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Cannabis

Is there a future for cannabis consumption lounges?

After much consultation and a lot of waiting, British Columbia released its What We Heard consultation report on the possibility of cannabis consumption lounges in January. The results were somewhat predictable: cannabis consumers and those connected to the industry were generally in favour, while non-cannabis users were against the plan.

Public health and law enforcement, for their part, expressed similar concerns they’ve had all along with legalization: health consequences, keeping it out of the hands of young people, and increased rates of impaired driving. 

It was far from the slam dunk that some in the industry were hoping to see, and it paints a cloudy picture of the future of consumption spaces. To many, the lack of spaces available to publicly consume cannabis remains one of legalization’s pieces of unfinished business. “This lack of consumption spaces is alienating,” wrote Amanda Siebert last year, “and it continues to stigmatize the plant long after we’ve been told it’s okay to partake in our substance of choice.” 

But if BC’s report is anything to go by, it’s hard to conclude that dedicated consumption cafes are, at this point, anything but a pipe dream. Consultation processes have failed to identify agreed-upon regulatory or business models for the sector, and politicians have been mostly apathetic towards reopening the question—in 2021, The Canadian Press reported that few provincial governments were even considering allowing them any time soon. 

Read the full text here

Free up the cannabis market

Removing CBD products from the Cannabis Act would have several immediate benefits for consumers

Last week Ottawa announced that the Cannabis Act, passed in 2018, will finally get its long-overdue mandatory review, which was supposed to take place in October 2021.

Regulators will have to answer some tough questions regarding Canada’s legalization experiment. As Liberal MP Nathanial Erskine-Smith conceded: “We didn’t get it perfect, or exactly right the first time, and this is an opportunity to make sure we get it right going forward.” One of the core priorities of the expert panel reviewing the act is better understanding how the legal market can stamp out the illegal market, which is still prominent.

According to the Ontario Cannabis Store’s own report, the legal market has made significant gains since 2018 but still only accounts for 59 per cent of all cannabis consumed. So what can be changed in the Cannabis Act to target the 41 per cent of cannabis that continues to be supplied by the illicit market?

First, CBD products, those containing cannabidiol but either no or very little THC, which is what produces the high, should be removed from the cannabis act altogether. Products that are not intoxicating and have a significantly lower risk profile shouldn’t be treated the same as cannabis products that include THC.

Removing CBD products from the Cannabis Act would have several immediate benefits for consumers. The first is that it would exempt CBD products from the heavy-handed marketing, branding and plain packaging restrictions set out in the Cannabis Act. Regulating cannabis the same way as tobacco is regulated was a mistake, given the important differences in risks among the various cannabis products. But regulating CBD products like tobacco is downright comical. To end the joke, we should treat any CBD product with a THC concentration of less than 0.3 per cent (the U.S. legal standard) as a natural health product and exempt it from the rules and regulations of the Cannabis Act.

On the producer side, removing CBD products from the Cannabis Act would help licensed producers make use of the glut of cannabis that ends up being destroyed as a result of oversupply — an oversupply that fails to lower prices because excise taxes create an artificially high price floor, while the excise tax stamp regime landlocks finished product within provincial boundaries. Fully 26 per cent of the legal cannabis produced in Canada in 2021, 426 million grams, ended up being destroyed because of oversupply. If CBD were removed from the act, this excess cannabis could be used to create CBD products, which could be sold at other retail outlets, not just licensed cannabis stores, thus significantly expanding buying opportunities for consumers.

On marketing and branding, the rules should be re-written to mirror what Canadians accept for alcohol. Cannabis is no more and arguably much less dangerous than alcohol, so its sale to adults shouldn’t be more strictly regulated. This wouldn’t just be for consistency’s sake, either. People who buy their cannabis in the illicit market need to be aggressively marketed to if the government wants to keep growing the legal market. Marketing and branding rules that are far less paternalistic than those currently in place would be a huge step forward in allowing retailers and producers to reach consumers still buying outside the legal regime.

Regarding product and price, some simple steps would go a long way. First, the 30-gram limits on both purchase and possession in public should be scrapped. There are no such purchase restrictions for alcohol: an adult of legal age can walk into a liquor store, more often than not owned by the government, and buy as many bottles of liquor as they please. If consumers can buy more than a lethal dosage of alcohol from a government store, they should be able to buy more than 30 grams of cannabis from legal retailers.

Regarding edibles and beverages, the act should either remove the 10mg THC restriction or significantly increase it. This restriction gives a leg-up to the illegal market, where edibles are often 10 to 20 times more potent. If legal edibles are to compete, they have to be comparable products.

