EDITOR: | June 11th, 2018

Illegal dispensaries the gateway to criminality, not cannabis

| June 11, 2018 | No Comments

In the wake of the Canadian Senate passing the Cannabis Act, I spoke with representatives of three groups of stakeholders: a commissionaire of police of one of Canada’s major city, a member of the Canadian Senate who voted against the Cannabis Act, and a dispensary worker.

The passing vote of the Cannabis Act by the Senate of Canada brings adds a new focal point to the cannabis industry: the eradication of illegal cannabis dispensaries. For clarity, all dispensaries in Canada are illegal and they represent a significant threat to all stakeholders, even taxpayers who will never look at a bud and certainly not inhale when walking past cannabis smokers.

I spoke with a prominent member of the Canadian Senate who voted against the Cannabis Act. Her position, and that of the Senate members that voted against the Cannabis Act, is that the Government has not articulated the implementation of the Act to a sufficient level of certainty to protect the public.

The opposing argument is that there would be more harm done by keeping the prohibitionist status quo.

Cannabis dispensaries are a poignant example of the risks and harm caused by the status quo. They cause no ends of trouble to authorities, neighborhoods, licensed producers and patients. According to the Cannabis Act all dispensaries in Canada are illegal.

Dispensary operators claim that they play a significant service by providing cannabis to medical patients. It is a common narrative among operators. I applaud their altruistic mindset, but a closer look at how dispensaries are operated shows a theoretical gap the size of Storming Daniels’ cleavage between public service and criminality.

I interviewed a young man “Dimitri” who was employed for two weeks in a dispensary. He was paid minimum wages, yet saw cash sales of $20,000 per day. Despite the fact that he has yet to finish high school, he guided patients in selecting the right strain of cannabis to their medical conditions. At times, he advised people with cancer for what medicine to take. My toes still haven’t uncurled from this observation.

There was no control on the THC or CBD content of the products. In essence strains were recommended based on whether they were Indica or Sativa. Recent research shows that those designations work to describe the morphology of the plants but not necessarily their pharmaceutical properties.

Dimitri was working with the understanding that the dispensary owner would provide funding to support his legal defence should they be raided by the authorities and taken to court as a drug dealer.

A commissionaire of the police force of one of Canada’s big cities mentioned to me that a raid on a dispensary can cost up to $100,000 to tax payers. Planning a raid is tedious and painfully long, requiring up to six months careful analysis. The post-raid paperwork is equally tedious to maintain adequate chain of custody records to support prosecution. If plants are seized, there is the problem of tending the plants to ascertain their THC content.

Knowing that raids are an endless of bureaucratic and legal problems, dispensary owners play the odds cleverly by exploiting the odds that they won’t be raided or prosecuted. All they have at stake is their inventory of Mason jars filled with buds.

Targeting landlords might be a better solution than raiding dispensaries:

Landlords are not as immune as dispensary operators. And so, they are much more vulnerable to scrutiny and prosecution because their real estate are at stake.

Going after building owners might be a better way to target dispensaries. Most likely the best approach to get rid of dispensaries is not to raid them, but to go after the landlords.

According to Jeff Sessions, cannabis is a gateway drug that leads to crime and contributed to the opioid crisis. But in Dimitri’s case, the gateway to criminality was not cannabis. His work in the dispensary taught him to be a criminal. It was not cannabis that was a gateway, it was the flawed legal framework that made the dispensaries flourish.

Dr. Luc Duchesne


Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>

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