The Great Canadian Cannabis Bandwagon Coming to a Town Near You!

 

There’s a marijuana grow op located on a quiet cul-de-sac off 28th Avenue in Ile Perrot.
It hasn’t been busted so it would appear to be a federally licenced medical marijuana producer.
But nobody at Health Canada will confirm that.
Its neighbours learned of its existence only after it began operations.
Their beef isn’t with the operation itself, but with the increase in traffic.
Ile Perrot’s mayor reportedly told concerned residents the town needs the revenue.

A Sûrèté du Québec employee at regional headquarters in Vaudreuil-Dorion told me the SQ is aware of the locations of all licenced grow ops in the county, but refused to confirm this was one of them, or whether it even exists.
Our conversation two weeks ago was bizarre.
“You’re aware of the locations? Plural? How many marijuana grow ops are there in Vaudreuil-Soulanges?”
“I can’t say because they’re federally licenced. They’re not our responsibility.”
“But you know where they are?”
“We know which ones are legal so we can shut down those that aren’t.”
“So you’re telling me this one is legal?”
“I didn’t say that.”

Today I followed up with detachment commander Capt. Ginette Séguin. How many licenced grow ops are there in Vaudreuil-Soulanges? How does the SQ determine whether a grow op is licenced?

Séguin, off to her new posting in Quebec’s remote Abitibi,  declined to answer any of my questions and referred me to Health Canada.

According to Health Canada’s website, there are 36 licenced producers of medical marijuana in the entire country. Specifically, a licence permits the holder to “sell or provide dried marijuana, fresh marijuana, cannabis oil, or starting materials to eligible persons,” eligible persons being the roughly 50,000 Canadians with a doctor’s prescription enabling them to purchase from one of those 36 licences producers — or grow their own.

Health Canada’s interactive map shows Quebec’s sole licenced producer as Gatineau-based Hydropothecary.

I called Hydropothecary to ask whether they had branch operations elsewhere in Quebec.
Their spokesman told me their only operation is in Gatineau. However he said it was possible others might be operating pending licensing approval.
Isn’t that like running a blind pig while waiting for a Regie des alcools permit?

As I write this, there’s no transparency on the issue of who is growing what and where with whose permission. While the SQ is enthusiastically busting grow ops, including a bunch in Vaudreuil-Soulanges, police forces in Toronto, Vancouver and other major Canadian cities are turning a blind eye to the dispensaries where untested infested pot is sold to whoever comes through the door with a medical marijuana prescription. Wherever all that pot is being produced, it’s not in licenced facilities.

Sometime this month, the federal government’s marijuana task force is expected to table its recommendations concerning the legalization of the recreational use of cannabis. Canada’s medical marijuana industry expects the Trudeau Liberals to move quickly to adopt enabling legislation which would replace current regulation of medical marijuana production.

With what, we don’t know, but we’re getting hints, such as Loblaws’ application for a distribution licence for its more than 1,300 Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix locations across Canada. We can pretty well bet competitors will follow. (Jean Coutu Group operates 417 stores in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario. Pharmasave includes 550 independently owned stores in nine provinces. Uniprix operates 375 pharmacies in Quebec.)

The provinces — currently excluded from any potential tax windfall — will fight to the death to ensure they get the lion’s share of the cut by limiting the sale of recreational weed and derivatives to outlets under their control. Think LCBO, SAQ and their equivalents across the nation.

In other words, everyone and their cousin is poised to leap onto the Canadian recreational cannabis bandwagon the minute it starts rolling. Until then, the cannabis industry is keeping a low profile for fear of jinxing the deal. Hydropothecary’s Julie Beun had this to say: “At this point, we are awaiting the report and have no plans to comment on it until after it’s been assessed.”

However back in June, the CEO of NHP Consulting, Brian Wagner blogged this prediction:

“…recreational cultivation, distribution, sale and consumption, will be regulated and controlled as of late 2017. We anticipate that once the report of recommendations is made available in November this year, that there will be a flurry of new interest in applying to be a producer under the MMPR (medical); it is highly likely that MMPR producers will be grandfathered into recreational cultivation/distribution once the new regulations are published.”

Wagner expects current laws will continue to be enforced until new laws replace them. This means police will continue to shut down all but currently legal sources — licences producers.