Finally, as far as price regulation goes, the legal market needs to be much more competitive. Significantly simplifying and lowering the excise tax would help cannabis to be produced at lower costs and sold at lower prices, thus making it more attractive for those still buying illegally. Replacing the $1/gram minimum tax with a flat percentage would give a significant competitive boost to the legal market.

It is worth celebrating that 59 per cent of the cannabis market is now legal but serious changes are needed to crack down on the remaining 41 per cent. If the Cannabis Act is not amended to make the legal market more consumer-friendly, efforts to grow the legal market may fail.

Originally published here

Ontario government makes delivery curbside pickup permanent for cannabis retailers

Only a retail store authorization holder or its employees can make the deliveries. Third-party delivery is not permitted

It’s official: the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has announced the provincial government has permanently green-lit the ability of cannabis retailers to offer delivery and curbside pickup services.

In a bulletin posted this week, the AGCO reported that the province has established rules to make the long-awaited and much-demanded change permanent. That new rules comes into force on Mar. 15.

“Making cannabis delivery permanent rather than temporary would be a huge step forward for the legal market in Ontario. It would significantly benefit retailers. But more importantly, it would benefit consumers by expanding and enhancing their options,” David Clement, North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center, wrote for The GrowthOp in the spring of 2020.

Read the full article here

Nancy Mace: The South Carolina Republican Who Could Deliver Legal Cannabis

By Yaël Ossowski

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (left) with former SC Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley (right)

During the Democratic presidential candidates during the 2020 election primary, the topic of legalizing cannabis federally was explicitly endorsed by virtually every candidate in the race, save Joe Biden.

Now that the Democrats have majority control of the House and Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to end cannabis prohibition in the United States with his own bill, and some of his House colleagues have said the same.

However, the legislator who may actually deliver on serious cannabis reform won’t be a major Senate figure or even a Democratic heavyweight in either chamber. It may rest on the shoulders of one first-term Republican Congresswoman from South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

A BOLD REPUBLICAN

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, who was propelled “from Waffle House to the US House”, has already proven to be a unique lawmaker among the elite cadre of elected representatives in the nation’s capital.

As a single mother of two children and the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, a military academy, Mace has followed a more independent streak in her short tenure thus far in DC.

As the first Republican woman from South Carolina elected to Congress, she has already made her mark as a supporter of both LGBT and reproductive rights, a skeptic of US military interventions abroad, and was forthright in condemning President Donald Trump after the events of January 6.

Now, she has made waves among House colleagues and cannabis reform advocates for the States Reform Act, one of the most inspiring bills to legalize and regulate cannabis.

STATES REFORM ACT

The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to reschedule cannabis, regulate it like alcohol, would offer judicial reforms to nonviolent offenders charged with marijuana crimes, empower entrepreneurs to enter the cannabis space, and give powers to the states to effectively decide what the regulations on cannabis should be. It would also apply an excise tax of just 3%, the lowest of any cannabis bill that has been introduced into Congress.

This means Mace’s law both respects federalism by giving the ultimate say to states while recognizing the federal prohibition as no longer just. Added to that, it would immediately cease all federal prosecutions and cases for nonviolent defendants in cannabis cases, would remove these charges from nonviolent offenders who were convicted, and would use the revenue to support law enforcement and community investment.

With these elements of federalism, social justice, and entrepreneurship, this bill satisfies political advocates from both the left and the right, and could actually pave the way for a real solution to cannabis prohibition in our country.

The Reason Foundation has a great breakdown of the bill for those interested.

GATHERING MOMENTUM

Even though 68% of the country supports legalizing cannabis in a Gallup poll or as high as 91% from a Pew poll, the highest recorded number, there are still many obstacles. As one can imagine, Mace’s freshman GOP status won’t be enough to draw in significant Democratic support from her House colleagues to bring this to a vote, but there have been a great number of other key endorsements.

In January, Amazon — the second-largest company in the country — formally endorsed Mace’s bill. They are most concerned about how drug testing regulations are hampering their ability to hire workers.

The Cannabis Freedom Alliance, made up of advocacy organizations pushing for market-friendly cannabis reforms, (including the Consumer Choice Center), has publicly supported the bill. That also includes the justice advocacy organization of the Weldon Project and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

The Consumer Choice Center supports this bill because we believe it offers the most achievable and concrete changes that would introduce smart cannabis policy at the federal level, eliminating the black market, restoring justice, and giving the incentive for creative entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace. That would be a huge benefit to consumers.

When asked, some Democrats have been receptive to the bill, and they have committed to holding hearings, but thus far most of the momentum has been among advocates and in the media.

