Mark Zekulin is president of Tweed, which, along with sister company Bedrocan Canada, operate the largest network of legal, regulated cannabis production and distribution in Canada.
Canada needs a clear and defined set of rules for medical and non-medical cannabis.
As we mark 4/20, the nationwide counterculture day to celebrate the benefits of the whole plant marijuana, advocates on both the medical and recreational fronts still flounder in debate weighing risk versus opportunity of the bud.
Tweed, as the largest legal producer of cannabis in the country, has played its role in this division. We firmly believe that all cannabis production and sale for commercial purposes should be strictly controlled and highly regulated. But this has manifested itself into a far too adversarial relationship with the founding cannabis community, something we must reset if we are to ensure a smart, progressive and open dialogue on cannabis policy.
This division has overshadowed the respect we have for the early advocates for progressive cannabis policy and for this, we apologize.
Tweed has developed accredited medical education programs for doctors and developed safe usage programs for patients, including a program now chaperoned by Shega A'Mula, who is also the founder of Canada's first Women Grow chapter, an organization dedicated to empowering women in the cannabis industry.
Hilary Black, who founded Canada's first compassion club nearly 20 years ago, is also part of the broader Tweed family. Her long-time goal was to push for a legal, regulated, accessible medical cannabis sector that met the needs of patients.
Two co-founders of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries and its inaugural president also call Tweed home, as do many other instrumental activists whose passion for patient access trumped all else.
This summer, the federal government will be required to introduce more progressive policies, likely allowing for limited grow-at-home options and easier access to the established system, while potentially facilitating insurance coverage or further income-tested subsidies for those in need of medical cannabis.
Galen G. Weston and his team at Shoppers Drug Mart have recently expressed a desire to own the burgeoning cannabis market, in much the same way they have sought to gain market share in the beer market through their expansive grocery store network in Ontario. Pharmacists, who for years wanted nothing to do with medical cannabis, have also now seen the light and view themselves as the only rightful gatekeepers to medical cannabis.
Health Canada's licensed producers, having invested millions of dollars in state-of-the-art growing and production facilities, sit in disbelief as new illegal storefronts pop up to sell cannabis on Main Street with apparent impunity. Meanwhile, the original compassion-club advocates who bravely fought for cannabis access in Canada see themselves increasingly likely to be shut out of the sector as it moves from an activist culture to a professional, regulated environment.
As we approach 4/20, it's time to end the confusion over the patchwork of legal and illegal systems that govern cannabis.
There may well be a role for all of us – pharmacists, early cannabis activists and companies like Tweed that have invested tens of millions of dollars in cannabis research, clinical trials and production and distribution facilities.
And for some, of course, it's not so much about the politics as it is about, well, celebrating the plant.