An open letter to The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould

We have two choices going forward: we can continue to apply the failed model of prohibition – or we can create a new and better model that benefits as many Canadians as possible

In the past few weeks, Lift has run several Legalization policy articles from people within various aspects of the marijuana industry. Last week, we received an open letter from one of our readers who wanted his perspective as a cannabis user to be a part of the conversation, as well. Below is that letter.

Dear Minister,

Please accept my heartfelt congratulations on your appointment as our new justice minister. I have confidence that our country will improve as a result. Sunny ways will bring sunny days.

Part of your mandate is to legalize cannabis. Please accept my input on this very important topic. Discussion has centered on using Colorado as our model. We can do better.

First, we need to cast off our old paradigms.

  • Cannabis is expensive.
  • Cannabis is dangerous.
  • Cannabis requires strict controls.

None of these are true. We must banish fear and prejudice and base our decisions on logic and science.

Cannabis is expensive. Cannabis is actually cheap to produce. It’s a plant, after all. We need to stop growing it in warehouses. One goal of legalization is to eliminate the black market. This will only happen when the price of cannabis is so low that today’s profits disappear. Legal markets are charging black market prices today. This is not right. The price of cannabis needs to be lower.

What is a fair price? A typical prescription under the medical regulations is three grams a day. At ten dollars a gram, that’s thirty dollars a day. Plus GST. That’s a thousand dollars a month. That’s ridiculous.

A self producer can grow their own product indoors for less than a dollar a gram. Organized crime can do the same, even after paying for overhead. (They get their electricity free.) Therefore cannabis needs to cost less than a dollar a gram in order to eliminate the black market.

Rather than keeping the price of cannabis artificially high, let us focus instead on value added activities that create employment and benefit the economy. The lower the cost of the product, the more wealth will be created.

We have two choices going forward. We can continue to apply the failed model of prohibition – or we can create a new and better model. We can use this product to create new industries that offer greater rewards than selling the plant itself. Value added activities will increase tremendously when the cost of raw materials is low.

Commercial farming can produce quality cannabis for two or three cents a gram. Seems too cheap, right? Two cents a gram is twenty thousand dollars a tonne! Ask any farmer in the country if he wants to grow a plant that can bring in twenty thousand dollars a tonne and I think I know the answer. Clear the fields! Plant the cannabis!

Everyone needs to make a profit producing, processing, packaging, distributing and selling. Each of these activities will generate tax revenue. Value added activities will bring more taxes as production becomes cheaper. New uses will be found and new industries will develop. The economy will grow.

The cost of cannabis should include no more taxes than any other product. A sin tax like alcohol and tobacco carry is not appropriate. Those are harmful products; cannabis is not. Cannabis is actually a wellness product; we prescribe it as medicine. However, I recognize reality. There will be controls. There will be taxes. It is our duty as consumers to ensure these taxes and regulations are minimized.

We need a free market to keep prices low. Otherwise, the black market will stick around like it has in Colorado. So what’s a fair price? A retail price around fifty cents a gram seems reasonable. A prescription for three grams will then cost less than two dollars a day. Recreational use will be affordable as well, which will reduce alcohol and tobacco use.

We also need to guarantee the right to grow our own. This will help to keep prices low and everyone honest. Let’s jump right to the logical conclusion that any limit on the number of plants for home growing is pointless when there is no black market. Encourage people to grow outdoors to help the environment. Many people will grow more than they need. So what? Remember, there will be no more black market. It will make a nice Christmas present.

Cannabis is dangerous. No, it’s not. There has never been a recorded case of death due to overdose. There has never been a recorded case of death due to long term use. The establishment spent the last seventy-five years of prohibition trying to pin the tail on this donkey and failed.

Cannabis does not cause a drop in IQ. Cannabis does not cause schizophrenia. Cannabis does not impair brain development. Cannabis does not increase traffic deaths. Cannabis is not a gateway drug; it is actually a potential treatment for addiction.

We need to ensure that everyone gets a chance to participate in the cannabis economy. Don’t shut anyone out by making regulations that favour big business. Increased controls and complicated compliance requirements will penalize the small businessman. Strive for a level playing field.

Cannabis is not really a drug at all. It’s an herb. The pharmaceutical companies have no ownership and we need to keep it that way. People have been consuming this stuff for thousands of years. It seems to me that any real problems would be obvious by now. I admit, people will become habituated to cannabis like they become habituated to many less healthy alternatives. However, cannabis is not physically addicting. It cannot be compared to alcohol and tobacco.

