marijuana

Ontario to allow cannabis retailers to sell online and over the phone

Cannabis retailers will soon be able to sell products online or over the phone for in-store pick-up as the Ontario government adopts a “click-and-connect” sales model to expand access to legal marijuana.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips announced the proposed changes in the government’s fall economic statement Wednesday, saying they will decrease waits for cannabis and help combat the black market.

The shift comes as the Progressive Conservative government pledges to lift a cap it imposed on the number of cannabis stores in Ontario.

“All of the provincial jurisdictions are learning and trying to make sure that we take the best approach,” Phillips said. “Our priorities are getting rid of black market cannabis and safety in our communities.”

The government had initially said there would be no cap on the number of retail pot shops after cannabis was legalized. That decision marked a change of course from the previous Liberal government, which created the Ontario Cannabis Store and had planned to tightly control cannabis sales through government-owned stores similar to the LCBO.

But a supply shortage prompted the Tory government last December to cap the initial number of pot retail licences to just 25 so operators would be able to open.

The number of legal pot outlets in Ontario is increasing from 25 to 75 this fall.

The government also said Wednesday it will allow licensed producers to have retail stores on each of their production sites to further increase access.

The Tories had planned to allow that after coming to power in 2018 but did not enact the necessary regulations when the supply shortage caused them to cap the number of retail stores.

The government said Wednesday it will amend legislation and provincial regulations to make the changes but has given no immediate timeline when they will take effect.

Omar Yar Khan, a vice president at strategy firm Hill+Knowlton who advises cannabis sector clients, said the changes will help encourage customers to move from the black market to legal retailers.

“In an era where customers are used to an Amazon Prime experience … anything the government can do to allow these legal markets to reach consumers on channels they’re already on is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Khan said the government needs to uncap the retail market if it wants to continue to fight the illicit market.

“They need to move fast on that, and I think they will,” he said.

One consumer advocacy group praised the move towards “click-and-connect” sales but said the government could have gone further.

“It makes the legal market more consumer-friendly by increasing access and allowing consumers to place orders and pick them up … but it would be that much better if they coupled that with the ability for stores to provide deliver services,” said David Clement, manager of North American affairs for the Consumer Choice Center.

Clement said the changes that allow pot producers to open retail space could create a tourism industry around cannabis.

“If you go to brewery or a distillery, often you can take a tour or talk to the master brewer,” he said. “That on-site selling opportunity has been used to provide consumers with other experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Nov, 6th. I was posted on Yahoo Finance here.


FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SMAT CANNABIS POLICIES CLICK HERE


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 
consumerchoicecenter.org

The green rush is already here and we need smart cannabis policy to direct it

This week, 60 Minutes ran a report on the failure of cannabis policy in California, specifically the marijuana-rich region of the Emerald Triangle. Though California legalized cannabis beginning in 2017, the region has created a special conundrum for law enforcement and regulators.

The northwestern region of the state, with its ideal growing climate, grows an estimated 70% of the nation’s cannabis. A good chunk of that, as you can guess, is sold illicitly in states where cannabis is not yet legal, recreationally, medically, or otherwise. 

Much more, 78% of all cannabis sold in California is estimated to be grown illegally, beyond the reach of taxes and regulations. Police have seized more than $30 million worth of cannabis, and are spending more time policing cannabis now than when it was illegal. It’s a disaster.

On a recent trip to New York, I saw California brands and products for sale in an illegal dispensary just off Times Square. Supply is liquid and flexible, even if the regulations are not.

And herein lies the problem.

The impressive growth of the national black market of THC cannabis is enabled by its legality in states like California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, but cemented by burdensome regulation and taxes that discourage consumers from using the legal market.

That’s why we need to transition urgently to smart cannabis policy, one that encourages competition, entrepreneurship, avoids red tape, and eradicates the black market.

Consumers know why current policies have failed. States, counties, and municipalities view cannabis as a cash crop for public budgets rather than a new consumer product. High taxes at all levels of production and sale, as well as expensive fees, licenses, and local prohibitions on dispensaries make it a racket.

Comparing prices alone easily nudges consumers to buy the cheaper, illicit products. The same issues plague Canada, which legalized cannabis just one year ago, but where 42% of cannabis purchases are outside the legal system. That’s a problem no one in government is addressing, much less discussing.

The regulatory burden faced by growers and retailers alike erects immense barriers to entry, practically guaranteeing the emergence of a new generation of scofflaws not seen since the days of Prohibition. This enables low-quality and sometimes harmful products to reach consumers, without significant testing or verification for pesticides or other chemicals.

California’s problems will soon migrate to Massachusetts and Michigan, cobbling together their regulatory regimes to tackle the green rush but not adapting the lessons learned from the western experience.

The culprit isn’t regulation or taxation per se, but rather an unbalanced and uninformed cannabis policy that puts the state’s tax earnings ahead of the consumer experience.

The same issues are beginning to plague the CBD and hemp market, the non-intoxicating cannabis derivatives quietly legalized via the 2018 Farm Bill. 

With little to no clarity from the FDA, states such as North Carolina will ban different forms of CBD, much to the detriment of farmers converting millions of dollars’ worth of fields to hemp production, and to consumers relying on CBD to address anxiety, pain relief, and depression. This is a national problem, rather than limited to states with recreational cannabis markets.

This is compounded by the DEA’s Schedule 1 classification of cannabis, more severe than opioids or cocaine, making it illegal for legal cannabis firms to establish legitimate bank accounts, take out loans, and offer public shares of their businesses. Not to mention the myriad of issues that force dispensaries to deal in cash for transactions, tax payments, and equipment procurement.

Thankfully, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are close to passing the SAFE Banking Act to alleviate these concerns. But bad cannabis policy at the state and local levels still exists. And that’s bad for consumers and entrepreneurs alike.

Nascent cannabis companies should be able to establish brands and consumer loyalty, comply with reasonable and smart regulation, and not face unreasonable tax burdens. That will make the experience much better for consumers, and it’s the only way to eradicate the black market and ensure smart cannabis policy.


By Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a writer, consumer advocate, and deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.

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.

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