Public cannabis consumption ban in Ontario was reversed

The Issue

On Aug. 13, Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fideli announced the government’s plan for cannabis legalization. The keystone of the Progressive Conservatives’ policy was a reversal of the public retail monopoly model proposed by the former Liberal government, to instead opt for private retail provincewide.

Along with the private retail announcement, the government stated that municipalities would be able to “opt out” from cannabis activity, meaning that cities and towns would have the opportunity to prohibit cannabis retail outlets from being established within their municipal boundaries.

In addition to strict age-of-purchase and impaired-driving restrictions, the PCs planned to enact a complete public consumption ban, similar to how alcohol is treated provincewide.

The CCC’s Response

In order to disseminate the Consumer Choice Center’s position on why Ontario’s public consumption ban would have been detrimental to consumer choice, the CCC’s North American Affairs Manager David Clement published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail, which is largest printed newspapers in Canada. In his piece, he suggested either backpedalling on the ban or legalizing regulated consumption lounges.

Moreover, David Clement also spoke on 570 News about the drawbacks of the Ontario’s Cannabis Plan which could have hit the poor.

    The Impact

On 26 September, Ontario reversed their decision to ban all public consumption for cannabis. This victory will contribute to the creation of a more equitable, just and consumer-friendly cannabis market in Ontario.

Effective stand against the FAIR Fees Act

The Issue

The U.S. Senate’s version of the FAA reauthorization bill included a provision authored by U.S. Senators Markey and Blumenthal that would have regulated airline pricing. The provision, initially rejected by the Dept. of Transportation, was known as the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act.

Supporters contended the FAIR Fees Act would have benefited consumers, but in reality, it would have forced airlines to abandon the successful business model that has made commercial air travel the most affordable it has been in over 20 years.

The CCC’s Response

Having directed all its efforts towards raising awareness about the potential harmful repercussions of the FAIR Fees Act, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) succeeded in reaching out to the American people in printed articles in the Washington Examiner, FEE, Newsmax, FlyerTalk, and Consumer Affairs.

In addition, the Consumer Choice Center talked to some leading experts in the airline industry in order to back up its pro-consumer position against the regulation in place and produced a short video targeting average Americans who would have been affected by the FAIR Fees Act.

The Impact

The FAA reauthorization is off to the White House, after the Senate voted 93-6 to clear the legislation without the FAIR Fees Amendments. Airlines can keep offering modularized services to different passengers with different preferences and price sensitivity. This is a win for consumer choice and competition in the airline industry.

Brand freedom in the Republic of Georgia

The Issue

In May 2017, policy makers in the Republic of Georgia attempted to push through a branding ban on all tobacco products. Despite the importance of the issue, public opinion was neglected in the debate.

The policy measure was triggered by monetary incentives provided by the UK government to the Georgian budget, through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 2030 Project. Consequently, having turned a blind eye on the proper consultation process and scientific evidence of the ineffectiveness of such a policy, Georgian MPs set out to quickly pass a law on banning brands, as well as other significant advertising restrictions..

The CCC’s Response

Within 48 hours, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) deployed a task force of experts and volunteers to set up pop-up stores at highly frequented locations in Tbilisi seeking to show what a world without brands would look like.

Furthermore, six TV stations interviewed the CCC’s experts and several outlets covered this campaign exposing Georgians to what had been planned by their policy makers behind closed doors. Several print and op-ed articles were also published as part of the same campaign.

The Impact

Brand freedom in the Republic of Georgia was saved for at least another five years, when, on July 26, 2017, the Parliament of Georgia passed an amendment to move the deadline for implementing branding bans from January 1, 2018 to December 31 2022.

During the campaign, the CCC used the examples from Australia and France to show that after implementing similar bans, smoking rates did not decline, but the use of counterfeit cigarettes grew, creating more harm for consumers. Since the introduction of branding bans in 2012, the daily smoker rate in Australia has remained steady at 12%. Added to that, at the same time, the market share of illegal tobacco in Australia has risen 30%, as contraband tobacco has become a lucrative avenue for smugglers. This has resulted in over $1.6 billion AUD in lost tax revenue, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

What Australia taught us is that banning brands does not reduce smoking. It discourages alternatives, and creates a robust illegal trade in the black market.

In France, when a similar policy was introduced, the government promised manufacturers they would be able to buy the remaining, now illegal, packs. To achieve this, they spent €100 million EUR on cigarettes in order to burn them. Smoking rates did not go down in France after the introduction of branding bans either.