Two men who spent their decades-long careers combating illegal drug use opened the doors to their medical marijuana-related company on Tuesday.
Former Toronto police chief and Conservative MP Julian Fantino and ex-RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar have opened a health clinic in Vaughan, Ont. that will connect patients with "the most effective product" for relief and symptom management, according to the company's' website.
Fantino, who is the executive chairman of the company, told CBC News on Tuesday that Aleafia Inc. is a "health delivery system." He said the purpose of the clinic is to make assessments and to provide complementary treatment like physiotherapy, and that the company will be conducting more research into the use of cannabis for medicinal use. No marijuana will be kept on site.
"We're not in the marijuana business," he said.
According to the Toronto Star, the two men are presenting their business as one that will help counteract opioid addiction. Fantino told the Star that doctors can prescribe medical marijuana through companies like Aleafia instead of opioids.
The approach to marjiuana as therapy represents a shift in attitudes for both men. As recently as 2015, Fantino tweeted he was "completely opposed" to marijuana legalization, which he called an "irresponsible policy" the year before.
Souccar, Aleafia's president and chief executive officer, was appointed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's marijuana legalization task force in 2016.
It brought about a huge change in me.Raf Souccar
He told the Toronto Star his time on the task force changed his opinion of medical marijuana users, who he had previously thought of as cannabis users who wanted to hide their use under the guise of medical purposes.
"I didn't expect the types of people I met, people with jobs, people no different than any of us in this room. It brought about a huge change in me."
Souccar has recently spoken out about Canada's opioid addiction crisis. Last December, he said addicts should be given medical-grade heroin along with housing and mental-health services to save overall health-care costs and money for policing, courts and incarceration.
NDP MP Don Davies told the National Post in September that Souccar's participation in the task force coupled with Aleafia's business raises a potential conflict of interest.
"I think this is a case where there is a clear appearance of conflict of interest, whether it's there or not. And I think that the government would do well to examine it," he said.
Souccar said he never entertained any discussion about joining Aleafia while on the task force, though he understands that "clearly a potential conflict ... could have occurred."
HuffPost Canada has reached out to Aleafia Inc. for comment.
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