Cannabis activist Jodie Emery talks free market approach to pot
Here’s everything you wanted to know about a free market approach to pot but were afraid to ask — thanks to cannabis rights activist Jodie Emery.
Emery and her husband, Marc Emery, are pioneers in the field, having run pot dispensaries, published Cannabis Culture Magazine and generally helped drag Canada kicking and screaming into a 21st century relationship with marijuana.
The legalization of marijuana is something Jodie and Marc Emery have worked toward for most of their adult lives.
Ms. Emery spoke to us on the phone about just what Doug Ford’s free market approach could mean to people in Ontario. Once pot is legal, each province oversees distribution and sale. Some provinces will allow both private and public sales. In Ontario, the Liberals intend to control all sales, opening 150 stores run by the LCBO.
Can we start with a quick summary of legalization?
“Legalization was supposed to do three things: Stop criminalizing Canadians for using and providing cannabis, legalize the existing industry and stop wasteful law enforcement spending. But we’re not seeing any of that with the Ontario Government Cannabis Act: Bill 174. That model continues to criminalize the existing industry. It allows only the government to be providers, and they now have new laws to go after their own competition — the existing industry, the dispensaries and the providers. When Doug Ford says he supports private, independent retail, that falls in line with the concept of the federal task force, which said the dispensaries should be allowed, and it acknowledges that in Ontario and in Toronto especially, there’s already a massive marijuana industry — and market and branding and products and consumers and business owners — that exists. That’s what’s supposed to be legal and regulated, not criminalized and prohibited.”
What’s Kathleen Wynne’s idea of how all this should work?
“Government is always inefficient… so when they want to create this Ontario cannabis bureaucracy, they’re actually forcing the taxpayer to finance hundreds of millions of dollars building out a bureaucracy, for a business model the government admits is doomed to fail. The Liberals of Ontario have said they know they can’t undercut the current black market price. They’ve also said they know they won’t make much money if they continue down this path, and their whole model is to prevent people from using cannabis. As far as a business model goes — one funded by taxpayers — it’s doomed to fail. And the taxpayers lose.”
And Doug Ford’s approach?
“When Doug Ford says, ‘let’s support private retail,’ he’s saying that instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars to build a bureaucracy doomed to fail, why don’t we allow the existing industry to put that money into the legitimate economy, rather than keeping it criminalized? Why not allow those business owners to pay taxes, hire people, generate tax revenue off basic sales tax, etc? If you allow a private industry to flourish, you could create hundreds of millions, if not billions, in tourism, agriculture, research and development, advertising, packaging, branding, events and more. There are so many opportunities, but only if we don’t restrict and limit. And the Liberals want to restrict and limit. But Doug Ford wants to open it up to the free market, the way it should be…the Ontario Liberals under Wynne say cannabis is dangerous and a threat to society, and we have to prevent people from using it, and we have to restrict and limit it — that’s prohibition! That’s not legalization.”
How do you reassure people who fear the legalization of pot?
“Cannabis itself is not dangerous. It’s the messaging of the government that has made it that way…there’s still a stigma. As long as the government continues to say that marijuana is a threat to public safety and health, they’re spreading fear. Fear will discourage good Canadians from accessing something safer than the dangerous substances the government promotes and profits from, like alcohol, opioids and tobacco.”