Pot dispensaries, cannabis cafes, medical marijuana clinics, smoke shops, vapour lounges -- cannabis culture has gained a foothold in Toronto. Some neighbourhoods have had little to no infiltration, but many have had a staggering number of pot dispensaries open along the main street, out in the open.
Toronto Mayor John Tory has written a letter to the head of Municipal Licensing and Standards to ask for a report and recommendations for dealing with what he called the "verging on out of control" growth of medical marijuana dispensaries. Let's compare their health and safety impacts to industries that already exist.
Cannabis has been a medicine for far longer than it has been a drug. There are many different theories of its history, and signs of it date back to the old testament and ancient europe, all over Asia, and spread down into Africa. Ancient history is a matter of interpretation and the details remain in debate, but cannabis use was a huge part of culture and medicine in distant parts of the world. As a medical user, I do still get high some times for fun. But that's not the whole picture.
Last week we saw the Pharmacy Association weigh in on the future of medicinal cannabis distribution in Canada. They want in now, saying they should be the "front line" in dispensing the drug. It is an interesting reversal from their earlier position on medicinal cannabis, so let's try to understand why.
We've all experienced that annoyance, maybe on the bus, at work, in parks and malls in every corner of the province. Packs of medicinal cannabis users vaping their cannabis, wantonly blowing their cannabis vapour in our faces, laughing at us while they "get high." Call me sheltered, but I have never encountered it.
In Nunavut and the North West Territories, about one per cent of the population gets arrested for a cannabis offence every year. That is an astoundingly high rate of arrests, especially when compared with cities like Vancouver, where such arrests are very rare. So, why continue to criminalize possession in some parts of the country and not others?
Ending cannabis prohibition must also make right the mistakes of the past. When we legalize cannabis we must not forget those who are still in jail now for cannabis, or the many Canadians with cannabis criminal records. We want a quick and easy process for Canadians to apply to have their cannabis criminal records expunged.
Marijuana's bad boy image has been getting a well-earned makeover in recent years, thanks in part to its surging popularity as a legitimate form of herbal medicine. In fact, it's not cannabis' infamous THC content that's creating a real buzz these days. Instead, it's a lesser-known chemical called CBD that is attracting much of the attention.
The problem with establishing a Federal Cannabis Tax Fund is that somebody needs to ask for it, now, before the legislation is drafted. Mayors and councils across Canada may be reluctant to raise this publicly while marijuana is still illegal and because there is no formal recognition of municipal governments in our constitution.