Panel: Working with government post-legalization to effect change
Moderator: Dr. Lucas McCann, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of CannDelta Inc.
Speakers: Deepak Anand, executive director of the Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association (CNMMA) & Trina Fraser, partner at Brazeau Seller Law.
Friday, June 3rd on the O’Cannabiz Expo Floor, moderator Dr. Lucas McCann was joined by Deepak Anand and Trina Fraser for a robust discussion on the current regulatory landscape in cannabis.
The three experts examined the over regulated industry and drew links to promotional hindrances and customer confusion, taxation and legal set backs, clearance issues for new applicants, and a general lack of accountability surrounding the illicit market.
Research & Product Representation
Talking about the effects of cannabis, whether during clinical research or printed upon product packaging, is a no-go in the current state of the hyper regulated cannabis space.
“You can already have research programs in place where you can be giving cannabis to research subjects and you can ask them about how it looks, how it smells, how it tastes—you just can’t ask them about the effects they feel when they consume it,” said Fraser.
Meanwhile, upon entering, say, an LCBO, products with playful, appealing packaging are on display for anyone to see, regardless of age.
McCann posed the question: “Have you ever heard Health Canada making any kind of comparisons, Trina, from cannabis to alcohol?”
Fraser: Only to tell me that I shouldn’t make comparisons to alcohol when I’m complaining about promotional restrictions.
Everybody knows what the experience is going to be when they have a glass of wine, and the problem that we have is how do we educate consumers on what they can expect the experience to be when they consume cannabis in different formats? That’s what we’re trying to amass evidence on so that we can convey that information to consumers in an accurate and non-misleading way.
Taxation & Restrictions
The over taxation of marijuana helps to explain why the regulated market may lack a certain competitive edge against figures in the legacy market.
Moreover, panelists feel that cannabis should be treated like any other industry. Comparisons were made to the automotive industry, which has gotten differential treatments, including significant price improvement.
“Why should this industry not have that?”, said Anand.
From a medical perspective, the taxation that exists here in Canada on cannabis is adding to the confusion and the challenges surrounding access.
“We don’t tax any other medicine in this country, including opioids that literally kill people. Whereas we are charging not only excise tax but also GST and PST on medical cannabis, which is completely unfair and unjust. So hopefully this actually gets removed,” he continued.
Fraser added that after recent conversations with the director of strategic policy at the Controlled Substances and Cannabis Branch (CSCB), she acknowledged that, “certainly Health Canada does not think that its job or responsibility is to save this industry. Their job remains protection of public health.”
Fraser: And so I believe Health Canada’s position at this point is: It’s not our job to limit the number of licensed producers. It’s not our job to set minimum price levels. It’s not our job to do any of those things. The market is going to have to work itself out and we understand that there are going to be failures out there. There’s going to be consolidation and there’s going to be failures, and we don’t need to stop that.
Discussions at the Federal Level
Fraser: So the message that we’re trying to deliver to the federal government is, you know, we’re not asking you to come in and support us; prop us up artificially to any unjust extent. But what we’re trying to do is take away the excessive duties and taxes and regulatory fees and over-regulation—that increased cost of operation that is really just the result of remaining stigma against this industry—and to just let us run our businesses efficiently and leanly, like any other industry can do. That’s all we need.
Hopefully we can speak into government about the number of jobs that have been created about the amount that cannabis has contributed to the GDP of this country… and hopefully that’s going to be compelling enough for them to at least take another look and say, “okay, maybe we’ve pushed too far.”
McCann: From my perspective, as a former Health Canada employee, I sense that there’s a huge amount of reluctance in the government level to allow this industry to exist… we still have exorbitant licensing fees annually for licensed producers.
Is there anything else that government could be doing to support the Canadian cannabis industry?
Anand: I think one of the big things that has changed in this industry is as a result of COVID. A lot of bureaucrats that were very keen on this file, that were driving the agenda from within—from inside government circles—moved to COVID. We saw a lot of changes in the department in respect to senior members that were taking on this file and then moved over to COVID recovery.
We’ve seen some real shift in terms of the management that is handling this file and so I think that’s one of the big, I would say, step backs for us as an industry, selfishly, has been that movement or that change.