Merry Kushmas! Happy Chronukkah! And, for the nondenominational folks, Happy Winter Bowlstice!
It’s the time of year when even the most radical of publications feast on the low-hanging consumerist clickbait fruit: listicles. I hate listicles. I hate writing them, I hate reading them, and I hate that moment 12 items in when you realize you've fallen into the trap...yet again! None do I hate more than the patronizing Christmas-shopping listicle. December 1 rolls around and Twitter morphs into a barrage of purchasing pointers for every type of person you’ve ever met: the tech diva, the car fanatic, the bookworm, and, most recently, the luxury stoner.
These crude marketing devices parade as journalism to hawk expensive sponsored items that fit in seamlessly with the gentrified-chic design aesthetic of your bestie’s Gastown pad. And this year, with the advent of legal adult-use cannabis, it’s all about the bud. The Internet is rife with lists pushing designer weed accessories—engraved grinders, hand-stitched hemp stash bags, periwinkle rolling papers—all to help communicate to your guests at this year’s ugly-sweater potluck that you’re down with legalization.
Now, capitalism isn’t a seasonal phenomenon, but the recent surge of cannacentric wish lists certainly sheds light on the salient fact that our attentions have yet again been pulled away from some of the more pressing matters surrounding Canada’s latest political shifts. And since legalization really wasn’t the Christmas miracle we were all hoping for, here are a few things that “stoners” actually want this year.
For almost a half-million Canadians, the number one ask in their letter to Canna Claus is a criminal record cleared of convictions for crimes no longer considered illegal.
Cannabis Amnesty, a nonprofit advocacy group headed by criminal lawyer Annamaria Enenajor, has spent the better part of 2018 trying to refocus political attention on the individuals denied career opportunities, international travel, and financial assistance, all because their records are tarnished by a minor drug offence.
On October 17, the organization won a minor victory when the federal government announced it intends to issue pardons to those convicted of simple cannabis possession. Once applicants complete the paperwork, however, their convictions are simply suspended, which is not the permanent deletion of a charge. Without expungement, those charged are still at risk of having pardoned convictions reinstated or disclosed.
Approved consumption spots
After the federal government decided to move forward with a weed-friendly legislative overhaul, it delegated things like consumption bylaws, zoning restrictions, and retail licensing to the provinces and municipalities.
In early October, the B.C. government released updated regulations, including new laws dictating where you can smoke pot—or, rather, a list of all the places you can’t smoke pot. For example, you can’t smoke or vape in indoor public places of any kind, or at a bus stop, or near a school, or on a boat or patio or sidewalk, or within six metres of the doorways, windows, and air intakes of public buildings. The list goes on.
You can, however, smoke in your private residence, if your landlord hasn’t already slipped an amendment under your door saying smoking anything is now against the building’s policy. What the government hasn’t done, yet, is offer any publicly condoned or safe smoking spots or a licensing program for lounges to facilitate respectful consumption. Yes, this means you can kiss places like the beloved hotbox hot spot, the Amsterdam Café, goodbye.
Although weed itself may be legal, cannabis-infused edibles and topicals, like creams and bath bombs, are not. No, not even that scrumptious Miss Envy THC-infused raspberry-vanilla lip balm. (Resistance has never smelled so good.)
When the federal government unveiled legalization earlier this year, the framework only extended to flowers, oils, and seeds. The oils are simply tinctures, which aren’t the same as the high-concentrate product called Phoenix tears that some cancer patients rely on. Seeds aren’t currently available through the province’s legal channels (unless you accidentally get one in your bud). And, frankly, the flower isn’t up to snuff yet.
To top it off, smoking is not the preferred consumption method for many Canadians. For consumers who don’t like to inhale their cannabis, or medical patients who dose at a higher cannabinoid concentration, there isn’t much in the way of selection. The upside is we may just wake up to this wish neatly wrapped in our stocking this year: a little elf told me that Trudeau’s New Year’s resolution includes a framework for the legalization of edible products to be released in the coming weeks.
Legalization has been a divisive topic on all fronts, but none so distinct as the brawl between the federal-licensed cannabis producers (LPs) and the black-market growers.
On one side, there is a shortlist of legally approved producers, including industry behemoths like Aurora and Tweed. On the other side, there is a network of illicit growers who, through their dedication to dank horticulture, gave B.C. bud its infamous reputation.
Right out of the gate, LPs had the nearly impossible task of measuring their mass-produced product against locally grown small-batch cannabis. So customers have taken to social media to post images of odourless crumbs of weed encased in prescription-style bottles and limp, dusty excuses for prerolls. And LPs have snapped back, asking for more time and patience.
Unfortunately, until smaller-scale growers (microcultivators) are allowed into the market (no one really knows when this might happen), the pressure to keep up with the endless demand doesn’t bode well for the state of legal weed.
It may have been as easy as checking “back pain” or “anxiety” on an iPad at your local pot shop to get a “medical card” (rather, a dispensary membership), but cannabis really does boast a number of therapeutic benefits. While Canada is busy trying to figure out which corporation will monopolize the female consumer, we are being left in the dust by countries like Israel and Spain who have long since pioneered studies investigating things like the Entourage Effect (how cannabinoids work more effectively together than isolated) and the role of the Endocannabinoid system in preventing and treating diseases. These are not soapbox sermons of harebrained scientists, either. This is validated, readily available research done in double-blind clinical trials with control groups and ethics boards.
Health Canada does not openly acknowledge the plant’s medical potential—worse, they have regulated it like tobacco and alcohol which means that most of the government’s research focuses on the harms to developing brains and addiction prevention. While the focus is on compliance, Canadian researchers are shouting from the rooftops about the effectiveness of cannabis as a substitute to opioids and combatting drug addiction, and most are still struggling to get past the funding stage.
For all the heat LPs are getting, some are investing in scientific research, funding post-secondary education, and developing medical-grade products set to hit the market in 2019. Canada may be a global leader in developing the most sophisticated cannabis regulatory system in history, but we are still hanging out on the low rung in terms of medical research.
Just two months into legalization and, despite it already being a somewhat played-out trope, the system is a work in progress. This stoner wish list is less an indictment of the first shot at the federal legalization of cannabis and more a reminder that this year isn't a Merry Kushmas for many Canadian consumers, entrepreneurs, and advocates. As we go into the holiday season, it’s totally cool to gift your best bud a scented candle replicating the OG Kush terpene profile, but let’s not forget that the fight for fair access and quality product is far from over. While children may be dreaming of sugar plums, or Fornite, there are opioid-substitution programs that need support, medical patients who need consistent and cost-effective cannabis, and advocates being slapped with fines for services that massive corporations are now suddenly green-lit to provide.
The good news is governments and policymakers, at all levels, seem willing to correct, adjust, and amend. The better news is the black market is thriving and the weed is spectacular.