OTTAWA | After two years of legalization, a third of Canadian marijuana users have turned to the legal market. However, international observers fear that this race for market share will cause the protection of public health to be lost sight of.
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Between July 2019 and July 2020, the cannabis sector grew by 18% in the country, according to Statistics Canada. No other industry has experienced such a boom in this pandemic year.
The Société québécoise du cannabis thus achieved sales of $ 110.4 million, from March 29 to June 20, 2020, or $ 65.3 million more than the same period last year.
“As Canadians, we should be proud. Canada has shown leadership and the initiative is a success, ”applauds the President of the Canadian Cannabis Council, George Smitherman.
While there is cause for rejoicing that the legal market is making its nest in an industry dominated by crime, we must beware of the “green gold rush” which is tempting powerful investors, warns the Transform Drug Policy Foundation , in a report published in August.
This international organization, which advises the Organization of American States and collaborates with the United Nations on drug-related issues, warns that Ottawa now faces a small number of giants capable of influencing public policy, as have made the tobacco and alcohol manufacturers.
These two industries are also investing heavily in cannabis. Last year, the world’s largest tobacco company, Altria, owner of Philip Morris and Marlboro, for example, acquired 45% of Cronos, a Toronto-based cannabis producer.
Rebecca Jesseman, of the Canadian Center on Addiction and Drugs, says the cannabis lobby, already active before legalization, has only grown in influence since.
The sector is hiring more and more ex-politicians and senior officials who are familiar with the workings of the state.
George Smitherman, who lobbies the industry at the federal level, is himself the former Deputy Premier of Ontario and the former Minister of Health.
“We have to be very vigilant and very careful because lobbyists are very efficient. That’s why they are paid dearly, ”warns Ms. Jesseman.
“The private sector responds to the quest for profits and not to the public interest. He inevitably loses sight of the imperatives of public health, ”she insists.
Mr. Smitherman assures that the protection of public health is the “foundation” on which the industry wants to build. He stresses that gaining ground on the black market is also a matter of public health.
To achieve this, he explains that he wants to obtain more favorable taxation allowing prices to be lowered and the right to do more advertising and to modify packaging to attract more consumers.
Who uses cannabis?
- 16.7 % | CANADA
- 18.4% | Men
- 15.1% | Women
- 24% | 15 to 24 years old
- 26.9% | 25 to 34 years old
- 20.1% | 35 to 44 years old
- 15.7% | 45 to 54 years old
- 10.7% | 55 to 64
- 6.1% | 65 and over
Sources: Statistics Canada and Transform Drug Policy Foundation