It was enough to also get the congresswoman recognized on Real Time with Bill Maher, not necessarily the most hospitable television program for Republicans. Maher, a long-time foe of cannabis prohibition, made the point that Democrats have dragged their feet on this issue, and it was time that the GOP would “steal this issue from the Democrats”.

All of that said, this is far from the most popular political issue in Mace’s home state of South Carolina. The head of the SC GOP has blasted Mace’s bill and any attempt to legalize recreational or even medical cannabis. A Republican primarily challenger, Katie Arrington, who lost the seat to Democrat Joe Cunningham in 2018, has already put together a video criticizing Mace’s stance on cannabis. It would seem this issue is sparking more controversy than others in South Carolina Republican politics.

Former Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, also a former SC congressman, for his part, has written that the SC GOP is “ignoring the will” of voters in continuing to oppose medical cannabis in the Palmetto State.

However it falls, Congresswoman Nancy Mace has given something that all Americans could potentially benefit from. Her States Reform Act, if it can withstand the partisan dance in the nation’s capital, has some of the most positive reforms on cannabis that we have seen in over a decade.

That is something to celebrate, but it is only the beginning if we want to see true cannabis reform in our country.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.

Ontario set to make cannabis delivery, curbside pick-up permanent

A new proposal from the Ontario government, the Supporting People and Businesses Act, would allow private cannabis retailers to offer delivery and curbside pick-up permanently. Ontario now has 1,000 cannabis retail stores Allowing cannabis delivery is a good start. Retailers were permitted to offer delivery and pick-up services during the pandemic and advocates have argued that the success of the temporary measures proves it’s a viable and safe option for consumers.

Ontario recently surpassed 1,000 cannabis stores and making these features permanent would “enable retailers to continue supporting physical distancing and general public health directives,” a summary of the proposal notes. “Making cannabis delivery permanent rather than temporary would be a huge step forward for the legal market in Ontario,” David Clement, North American affairs manager at the Consumer Choice Center, wrote for The GrowthOp last May.

Read the full article here

Cannabis Industry Stakeholders, Policymakers Share Perspectives on States Reform Act

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace unveiled the legislation Nov. 15 to allow state governments to regulate cannabis products through the health-and-safety oversights of their choosing.


During a Nov. 15 press conference, U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina who took office at the beginning of the year, unveiled the States Reform Act (SRA), legislation that would allow state governments to regulate cannabis products through the health-and-safety oversights of their choosing.

The 131-page draft bill proposes a 3% federal cannabis excise tax, with a 10-year moratorium on excise tax increases to maintain a competitive marketplace.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which operates under the U.S. Department of the Treasury, would federally regulate the interstate commerce of cannabis products, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would oversee medical cannabis.

The legislation also includes expungement provisions, but cartel members, agents of cartel gangs or those convicted of driving under the influence would be excluded from seeking expungement.

The Consumer Choice Center applauds Rep. Mace’s effort to provide Americans with a smart, safe and consumer-friendly path to legal cannabis. A focus on establishing legal and safe markets will benefit all of society by finally eliminating the black market, restoring justice and giving the incentive for creative entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace. It is past time America had smart cannabis policies.” – Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director, Consumer Choice Center

Read the full text here

Cannabis Freedom Alliance Endorses Rep. Mace’s States Reform Act

Today, the Cannabis Freedom Alliance (CFA) announced that it has endorsed the States Reform Act. The Act strongly aligns with CFA’s vision of ending prohibition in a manner consistent with helping all Americans achieve their full potential and limiting the number of barriers that inhibit innovation and entrepreneurship in a free and open market. The States Reform Act is the truly principled vehicle for conservatives, libertarian, and all who value limited government to support cannabis reform. 

CFA was proud to work with Rep. Nancy Mace’s (R-SC)’s team in crafting this legislation and to lend it our future support. The Act creates a bill that keeps Americans and their children safe while ending the federal preemption of and interference with state cannabis laws. The States Reform Act:

  • Federally decriminalizes cannabis and fully defers to state powers over prohibition and commercial regulation
  • Regulates cannabis products like alcohol products
  • Institutes a 3% federal excise tax on those products to fund law enforcement and small business programs.
  • Ensures the continued existence of state medical cannabis programs and patient access while allowing for new medical research and products to be developed
  • Protects our veterans by ensuring they will not be discriminated against in federal hiring for cannabis use or lose their VA healthcare for following their doctor’s advice to use medical cannabis
  • Protects children and young adults under 21 from cannabis products and advertising nationwide

Read the full text here

Consumer Choice Center Praises Rep. Nancy Mace’s Smart Cannabis Legalization Bill

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Consumer Choice Center Praises Rep. Nancy Mace’s Smart Cannabis Legalization Bill

Washington, D.C. – On Monday, U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) unveiled the first comprehensive federal cannabis decriminalization and legalization bill by a Republican member of Congress.

The Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group that advocates for smart cannabis policies, praises Rep. Mace’s bill as a significant first step in ending the war on cannabis and providing a consumer-friendly model for sales and distribution to spur entrepreneurship. They join the coalition of the Cannabis Freedom Alliance in endorsing the bill.

“The Consumer Choice Center applauds Rep. Mace’s effort to provide Americans with a smart, safe, and consumer-friendly path to legal cannabis,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center. “A focus on establishing legal and safe markets will benefit all of society by finally eliminating the black market, restoring justice, and giving the incentive for creative entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace. It is past time America had smart cannabis policies.”

The bill text will be introduced by the end of the day on Monday.

“For too long, lives and resources have been wasted in the failed War on Drugs. By calling on federal lawmakers to legalize recreational cannabis, Rep. Mace is taking the next practical step to save lives and improve our communities,” said David Clement, North American Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center.

“The benefits of legalization have already paid out massive dividends to the people in Colorado, California, Michigan, Oregon, and more, via tax revenues and also by reversing the harsh criminalization that has had a disproportionate impact on low-income and minority communities. Now is the opportunity to make it national,” said Clement.

“We must ensure that the federal government embraces smart cannabis policy, one that encourages competition, entrepreneurship, avoids red tape and eradicates the black market to spur a new revolution in entrepreneurship and opportunity.

“The Consumer Choice Center applauds Rep. Mace’s efforts, and hopes legislators line up behind this proposal,” said Clement.

Read more about the Consumer Choice Center’s Smart Cannabis Policy Recommendations

CONTACT:

Yaël Ossowski

Deputy Director

Consumer Choice Center

yael@consumerchoicecenter.org

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

Opinion: Missouri should learn from Canada’s cannabis experience

To say that Missouri’s medical cannabis rollout has been rocky is an understatement. First, enormous public controversy emerged when 85 percent of applicants for marijuana business licenses were denied. Second, with limitations on the number of producers and retailers, consumers have faced high prices, inconsistent quality, and other difficulties in accessing legalproducts. However, we can learn some significant lessons from places that have already legalized — most notably our neighbor to the north, Canada.  

Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that medical cannabis could be used for HIV/AIDS and a variety of other illnesses. That moment ultimately set the table for the legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis 17 years later. A lot can be learned from the Canadian experience, especially the numerous mistakes that have been made since 2018.

Unfortunately, it looks like the state of Missouri is replicating many of those errors. The first and most glaring mistake is the application of pharmaceutical-grade production regulations for medical cannabis. This is problematic for a few reasons.

While medical cannabis is medicine, there is no need for it to be regulated in a similar fashion as narcotics. Any risk-based assessment would clearly demonstrate that there just isn’t a need for this level of scrutiny from regulators, especially given that alcohol is not regulated in this manner. 

Beyond being heavy-handed, these pharma-grade restrictions act as a significant barrier to entry and run the risk of preventing the legal medical market from being able to scale up if recreational cannabis is legalized, either by state ballot initiative in 2022, or if the federal government takes a leadership role on this issue. 

In fact, this is exactly the mistake that Canada made when it passed the Cannabis Act in 2018. Prior to the legalization of recreational cannabis, federally regulated licensed medical producers were forced to comply with pharma-grade production regulations, which artificially inflated operating costs and inflated prices for patients. When recreational cannabis became legalized, those licensed producers struggled immensely to scale up their operations to meet the new spike in demand, which caused shortages, exorbitant prices, and poor product availability. 

This is the situation Missouri will be in if it continues down its current path in regards to rigid production restrictions. By looking north, legislators in the Show Me State could see that those rules and regulations created a laundry list of negative externalities, all of which were easily avoidable with a more appropriate regulatory framework. 

Another significant issue with Missouri’s current setup for medical cannabis is the existence of license caps for producers, processors, and retailers. Beyond being subject to human error, a cap-based system is susceptible to gross conflicts of interest and cronyism. Over 800 lawsuits have been filed over license denials, and last week a $28 million judgment was handed down against Wise Health Solutions, the company tasked with scoring these applications. This judgment came after an arbitrator described Wise Health Solutions as negligently performing its role. Numerous other American states have seen similar controversy over license caps, including Missouri’s neighbor, Illinois.

