Albertan leads nationwide effort to unshackle Canada’s hashish business

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“For three years we have learned these lessons – why don’t we relax these rules?”

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Bill Kaufmann Nathan Mison of Fire and Flower Canabis Co. opens on October 16, 2018 on the first day of cannabis legalization in Edmonton. Photo by Ed Kaiser / Postmedia

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Albertan Nathan Mison said it was no coincidence that he is co-chairing an effort to bolster the country’s cannabis sector as a pivotal review of the drug’s legalization in Canada draws near.

The province’s oversized presence in the country’s cannabis retail trade makes it likely that someone like him would help boost the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to charge the sector with a federally mandated review due to begin three years after legalization begins.

“Alberta has four of the largest cannabis retailers in the world here,” said Mison, a former executive with one of them, Fire and Flower of Edmonton.

He pointed out that High Tide became the first Canadian cannabis retailer to list on the NASDAQ stock exchange on Wednesday.

“Thanks to Alberta’s leadership, these companies have been able to scale and grow,” said Mison, who was also a past chairman of the Alberta Cannabis Council.


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Alberta also has by far the largest number of cannabis deals per capita in Canada.

But that critical mass of expertise and its counterparts in other provinces are needed to evaluate a review of federal cannabis law, which itself sparked a review of how legalization is working and what it can improve in three years, Mison said.

This should include a dramatic liberalization of the severely restricted marketing and consumption rules for the industry, he said.

“Federal agencies haven’t done anything in cannabis lounges – why can’t we have conversations where we’ve infused cannabis into food and cannabis cocktails (to be served)?” Mison said.

While Canada wavers on consumer cafes, border states like Michigan and New York are heading for them, he said.

Canopy Growth unveiled the company's edible products at the Arts Hotel in Calgary on Monday, December 9, 2019. Canopy Growth unveiled the company’s edible products at the Arts Hotel in Calgary on Monday, December 9, 2019. Photo by Darren Makowichuk / Postmedia

The industry is also looking to lift the 10 mg cap on THC on sales of individual edible products and restrictions on packaging – both through federal law and areas where US states are taking a more liberal approach.

Tight borders on in-store advertising of brands are another sore point to include in the review, said Mison and John Carle, executive directors of the Alberta Cannabis Council.

“Just like you can try wine or beer at a liquor store, you should be able to sniff a joint or drink a tiny amount of edible just to get the taste,” said Carle.

“You can have a large Budweiser window, but in our stores all you can talk about is how much THC is in a product and how much it costs – that is not a very healthy industry.”


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The current 30 gram ownership limit for legal cannabis should also be revised upwards, he said.

The past nearly three years of legalizing recreational activities have allayed critics’ worst fears about its societal impact and the industry should be rewarded for responsible behavior, both men said.

“We learned these lessons for three years – why don’t we relax these rules?” Said Mison.

Ottawa should also relax restrictions on product consumption brands that prevent the inter-provincial trade in legal cannabis, he said.

The biggest obstacle hindering the development of the industry is a mental obstacle that still has a stigmatized view of cannabis, Mison said.

“Our politicians are still trapped in the stereotypical tropes of the past … we need to free ourselves from the fear that we cannot talk about cannabis,” he said.

Ben Deere is seen smoking in the cannabis use area at the 40th annual Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince's Island Park on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Ben Deere is seen smoking in the cannabis use area at the 40th annual Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince’s Island Park on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Photo by Brendan Miller / Postmedia

The industry now contributes at least $ 16.5 billion to Canada’s annual GDP, Mison said, and should be recognized in an economic framework that allows his expertise to become yet another export to the country.

To do this, the industry should roll into provincial and federal ministries such as agriculture, he added.

“Our main focus was on health and the black market out, but that should expand,” Mison said.

His national cannabis working group within the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is preparing a presentation for Health Canada-led review of cannabis law.

Mison said Health Canada was still working on the review’s terms of reference and it is unknown when and what follows that assessment will be released this fall for the past three years.

But with the possibility of a federal election in the fall, “it would be fascinating to see the opportunities that arise” for the industry, he added.

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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