Cannabis requires strict controls. Why? This is drug war thinking. Cannabis is an herb which is safer than most over the counter products sold today. We need to regulate the production of cannabis for human consumption the same way we regulate the production of food for human consumption. This ensures public safety and does not add a huge factor to our cost of food. It is reasonable and beneficial.

We don’t need to apply pharmaceutical standards to the growth and production of flowering buds for human consumption. Food standards will do. The same is true for edibles. A higher standard should be applied to the manufacture of extracts, the same as for over the counter medications today. Keep cost down by applying reasonable methods and standards. Minimize new regulations.

We need to ensure that everyone gets a chance to participate in the cannabis economy. Don’t shut anyone out by making regulations that favour big business. Increased controls and complicated compliance requirements will penalize the small businessman. Strive for a level playing field.

We have two choices going forward. We can continue to apply the failed model of prohibition – or we can create a new and better model. We can use this product to create new industries that offer greater rewards than selling the plant itself. Value added activities will increase tremendously when the cost of raw materials is low.

Today we dole out tiny quantities of a highly regulated product at a ridiculous cost and effort. Tomorrow we must ensure this product is readily available to all at an affordable price.

Classes of Use:

There will be three classes of use as we go forward. These are medical, recreational and industrial. Here are the limits that I propose.

Medical users will require a prescription to obtain benefits. Benefits will include tax exemptions as well as coverage under insurance plans. Wellness users will be able to purchase a variety of non-prescription products such as topical lotions and over the counter remedies of all kinds. A prescription will not be required although some of these products may be prescribed to obtain plan coverage.

Recreational and medical users will be able to access a variety of products sold in a variety of settings. All forms of extract will be permitted. Vapour lounges and cannabis cafes will cater to those who want a place to consume their products in comfort. These locations will also sell retail products, much as liquor is sold today.

Tempting as it may be, don’t include cannabis under the tobacco regulations. There is no evidence that cannabis smoke is harmful. Besides, I don’t want to stand out there with the cigarette smokers. That’s not healthy! Consumers will be allowed to self produce their own supply. Cooperatives may be established so that growers can pool their resources.

Dedicated stores will exist, selling product and accessories. Pre-packaged products will be sold at gas stations and convenience stores, much as cigarettes are sold today. Is selling it at the depanneur going too far? Of course not; tobacco is sold there and tobacco is much more harmful. Don’t forget that cannabis will be legal. To buy. To possess. And to consume. Make it convenient. The Vancouver model is already more successful than the Colorado model. Prices at the dispensaries are lower and cannabis cafes are allowed.

Industrial users will grow and process the plant. Hemp and cannabis cultivation will be no more regulated than canola is today. Market forces will rule with minimal regulation. All varieties of cannabis will be grown outdoors. Some cannabis will be grown in greenhouses much as tomatoes and peppers are grown today. Processing will create a multitude of industries in both psychoactive and non-psychoactive applications. Hemp will again become an important agricultural product with many uses.

Interim measures:

Immediately suspend any convictions for possession until new legislation has passed. Stop pursuing the cultivation and production of cannabis. The war is over. Implement new regulations as quickly as possible to start winding down the black market and winding up the legal one. Recognize that demand will be satisfied in the interim. Many operators who are illegal today will become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow under the new regulations.

Please accept my recommendations as sincere and well intended. I wish you tremendous success with your mandate. Remember to keep it simple. Have no fear. And plan for success. Let me know if I can help in any way.

