les encourager à se mobiliser.

Beaucoup de questions se posent encore. – M.M.

Yaël Ossowski, journaliste et directeur adjoint du CCC, a insisté sur l’importance d’une transition intelligente de la légalisation, en s’inspirant de l’exemple des États-Unis et du Canada afin de tirer les leçons positives et négatives qu’un tel processus implique.

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Cannabis au Luxembourg : « Éviter les erreurs du Canada »

À cause des taxes trop élevées sur le cannabis, entre 30 et 40% des consommateurs se tournent toujours vers le marché noir, ont souligné les spécialistes canadiens. (photo Tania Feller)

Des représentants canadiens de l’Agence pour le choix du consommateur sont venus à Luxembourg pour aider les décideurs politiques à faire les bons choix en matière de légalisation du cannabis.

Membres de la direction de l’ONG Consumer Choice Center (l’Agence pour le choix du consommateur, ou CCC), David Clement et Yaël Ossowski sont venus plaider pour une politique réglementaire intelligente en matière de légalisation du cannabis récréatif. Guidés par le porte-parole de l’organisation, le Luxembourgeois Bill Wirtz, les deux Canadiens vont aller à la rencontre des décideurs politiques pour les mettre en garde «contre certaines erreurs à ne pas commettre».

À la veille d’un voyage au Canada du ministre de la Santé, Étienne Schneider, le CCC rappelle que son premier objectif est «d’étouffer le marché noir», et qu’il ne sera pas atteint au Canada au vu des taxes trop élevées que le pays a choisi d’appliquer sur le cannabis. «Entre 30 et 40% des consommateurs se tournent vers le marché noir, car les prix y sont plus attractifs», témoigne David Clement.

Il paraît donc capital pour les activistes du CCC, comme ils se définissent, d’appliquer une taxe très modérée sur les produits pour éradiquer le marché parallèle. Dans certaines provinces canadiennes, ces taxes cumulées peuvent s’élever à 30%, ce qui décourage les consommateurs de se fournir légalement. Aux États- Unis, l’Alaska n’impose pas de TVA et la Californie reste modérée avec 15% de TVA sur le cannabis. Certes, le Colorado avec ses 30% de taxe a engrangé 245 millions de dollars de recettes fiscales, «mais elles ne devraient pas être le seul objectif de la légalisation du cannabis», insiste David Clement.

Contre le « paquet neutre »

Autre recommandation : autoriser la consommation sur la voie publique partout où le tabac est également toléré, contrairement à ce qu’a décidé l’État du Colorado et l’État de Washington où la consommation publique demeure illégale. Pourquoi ? Parce que les personnes à plus faibles revenus sont souvent locataires et les propriétaires leur interdisent souvent de fumer dans les logements. Les deux représentants canadiens se targuent d’avoir réussi «grâce à (leur) action» à faire changer d’avis le gouvernement de l’Ontario sur ce sujet.

«Malheureusement, l’absence de salons de consommation de cannabis est une occasion manquée de l’exemple canadien», estime le CCC alors qu’ils présentent plusieurs avantages : on peut y contrôler l’âge légal des consommateurs et ils permettent de fumer dans un lieu protégé, évitant ainsi aux gens d’être gênés par les volutes dans les lieux publics.

La vente aux non-résidents reste un point très discuté quand on évoque la légalisation du cannabis récréatif puisqu’il s’agit d’éviter un trafic transfrontalier. Là encore, une telle clause de résidence profite au marché noir.

Autre erreur figurant sur la liste du CCC, celle qui consiste à restreindre voire interdire le marketing pour le cannabis et le Canada l’a commise en préférant le «paquet neutre». «Nous voulons que les consommateurs prennent des décisions éclairées lorsqu’ils achètent une substance intoxicante comme le cannabis», défend le CCC. De plus, un paquet neutre permet aux criminels «de faire passer plus facilement leur produit pour un produit légal», et ainsi de brouiller les pistes. Mettre une marque sur un emballage, c’est éviter la contrefaçon et fidéliser le client si le produit est bon.

Simplifier la production

Enfin la production, c’est l’autre gros morceau de la future législation qui est très attendue. «Un bon régime réglementaire garantit que l’offre peut suivre le rythme de la demande, ce qui est vital pour détourner le consommateur du marché illégal», souligne le CCC. Cela signifie qu’il faut éviter les lourdeurs administratives et la réglementation très restrictive d’un pays comme le Canada. Les règlements de sécurité et la masse de formalités sont tels qu’ils ont découragé certains candidats de se lancer dans la culture du cannabis. «Au Québec, les magasins publics de cannabis ont dû fermer du lundi au mercredi en raison de pénuries d’approvisionnement et donc 35% des consommateurs sont restés fidèles au marché noir», indique le CCC.

Les coûts de construction des installations qui doivent respecter les exigences strictes établies par le législateur canadien empêchent un plus grand nombre de producteurs d’être sur le marché. Le CCC préconise un processus simplifié, mais encore il devrait être possible de s’approvisionner auprès de fournisseurs d’autres pays qui ont déjà une réglementation sur le cannabis.

«Si la légalisation est exécutée avec tiédeur et s’écarte de ces recommandations, nous craignons que des options illégales demeurent», conclut le CCC. Mais en les suivant, «les États peuvent s’assurer un marché du cannabis favorisant à la fois le choix et la sécurité des consommateurs».

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