Pay to puff

Pay to play: Why is the federal government allowing the proliferation of ‘experimental’ marijuana grow ops as it weighs the pros and cons of legalized weed? 

Trump Inc. and the Clinton Foundation are flip sides of the same old pay-to-play tune Canadians know all too well.

In Canada, bribes buy access to power, whether you’re Karl-Hans Schreiber handing fat envelopes of cash to a Conservative prime minister or the head of an advertising agency handing fat envelopes of Adscam cash to Liberal candidates. When it comes to conflicted politicians, Canada has no moral ground to stand on.

The latest example: Bill Blair, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Justice Minister and a member of the task force studying the implications of legalizing recreational weed, was the keynote speaker at a Liberal Party fundraiser attended by a marijuana lobbying group at a Toronto law office that advises clients in the cannabis business.

This morning’s Globe and Mail story notes the $150-a-head event this past spring “appears to violate Liberal Party rules on political fundraisers and Justin Trudeau’s ethics guidelines that direct cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries to avoid an “appearance of preferential access.”

In the wake of the Globe’s story the Liberal Party of Canada said it will refund donations from representatives of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association (CFBA), although it denied any ethical breaches. The party’s excuse: it didn’t know the weed reps were lobbyists because they hadn’t registered yet.

The Globe says one of the law partners hosting the event is a corporate secretary in a cannabis business, and another assisted a client doing a medical marijuana startup.

The Cannabis Friendly Business Association represents dope-dispensary owners and cannabis farmers who want the federal government to allow storefront pot shops. The fundraiser was for Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who favours decriminalization of marijuana and the idea of pardons for people convicted of pot offences.

Regardless of how I may feel about Canada’s current marijuana double standard, I find the government’s actions reprehensible.

Let’s begin with the proliferation of grow ops. Officially, there are 36 licenced medical pot producers in Canada. Only one of these is in Quebec.

Anybody else growing more than a minimal quantity of marijuana for themselves or others risks a criminal conviction.

And yet anyone can freely buy pot from walk-in dispensaries in Toronto, Vancouver and other Canadian cities and towns.

These still-illegal outlets obtain their product from an undisclosed number of ‘experimental’ grow ops throughout Canada. As I disclose in previous blogs, these grey-market producers are known to police but not to the public – in clear violation of Ottawa’s vow to make the licensing procedure transparent.

Until there’s transparency, what’s to prevent this or any provincial or regional government from selling licences to willing pay-to-play partners?

Because whether it’s weed, fossil fuels or weapons you’re moving, influence peddling is a crime and society is the collective victim.

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