Using the past to structure the future: Envisioning cannabis legalization through the lens of liquor control

By Dan Malleck

Marijuana-Cannabis-Weed-Bud-GramIt is the moment that scholars fear: the question you cannot answer, in a forum where you’re presented as an expert. Such a case happened at the recent Rise of Big Cannabis symposium held in Saskatoon in March 2016. A cannabis activist asked the panel on legalization which distribution system would be better: the “dispensary” model or the “licensed producer” model. He was looking straight at me, and I had no answer.

Pondering it on the flight home, I began to reconsider the cannabis question. In this essay I (finally) address his question and discuss how it introduces a new complexity to an already complicated issue.

Since I study the histories of alcohol regulation and drug prohibition, Continue reading

“Listen to Our Cannabis Constituency”: A View from South of the Border

By Phillip Smith

cannabis - images - NLM US - public domain

Source: NLM US, public domain.

I’m taking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals at their word that they are actually going to get around to legalizing marijuana, so my concern is not that they do it, but how they do it.

I can’t claim to be familiar with all the intricacies surrounding how legalization is going to work up there, but I can say that the way it is developing in some of the US states where it is now legal raises some caution flags. Don’t get me wrong—I support legalization—but I am just a little bit creeped out by the increasing commodification and commercialization of the weed.

Money has always been a factor in the marijuana business, of course, but in those golden days of yore, when people grew and smoked weed because they loved the plant and what it did to them (not to mention sticking it to the man and being rebelliously cool), making money off it was a sort of afterthought. And for those who risked growing commercially, sure, they wanted to make some money, but at least they loved their product.

Now, the scene is increasingly inhabited by men and women in business attire whose intentions are purely driven by the possibility of profit. They aren’t marijuana people; they’re business people. These days, it seems like half the news alerts I get about marijuana are not about busts or moves to legalize it, but about stock offerings, business opportunities, and industry growth profiles. Continue reading

Canadian Medical Cannabis: The Long and Winding Road

On February 26th, Brent Zettl (CEO of CanniMed) delivered a free and public lecture at the University of Saskatchewan. In a sweeping and candid address, Zettl traces the recent history of the nascent medical cannabis industry and positions the company he founded in a highly complex regulatory climate. Until recently, Zettl was the sole supplier of medical cannabis to all Canadians. With the enactment of the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), however, he became one of 30 or so Licensed Producers (LPs). His talk blends policy and politics, and environmentalism with future developments in marijuana R&D. It adds to the ongoing conversation and evolving history of marijuana regulation in Canada and beyond.


Diversity in dispensaries: Fostering innovation in new medical marihuana regulations


Kathleen Thompson

In 2016, opportunities currently exist for eco-friendly, economic innovation to benefit historically disadvantaged citizens in the changing Canadian medical marihuana industry.

Various scholars and commentators in business, public policy, and the media have discussed how the Trudeau government’s marijuana legislation might look. This paper highlights the role of Indigenous communities, civil society, the business community and interested citizens in a process that includes co-developing medicinal marihuana dispensaries. The practical knowledge of dispensary owners and workers can help co-create an innovative, regulated and safe medicinal marihuana industry. An effectively regulated dispensary distribution model can positively impact provincial economies and local communities. Continue reading

Touring Tilray: Navigating Canada’s New Marketing and Selling of Medical Cannabis

Marijuana-Cannabis-Weed-Bud-GramBy Cynthia Belaskie and Lucas Richert

We weren’t left to wait in the B.C. rain. After presenting our IDs at the security station outside Tilray’s medical cannabis facility in Nanaimo, and once we were confirmed as being on the official “list,” it took less than a minute to enter the recently constructed $30 million, 65,000 square-foot facility.

There were four of us taking the tour of Tilray, one of Canada’s licensed producers of medical marijuana. We were part of a SSHRC-funded conference in the history of drugs and alcohol at Vancouver Island University, and this was one of the activities available to us as participants in the event.

Our guide was Philippe Lucas, Vice-President of Patient Services at Tilray. He walked us through the electric gate and led us into a cozy holding room filled with bottles of San Pellegrino, a weigh scale, and a flat screen TV flashing images of the building’s construction. A former city councilor in Victoria, an expert witness on marijuana in Canada, and one-time dispensary owner, Philippe was handsome. He spoke quickly, laughed easily, and possessed an air of mischief, too.

Over the past ten years, Philippe has published peer-reviewed articles on cannabis’s therapeutic effects on patients in top academic journals around the world. Continue reading

Medical Cannabis: The Canadian Physicians’ Perspective

Marijuana-Cannabis-Weed-Bud-GramBy Murray Opdahl, MD, BSPE, CCFP

As of April 1, 2014, Health Canada stopped authorizing use of marijuana in Canada and placed this responsibility on physicians who were not particularly interested in having this responsibility. Currently, physicians can choose to provide a “medical document” that authorizes the patient to obtain marijuana from a licensed producer.

Under the previous system, physicians completed a document that was provided to Health Canada, which would then decide whether to grant a patient an exemption to allow the patient to possess or grow marijuana themselves. There were listed conditions for which a family physician could support a patient’s use of marijuana, but now the decision to provide a medical document to the patient is placed solely on the physician and there are no longer any categories of medical conditions for which it can be prescribed.

Health Canada’s only role currently is to license producers to grow and sell marijuana for medical purposes. In fact, the Health Canada has suggested it does not “endorse” marijuana, which is not an “approved” drug, but “the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana when authorized by a physician.”

