Marilyn Gladu (pictured above), federal Conservative Member of Parliament for Sarnia-Lambton, once recited an anti-pot poem on the floor of the House of Commons. She currently serves as the party’s health critic. If Andrew Scheer becomes Prime Minister (which recent polls show is a real possibility), and Ms. Gadhu retains her seat, she has a reasonable chance of being named federal Health Minister, and the de-facto head of the cannabis file.
In a wide-ranging conversation with Cannabis Professional, Ms. Gladu pledged her party would not reverse cannabis legalization. However, she did say a Conservative government would, among other things, take a harder line on regulatory enforcement, a softer approach to marketing restrictions for edibles and would consider banning home cultivation outright. What follows are direct transcriptions from Ms. Gladu on what her top cannabis-related priorities would be if she finds herself in cabinet later this year.
There is a real gap in Health Canada enforcing its regulations. Across the country we are hearing of people who either have a medical license that has been combined with other people and they are growing way more plants than they’re allowed. Or they haven’t done anything about the odour so they’re depriving their neighbours of enjoyment of their property because of the skunky smell, or they haven’t taken adequate security precautions. Definitely one of the things Conservatives will do is make sure regulations are enforced.
I don’t accept at the beginning that there are inadequate resources. I think there are lots of inspectors within Health Canada and it is a question of priority. It isn’t as if they need to go find out where there are concerns. People are forwarding letters through me to the head of Health Canada saying look at these locations, the police are saying they are not there to enforce Health Canada regulations but honestly, Health Canada is not responding to those things.
PREFERENCE FOR SUPPORTING LARGER PLAYERS OVER CRAFT GROWERS
The people who are large in this business, Canopy Growth and Tilray and Aurora, these are people who are adhering to the regulations, mitigating the odour, putting security in place, so the government is recognizing [through the cannabis licensing changes Health Canada announced last week] it would be better to have more of those and less of the, shall we say, one-stop cowboy that wants to put up a steel frame with plastic bags that doesn’t meet the regulations. Who is going to invest millions of dollars in a plant with no government certainty on licensing? I think that clearly was an error in judgement on the part of the current government. I think though, the intent to try to focus on those people that will obey the regulations, that is a good intent. There are multiple ways to get there and I think we do not want to exclude small craft growers, but why punish those that are paying the rules?
We don’t want to discourage small businesses, but on the other hand we have to balance that with the rights of the neighbours and the owners of property to have their rights protected. I think there is a sweet spot in the middle where you can encourage small craft growers, but let’s face it many of them have been operating illegally and have not been prevented from continuing to operate illegally.
Colorado five years down the road still has not gotten rid of organized crime, mostly due to the fact that they allowed for home growing and so they have huge issues with that. Washington state did it better - they took their medicinal marijuana system and extended that to recreational and they were able to reduce organized crime to less than 20 per cent of the market. We would definitely look at [changing the home grow rules]. This is an area where real estate folks are concerned about the mould that may be growing in people’s houses and who is responsible for paying for the audit that is needed before you can sell that property? There are people that own property that do not want their tenants to be growing marijuana in their property and they don’t have any rights under this current legislation. There is more to be done in that area. The federal government essentially gave everyone an individual right to grow [cannabis] in their home and there have been multiple people who are not happy about that. We’ve had the Indigenous people say that some of their nations want the ability to not allow anyone to grow.
FEWER PACKAGING RESTRICTIONS FOR INFUSED FOODS AND DRINKS
We need to learn from those that have already legalized edibles. We are [about to] come out with products that may not be competitive to the organized crime market that is already in place and has beautiful graphics and much higher levels of THC in their edibles, so you have to have a competitive offering. If you’re only allowing people to create edibles that are in plain white packaging that have a much lower dosage, will that be competitive in eliminating the organized crime market? I think that is a question that remains to be answered but it is certainly something we are going to be watching. The reality is, the government is trying to be well-intentioned about making sure it doesn’t fall into the hands of children but it is 30 per cent of the market today, it is being accessed by children. I think we need to not be naive and recognize that these products… when the competition is at a certain level and you’re trying to compete, you can’t do that with a less competitive offering.
MORE FOCUS ON ADVANCING LEGALIZATION GLOBALLY
There is really, still, a lot of border-crossing anxiety. We should be speaking more to our neighbours to the south and we should probably be having conversations with the United Nations because [legalization here] did break three treaties we have with them and I think there is an appetite in the world to update those treaties to reflect the change in world perspective on this issue. Those are steps as well that we would take. [Q: Are our diplomats not already doing that?] Jane Philpott when she was in the role was doing that role on the world stage with the UN on this file but then Bill Blair who took the file over has been, shall we say, distracted by the asylum-seeker issue and so hasn’t really done anything there.