When Health Canada changed medicinal marijuana regulations in April, some Canadians were dazed and confused – but mostly confused. The move transferred production from “thousands of loosely regulated growers to a commercially competitive sector.” More recently, a federal court ruling gave the home-growers some additional time to close shop, but Health Canada is now in the process of appealing that decision. With so many regulations shifting, people aren’t sure what to do. The first and possibly most important question is “where will we get our pot?”
The new regulations granted control of Canada’s Mary Jane market to a slim 13 “licensed producers.” Since Canadians can no longer legally grow and harvest our own backyard medicinal marijuana gardens, we must order the good stuff from these companies for mail delivery. Unfortunately, delivery can take a long time and the dealers aren’t afraid to short you. These commercial producers aren’t always like your friendly neighbourhood dealer of the past. These guys often have millions of dollars invested and hopes of building billion dollar corporations. It sounds like they’re probably in the biz to keep the profits rather than to smoke them away.
These regulation changes, along with their secondary effects such as increased policing costs to shut down previously legal small-scale grow-ops, have left some Canadians frustrated. Well, let’s be honest, most of the frustration is probably in British Columbia (wait, where’s Justin Trudeau from again?). One town, Squamish, is so irritated that it’s even considering writing a “strongly worded letter” to the Hill. Directly voicing our dissatisfaction with the government’s decisions is sure to make a change, right…? Well… maybe not. If we’ve learned anything from the opposition to Northern Gateway, it might be that most of the House doesn’t care about BC.
To be fair, maybe the government is listening to protest and has decided local medical marijuana production isn’t cohesive with their platform. Yet this might not be consistent with the government’s past decisions encouraging free market economics. They lifted protections on many Canadian waterways, they promote a free trade agenda, and they approved Northern Gateway to encourage economic growth. If the Harper government does believe in a pure free market economy, it seems they should not specifically regulate small-scale medicinal marijuana production. The market should be able to handle all producers and let the best rise to the top. If they do regulate, one might hope it’s across the board including areas with environmental and/or other negative externalities. Taking a consistent approach to policy design that does not specifically favour BC Bud or Alberta Oil could lead to a more equal, prosperous, and healthily developed Canada, but it looks like the Conservatives just aren’t interested.