Sincerely,

Peter Jackson

Calgary, Alberta

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9 comments

  1. FreedomFighter Reply

    A typical medicinal cannabis prescription isn't 3 grams! That's what HELLTH CANADA recommends to doctors, which in and of itself is insane, and they refuse to even call it a "prescription" AND patients get charged TAX when no other medication in Canada is allowed to be taxed but I digress.
    Out of the 60,000 approved patients in Canada the AVERAGE patients "requirement" is 16-18g/DAY, which many need to produce oils, tinctures and a variety of edibles, costing them OVER $200/day, $6000/month or $72,000/year. That's for the average. Some require even more and "top strains" are never $10, they are at least $15. THIS IS A COLLOSSAL ERROR ON YOUR PART. Even IF a patient has less than $25,000 yearly income and even IF they can find an LP that has the strains they need and even IF that LP gives a 50% discount, that's still $100/day, $3000/month or $36,000/year. More than their ENTIRE INCOME! Many only get $1000/month on disability or $12,000/year.
    Allowing LPs to get away with this financial raping and pillaging, charging sick and dying patients the same and more as what Joe Blow stoner has been paying on the street in a black market, prohibition environment for the last 20 years is beyond words. Taking away their 10 years of affordable growing rights which allowed them to have that same 16-18g/day at a cost of only $5/day, $150/month or $1800 for the entire year and then making them go without if they can't afford the FORCED PURCHASING IN THE NEW MMPR is the most unconscienable thing that HARPER had ever done. For dispensaries to go along with this and use the threat of prison for their supplier growers as some warped justification to also charge 1000% and higher markups is disgusting.
    THE WHOLE MEDICAL PROGRAM IS A GREEDY SCAM. MMAR PLANT LIMITS MUST BE GIVEN BACK TO ALL PATIENTS AND BE GIVEN TO ALL NEW MMPR PATIENTS IMMEDIATELY. Even rec users shouldn't have to pay the $10/g that THEY'VE been paying when cannabis gets decriminalized. Yes decriminalized. This facade that legalization is coming is a joke that proves how gullible people are. When all adults have the option to produce (home brewing), possess, purchase AND consume UNLIMITED amounts of alcohol, a substance that kills 2.5 million human beings worldwide EVERY year, and do it in the presence of children of any age in the home who only have to twist a cap to get poisoned by it and "the poor children" are NEVER brought up as a means to stop their choices and the same freedom isn't finally given to All cannabis using adults, instead only allowing 6 measly plants to grow and a few ounces to possess as in Colorado, Alaska and only 4 plants in Oregon, the entire cannabis situation is a disgrace and complete fraud with years more of repackaged discrimination coming.

    1. greenbag Reply

      16-18 grams a day isn't the average.. that's on the higher end of the scale, for people replacing opiates. Myself, I'm on the low end.. 2-3 grams per day, while others at my club are 5-7 grams per day. But then it also comes down to how it's consumed.. packing bowlfulls in a water pipe uses more than smoking in joints, which also still uses more than if vaporizing or in edibles. If they're juicing raw cannabis, then they use even more. So.. it all depends on the individual, and the method of consumption. It also depends on the potency. Someone's 16-18 grams of homegrown might not be as good as 7-10 grams of top shelf flowers at your local club. And it's not Health Canada's numbers to begin with.. that's the feedback they get from clubs. Do a quick google for "average daily cannabis usage".. you'll see it's the same info on many medical marijuana websites.

  2. Lorne Reply

    Whatever happens
    GIVE THE MMAR PATIENTS BACK THEIR FREEDOM TO GROW FOR THEMSELVES FREELY.....END THE INJUNCTION AND THE GO BACK TO THE ORIGINAL MMAR REGULATIONS.
    NEW PATIENTS CAN GET CAUGHT UP IN THE NEW SYSTEM WHATEVER IT MAY BE.
    MMAR PATIENTS SHOULD NOT SUFFER LOSSES OR DAMAGES.

  3. VacVape Reply

    "It's not a drug", already tells me it's not worth reading. It's an "herbal drug". It's not a "pharmaceutical". You're appropriating arguments that you don't understand and that's a clear example.

    Not all "danger" results in "death", so leveraging a supposed lack of deaths with a lack of danger is pure idiocy but we won't blame that on a drop in IQ based on cannabis usage, but rather existing dishonesty. Setting the bar of reason at the ground level for yourselves doesn't build confidence in your arguments but rather shows your hand. There are dangers not resulting in death which easily could and are still significant even if they don't. We can address those appropriately, but that won't leave everyone and anyone with a business to hustle with at the end of the day, and to that I say so what. The food industry minimizes such risks all day and yeah, if that prevents some scrub from selling Chinese cooking oil in restaurants, great. His right to make a cheap dollar doesn't trump everyone's best interests and it's overlooking tools like them that will bear cause for ever tighter regulations and a continual shift back towards strictly pharmaceutical when everyone realizes they're up to their eyeballs in clowns.

    "Three classes of use" is absurd and prohibitory in nature, which you're supposedly double talking against. You've come full circle. Another example of appropriating arguments that you don't want to understand.