What will this new gold rush mean to our communities? I sent the following questions Nov. 1/16 to Health Canada and to the B.C. offices of Cannabis Growers of Canada, the industry’s largest lobbying group:

– Is it possible for a medical/experimental marijuana producer to operate legally without a licence?
– Is it possible for a licenced medical/experimental marijuana producer to conduct operations without being listed on the Health Canada interactive map listing the 36 licenced producers?
– Is there a limit to the number of licenced medical cannabis producers in a given area?
– What are the regulations concerning notification of neighbours?
–  Are all licenced producers required to obtain business or other permits from their local governments?
– Do local/regional law enforcement authorities have the right to oppose a permit application?
– Are local law enforcement authorities notified of licence applications on their turf? If so, can they intervene?
– Are local and regional municipal authorities notified of licence applications on their turf?  If so, can they intervene?

The CGC website (https://cannagrowers.ca) describes itself as “an association of cannabis businesses in Canada that are dedicated to building a free and fair craft cannabis economy. It was founded on the belief that every Canadian has the right to access high-quality, locally grown cannabis from a craft cannabis producer of their choosing, and that the best way to legalize cannabis is to empower local entrepreneurs to create jobs and support their local economy.”

“The Cannabis Growers of Canada is an association of cannabis growers, dispensaries, resin extractors and other product experts, who are dedicated to creating a set of strong industry standards to govern the craft cannabis marketplace. It was founded on the belief that a vibrant craft cannabis marketplace can provide safe, tested product to be enjoy across Canada.”

Stickhandling licensing applications from prospective medical and experimental marijuana producers and processors has become an industry unto itself. One enterprise you’ll find at the top of a Google internet search for ‘medical marijuana licences’ is NHP Consulting Inc.
NHP’s website offers a basic primer on Health Canada’s small print. For example:

“Producers can only grow marijuana indoors and under heavy security precautions. Health Canada does not regulate the manner in which marijuana is grown otherwise, albeit to limit which fungicides can be used on the plants. End product must be tested for microbes and heavy metals, and be within the product specifications. The model was heavily adapted from a pharmaceutical approach. Producers cannot sell face to face, and must ship finished product by mail or courier (or secure transport) to the patient’s doctor or residence.”

NHP bills itself as a one-stop shop for anyone looking to licence a natural health product, food, OTC drug or medical device. Given the intricacies of Health Canada’s licensing process, it’s not surprising people pay for advice. Here’s NHP on experimental grower’s licensing:

“Two licences are required if a facility wishes to cultivate and processes marihuana for experimental purposes.  There are similarities between both applications. The average wait time for Health Canada to begin the review of these types of applications is 8-10 months.

NHP Consulting’s Wagner continues: “There is a specific application in order to cultivate marihuana for scientific purposes, and a separate application for processing manufacturing derivatives or transporting product to another location.  These applications are governed by the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act and its Regulations.  For both applications, the person in charge of the project requires a degree in a relevant science.  In order to qualify for a licence to cultivate, a full description of the research project will be required, security measures will have to be put in place, and record keeping procedures drafted.

“A Dealer’s Licence is required to process cultivated marihuana (such as creating extracts or derivatives) for the purpose of research.  As with the licence to cultivate, the site will require physical security measures and you will require a Qualified Person In Charge (QPIC) with a degree in science (better still, a pharmacist or practitioner).  As stated above, you will have to submit all record keeping procedures that will be evaluated by Health Canada prior to approving the Dealer’s Licence.”

And then there are the licencing requirements for derivative manufacturing. Here’s NHP’s synopsis:

“The two derivatives in marijuana considered therapeutic are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD’s).  The cleanest method to prepare a derivative from marijuana is super critical C02 extraction.

“As a result of the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, individuals authorized to possess marijuana under the MMPR may now possess marijuana derivatives for their own use. Based on this decision, Health Canada has issued a section 56 class exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), allowing licensed producers to produce and sell cannabis oil (under the MMPR).  The licensed producer must hold a supplemental licence issued by the Minister of Health for the purpose of authorizing the activities in relation cannabis oil.

“The two derivatives in marijuana considered therapeutic are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD’s).  The cleanest method to prepare a derivative from marijuana is super critical C02 extraction. Other methods to extract isolated THC and CBD include the use of organic solvents (toxic and flammable).  You can further purify or concentrate the oil using chromatography.

“There are new rules for preparing and labelling the derivatives that must be taken into consideration prior to obtaining the right to produce the derivatives (oils).  There is a maximum allowable concentration, specific label requirements, and formulation implications concerning the amount of active per dosage unit and the use of non-medicinal ingredients.  There is also a requirement for enhanced documentation, including details of the extraction process.”

To summarize, Canada is on the verge of legalizing recreational use of cannabis. When and if that happens, it will trigger an unprecedented scramble for production licences. Who gets them, and the conditions attached will be of personal interest to any Canadian with concerns about recreational drugs, who owns or rents a property next to one of these facilities or has any other stake in the process. A mayor’s lame assertion that his town needs the revenue won’t suffice.

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