Opioid Crisis Grows as Ontario Closes Another Dispensary

We’ve had the chance to talk to Tamara Hirsh, Advocate & Spokesperson for Pacifico Life on the topic of recent law changes and the implementation of recreational cannabis regulations in Ontario and around Canada.

How do you think changing the laws will affect the current situation?

I will be getting a request for Freedom of information act regarding the survey asking people of Ontario what they want to see in terms of distribution, never got published. I am pretty sure that nobody wanted to see the LCBO model for recreational cannabis.

The LCBO model will put small business out of work. They pick and choose through politics the people they are going to work with and that excludes a lot of people. It puts a lot of small businesses at risk. If the growers aren’t able to retail themselves, there doesn’t seem to be any talk of that at all, I’m not sure what they’re gonna do. They will have to wholesale with other growers and contractors to the LCBO.

And how would this affect your store?

I work in a medicinal model which is within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I can’t say that the higher rates won’t affect me, but I believe it won’t be a long-term stop. It’s just the cost of doing business.

How big is the demand for medicinal cannabis in Canada?

Right now there is a shortage in the medicinal market. The market is growing and that shortage is going to increase. Once the recreational market opens up, that gap is only going to get bigger. Supply and demand are going to be very far apart and the black market might be larger than before. Which is strange since the initial reasons and goals were to extinguish the black market. What these changes are doing is feeding the black market.

Meanwhile, Hamilton is going through one of the worst opioid crises seen…

Hamilton is actually the biggest prescriber of opioids in Canada. It’s no wonder there’s an opioid crisis, Fentanyl and similar drugs are prescribed too often and without much care. Treatment programs and education programs would be a great start. Informing people regarding studies made on the effect of cannabis on pain management and reducing the number of opioid users are definitely something that cannabis tax dollars should be used for. On average 2 people die every day of opioid abuse.

What are your suggestions?

I think Health Canada has to ease up, the entry barriers to entry are very high and the whole process is painstakingly slow and expensive. More products should be pushed through and more licenses have to be issued at a faster rate. The intense security and infrastructure required for growers need to be eased up as much as possible.

Would you prefer the system implemented in Vancouver and BC?

The system in Ontario should be same as in Vancouver – if you are abiding the laws of your municipality/state (such as in US) you should be protected from federal prosecution. That is the system implemented in Vancouver and 10 municipalities in BC, which are now starting to see tax dollars pour into the municipality budgets. We are not going to see that money if the province controls it all.

What is your message for future cannabis entrepreneurs?

Fight to make sure the municipalities get to see tax dollars at the local or municipal level. Encourage municipalities to support small businesses as much as we can in order to get them on our side.

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