The Canadian example showed clearly that license caps are the wrong approach. There is no federal cap on producer licenses in Canada, and several provinceshave uncapped their retail license approval process. Ontario’s conservative government decided almost immediately after forming a government that the retail market for cannabis would be uncapped, with the attorney general stating: “Not having a cap on cannabis retail outlets will mean that the cannabis market will be able to accurately respond to market pressures and demand for the product. This is a huge step in regards to combating the illegal market.” These pro-market initiatives are in large part why the legal market in Canada outsold the illegal market in 2020. 

At the end of the day, over-regulation makes it harder for patients to access their medicine and incentivizes buying from the black market, which wastes valuable police resources. Even worse, heavy-handed regulations make it harder for ordinary folks to capitalize on the economic growth that comes from either medical cannabis or recreational cannabis, and this is especially true for minority populations who have been disproportionately impacted by the failed war on drugs.  

Luckily for Missourians, there is a chance to open the medical cannabis market and lay the groundwork for a fully functional recreational market. Republican Rep. Shamed Dogan had introduced a House Joint Resolution that would entirely avoid the consequences of over-regulation. This is something that both free-market Republicans and social justice Democrats should endorse.

Originally published here

Three years on, we need to relax cannabis regulation

Moving away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach would help make Canada’s legal cannabis market more consumer-friendly Author of the article:

Three years ago Sunday (October 17, 2018), Canada legalized adult-use recreational cannabis. The Trudeau government deserves credit for making this happen, as most Canadians had for some time believed that the consequences of prohibition outweighed whatever negatives would arise from legalization. That said, the Cannabis Act is now three years old, and it needs to be amended to make the legal cannabis market more consumer- and patient-friendly.

A good first step would be to remove “CBD” products from the Cannabis Act altogether. CBD stands for “cannabidiol,” a chemical found mainly in hemp, which itself is low in THC. On its own, CBD has a variety of medicinal and wellness uses. CBD is used to treat seizures, joint pain and inflammation, and as a sleep aid. Because CBD products are not psychoactive and have a significantly lower risk profile they shouldn’t be regulated the same as cannabis products containing THC. Any CBD product with a THC concentration of less than 0.3 per cent (the U.S. legal standard) should be treated as a natural health product. Moving away from the “one size fits all” approach would help make Canada’s legal cannabis market more consumer-friendly in a number of ways.

First, it would exempt CBD products from the heavy-handed marketing, branding and packaging restrictions set out in the Cannabis Act. Regulating cannabis like tobacco rather than alcohol was a huge mistake, given the differences in risks between the two products. But treating CBD products like tobacco is downright silly.

Beyond chipping away at the paternalism built into the Act, exempting CBD would dramatically increase consumer access. The markets for CBD wellness products and beverages, including sports drinks, likely would expand significantly, especially if these products could be sold outside of licensed cannabis retailers, which in many provinces are in short supply. Even in Ontario, which has opened up retail access, some cities — Oakville is one — have maintained their cannabis retail ban. Under a looser regulatory regime, CBD products would be beyond the reach of nanny-state local councilors.

On the industry side, removing CBD products from the Cannabis Act could help reduce the current glut of over one billion grams of cannabis. Freeing the CBD market from the Act would allow producers with too much cannabis on their hands to simply extract the THC and make CBD products.

Reform of the Act should also address the excise tax system for cannabis. Medical cannabis should be exempt, period. We don’t have extra taxes for other medicines. Why this one? Removing the tax may also have the benefit of encouraging medical patients to purchase legal medical cannabis, rather than be pushed into growing their own with a Health Canada permit, an avenue that has regularly been found to be supplying the illicit market.

For recreational users, the $1/gram excise tax should be replaced with a floating percentage. The minimum excise of $1/gram artificially inflates prices, limits the availability of discount brands, and hurts the craft cannabis industry. More competition on price would obviously benefit consumers, but it would also help chip away at black market sales, which are still running at $750 million a year.

Finally, the act should be amended so that the rules for cannabis marketing and promotion are the same as those for alcohol. A legal cannabis brand should be allowed to sponsor events, advertise more broadly, creatively brand its packages, use spokespeople or endorsements, and provide discounts and other inducements for sales — all of which are allowed for alcohol.

To their credit, some provinces have done what they can to make their legal cannabis market more consumer friendly. Ontario, for example, has made significant progress in expanding retail access, and has just committed to permanently legalizing curbside pickup and delivery for cannabis retail stores. These changes at the provincial level are in large part why legal cannabis sales surpassed illegal sales for the first time in the third quarter of 2020.

The provinces seem to be committed to expanding consumer access. With the Cannabis Act now three years old, it’s time for the federal government to step up, too.

Originally published here

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