    "Industrial" isn't a "class of use". In fact it can oversee all forms of use. Is medical weed not an industry? How does it differ from recreational weed? This is just so funny because if you understand your own arguments you wouldn't have gone there at all. You're throwing medical users under a bus and meanwhile recreational will enjoy all the sin tax you supposedly detest, while medical users will be tormented with forms upon forms and made to use it as a last resort, treated as lab rats. You're advocating for exactly what you're pretending not to with a little dog whistling stitching it together. Talk about cognitive dissonance. I'll make it even simpler.

    There are two types of use only: responsible and irresponsible. I'm fine with the later being taxed out of existence. Marketing bongs for example is the promotion of extremely irresponsible use, very much in the caveman era. This maximizes the danger and minimizes the benefits. It is therefore not legitimate responsible use but the opposite, and sold as art no less at insane prices but you have no problem with that do you.

    We know that ALL SMOKE is harmful. But you're more interested in selling bongs and wiping the slate clean with a lack of immediate death. Very disingenuous and this doesn't move things forward but rather promotes the same old stagnation that you're all so good for.

    Do I care about MMAR limits? It's still a LIMIT, and still for the wrong reasons. Not everyone who was in the MMAR had paid a corrupt doctor to have a turnkey windfall of a limit either. Some of them only got the standard 3 grams a day, and it's not their limits you're advocating for now is it. Such an argument as that demonstrates the typical selfishness that's already fueled the divide for industrious frauds to have "gaps to fill" which they created themselves and this is exactly how.

    Your arguments are cherry picked soundbites and they demonstrated a serious lack of understanding,quite likely a completely deliberate one at that.

    I doubt Lift will publish this because they're married to a narrative of selling everyone out while pretending the opposite.

    1. charlier64 Reply

      3 paragraphs in, I realized YOU are not worth listening to.

  4. Peter Jackson Reply

    VacVape – I was glad to see you so engaged by my letter. My desire is not to throw anyone under the bus, but to gain respect and a fair deal for all cannabis consumers. You are right; class distinctions between recreational and medical users will divide us all. Working together will create synergy and understanding. Peace

  5. Ryan Langkamer Reply

    I have to seriously disagree with VacVape, as they obviously favour the punish, prohibit and penalize users, growers and dispensaries model.
    I have to agree with Peter Jackson from Calgary, as he presents a clear, cogent and concise summary of all that is wrong with the MMAR, MMPR, Colorado's money based industry, Washington's many mistakes, including fouling up the MMJ patients' rights to access their medicine in a timely, inexpensive and fair way.
    I think the best model Canada can build upon is Oregon's. They didn't tear down all the existing structures and systems, they just went ahead and adopted the extant "programme" and built sensibly onto and into the culturally accepted providers and users methods, wisely. Of course there needs to be rules, regulations and taxes, to protect populations not involved and to provide funding for this and other related programs to assist and develop the industry and help everyone adjust to the new reality. Cannabis is NOT a drug, it IS an herb, it IS safe and should not be condemned to gouging by over taxation, as if it was as harmful as tobacco. It is NOT a Sin to smoke, vapourise or eat Cannabis. It is simply a lifestyle choice made by intelligent and informed citizens, who have already tried mainstream medicine and other standard therapies and found them lacking.
    If it's good for patients, how then can it be bad for recreational users, who simply want to relax and relieve the stresses of the day, without killing off their livers, lungs or stomachs ?
    There are thousands of peer-reviewed studies from around the world, mainly in Israel and if we want to spend more money on that, fine. But we don't need to synthesise something which works fine by itself, without taking away any of the correlated compounds or trying to make more billions, by gouging users, insurance plans or government coffers.

    1. Peter Jackson Reply

      Right on, Ryan! Thank you for your well considered and positive contribution to this discussion.

  6. charlier64 Reply

    Very well said, Peter. I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you for this inspiring letter. As a farmer, you are correct, since the highest possible revenue for grains is $500/tonne, $20,000/t would have many farmers on board for Hemp and/or Cannabis production. We also know that Hemp production is falsely inflated by over-regulation and over-taxation when Hemp Seeds provide the perfect mix of Omega 3 & Omega 6 that humans require. There are health benefits gleaned from consumption of the non-psychoactive plant as well, and that would take continuous production of fresh plant matter to achieve. I agree that everyone should be allowed to grow, especially patients that have suffered the brunt of the MMAR and now MMPR programs. They are treating medical users with prescriptions from their Dr's as if they are recreational users and it is a choice to 'afford'. That is just so wrong!