As it stands, physicians are the sole gatekeepers in authorizing legal access to cannabis for medical reasons. However, due to lack of robust supporting published evidence, personal reasons, and advice from multiple associations, many physicians continue to be reluctant to authorize this remedy. Clearly, more research in the basic science and clinical use of cannabinoids is required to address the fact that society’s demand for this remedy is way ahead of the evidence that is available for safe and effective use of cannabis as a medical treatment. Continue reading

Cannabis cultures: Notes from the west coast

Marijuana-Cannabis-Weed-Bud-GramBy William Knight

It is a bright Friday afternoon in a Vancouver cannabis lounge. It is busy after lunch and all the coffee tables are occupied by people vaporizing or otherwise imbibing various strains of cannabis. Pink Kush. Sour Diesel. Lemon Haze. The lounge replicates, my guide explains, the Amsterdam model for recreational use: you come to a café, order cannabis off a menu, and consume it on the premises. In this lounge, no one needs a medical authorization, a requirement for legal marijuana purchase. This puts the lounge (and similar ones opening in other Canadian cities) on the frontier, if not beyond it, of the rapidly changing terrain of cannabis in Canada.

I recently visited British Columbia on a multi-purpose curatorial trip: as curator of agriculture and fisheries with the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corp., I was on the west coast to study closed-containment aquaculture. But an opportunity to visit a licensed medical-marijuana grower snowballed into a tour of Vancouver’s cannabis scene. This was a quick orientation to an old yet new agricultural industry, and a chance to collect some of its material culture.

Vancouver is a nexus for cannabis advocacy, production, and consumption in Canada. It is a zone of détente: police do not prioritize the enforcement of federal criminal laws (growing, possessing and selling are still crimes), while city officials regulate cannabis dispensaries—which are technically illegal—through municipal zoning by-laws. The cannabis supply chain is also complicated. Licensed producers may only sell cannabis to registered users with prescriptions via mail-order. Dispensaries, in contrast, obtain cannabis from unlicensed growers and sell to walk-in customers who obtain a “prescription” from the dispensary itself.[1]

Cannabis production and consumption thus occurs in a grey zone where legal and extra-legal markets intersect and overlap. With an established and legal medical-marijuana system, and the federal government promising legalization, the Canadian cannabis industry is now preparing for the opening of a recreational market.[2] But large questions remain: who will be allowed to grow and sell marijuana for this sector? Continue reading

Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana’s past and future in Canada

Marijuana-Cannabis-Weed-Bud-GramBy Erika Dyck and Lucas Richert

In 2001 Health Canada approved the use of medical marijuana for a strict list of health complaints ranging from different pain applications to seizures from epilepsy. During the last federal election in 2015, Justin Trudeau boldly promised to go further down the path of legalization, suggesting that he will decriminalize possession for recreational use.

A month after this election promise, The Economist showcased the blurry future of Canadian pot and suggested, “converting a medical-marijuana industry into a recreational one will not be easy.” While legalization is probable under the newly elected Trudeau Liberals, many questions will have to be addressed and the transition could be rocky. As a Colorado marijuana enforcement official told the National Post, “It’s going to be a lot harder to implement than you think. It’s going to take a lot longer to do it. And it’s going to cost more than you think…”

The Liberal campaign promise of legalization has invited a new host of critics. John Ivison has reconceived of Canada Post as Canada Pot, the major domestic system of distribution throughout the country. Sylvain Charlebois deems marijuana a “gateway” drug with high upside. Dan Malleck has argued that liquor control boards should control recreational marijuana, whereas Ronan Levy has suggested that the recent Allard ruling will create regulatory uncertainty at a most inopportune time.

Regulating marijuana use remains highly contested and the path forward is anything but obvious, but historically there are some insights into drug regulation that may prove helpful in informing the public debates over the next chapter of ‘reefer madness’. Historians have a vital role to play in these debates, particularly for their capacity to weave together a big picture narrative amongst the cacophony of players from policymakers, journalists, physicians, researchers, interest groups, recreational users and the pharmaceutical industry, each of whom have been investing in their own particular messages about the pleasures and pitfalls of pot. Continue reading

Alternative Histories of Work and Labour: The Workers History Museum

Active History is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

In this week’s video we hear from David Dean, a Professor of History at Carleton University, as he discusses alternative histories of work and labour in the national capital region. He primarily discusses the Workers’ History Museum in Ottawa, and how it focuses on some of the lost stories of unionized and non-unionized workers. Nicknamed “The Museum without Walls”, Dean discusses how they manage to function as a museum without a physical location. Much of their work is articulated through a powerful website, in which they display exhibits and research, as well as hosting historical walking tours through Ottawa. Dean also discusses the museum’s travelling exhibits, of which they have three or four that they are able to bring to schools, universities, heritage fairs, labour conferences, and many other events. Through this museum and their work, one of the goals is to increase public knowledge of labour unions and their history, attempting to battle the negative stereotypes surrounding the idea of unions. The most recent project in which the museum is engaged their Bank Street Project, which is developed around the historical stories related to work and business along Bank Street in Ottawa.

Work Always in Progress

By Veronica Strong-Boag

All contributions to debates about a feminist future need a good dose of herstory. No one person or one group speaks for feminism in its entirety. That reality was not reflected earlier this month in the Globe and Mail’s choice of Maureen McTeer and her daughter, Catherine Clark, both white upper-middle-class women of a certain background, to answer the question “Is the Work of Feminism Finished?”  The reprimand found in Septembre Anderson’s “Today’s feminist problem? Black women are still invisible,” to any such stunted version of feminism provided a salutary reminder of diverse, even conflicting, outlooks, even as it made white women rather than patriarchal and capitalist structures the enemy. The potential for a more nuanced response came from the far more diverse group featured in “How We Succeed.” None of this is new. In fact feminism has always been multivocal and diverse. This has been both its weakness and its strength. Individuals and groups commonly seize particular causes that touch their own lives most directly.

Canadian feminists have wrestled with how to speak with many voices since the 19th century. Continue reading