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Canadian Activists Defend Dispensaries After Bill Blair’s 'Offensive' Attack

Bill Blair - the Canadian government's point-man on pot - has taken an unpopular side in the conflict between two major players in the country's medical marijuana industry. There are the licensed producers (LPs), growers who legally cultivate cannabis that patients can buy through Health Canada's mail-order system. And then there are the illegal marijuana dispensaries, unlicensed storefronts that sell cannabis illicitly in cities like Vancouver and Toronto.

On May 24, Blair praised the LPs while calling the dispensaries criminal organizations that the government hopes to put out of business by legalizing marijuana.

"The current licensed producers are competing with people who don't care about the law, who don't care about regulations, don't care about kids, they don't care about communities, don't care about health of Canadians," Blair said at a conference in Toronto. "They're pretty reckless about it. And so they're selling anything to make a fast buck before we get the regulations put in place."

Now that Blair's had his say on the issue, here are five things activists and advocates would like you to think about before making your own judgments about the dispensaries.

1. Dispensaries improve patient access

Lisa Campbell -- Chair of Women Grow Toronto -- wants you to remember that Blair's remarks are at odds with Federal Court Justice Michael Phelan, who said that dispensaries "are at the heart of cannabis access" when he ruled that Canada's current medical regime was too restrictive in February.

2. Dispensaries have fought to become legal

Dispensaries are illegal because the government has fought against their efforts to become legitimate, according to Kirk Tousaw - an advocate and lawyer who has also fought for the rights of patients to use cannabis extracts and edibles as well as the right to grow their medicine at home.

3. Licensed producers are indebted to dispensaries

Longtime activist Dana Larsen - who was recently arrested for giving away cannabis seeds - argues that the licensed producers only exist because of the dispensaries.

4. Jodie Emery

Canada's princess of pot doesn't think there's anything wrong with businesses making a buck. But she does take exception to running down the competition through questionable laws.

5. More advocates needed

Lisa Campbell - chairwoman of Women Grow Toronto - wants to know why labor unions haven't stepped in on behalf of the dispensary workers whose jobs are being threatened.

6. Advocates are parents too

Lastly, Tousaw wanted Blair and others to know that advocates and activists are also concerned about children. In fact, many of them support dispensaries as a way to keep cannabis off the streets while cleaning up neighborhoods and bringing more business into communities.

banner image: Kensington Market is home to many of Toronto's marijuana dispensaries. Shutterstock / Deymos.HR


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