Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stole headlines last October when his Liberal Party won Canada's federal election while promising to legalize marijuana nationwide. But legalization was a policy plank of the rival Green Party of Canada long before the Liberals adopted it in 2012. And party leader Elizabeth May has been a staunch support for ending cannabis prohibition and the war on drugs for years:
"The traditional approach to preventing drug use has not only been a spectacular failure in itself, but has resulted in building a massive crime industry and has had catastrophic negative impacts on numerous young people, especially within poverty-stricken areas both within Canada and abroad," Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Jan. 2012.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the Liberals' plans, we reached out to Elizabeth May to ask what the Green Party wants from legalization. Here are some of the things she emphasized.
1) Take a liberal approach to growing at home
Elizabeth May doesn't think legalization would take very long to complete if the Liberals take the Green Party's advice:
"The view of the Green Party is: the less complicated it is, the easier it is to administrate, and the more sense it will make. So you want to tax and regulate and control the sales of cannabis, but no more rigorously than you would alcohol or cigarettes."
And her party's regulations would allow Canadians to grow cannabis at home - tax free:
"People who are growing their own for their own use, for instance, would not be subject to penalty or regulation or tax. Those who are growing for sale to others, would have to meet the standards of regulation and paying a tax on product."
2) Allow small, craft producers to participate in the market
May says companies involved in Canada's cannabis industry right now are concerned they might be pushed out by the Liberals' regulatory framework.
"There is a concern from those who are providers of access to medical marijuana that the rules not be so stringent as they prejudice people who are in that business right now, whether they're making (cannabis-infused) salves or different products. Those should be easier to access at an affordable price with quality that can be assured by, for instance, local craft makers of salves, and so on. I've met with some of those people on Vancouver Island and they're very concerned that the regulations, when they come in, shouldn't make it more difficult for them to provide products which meet safety standards [and] are regulated."
3) Make 'gray market' dispensaries part of the regulated system
One hot topic surrounding legalization is what the government will do about Canada's medical marijuana dispensaries, which are illegal storefronts that have sprouted up across the country. May thinks they should be brought into the regulatory scheme.
"They already have a clientele, they're located in places that people know, they've been doing a really good job trying to manage physician-prescribed access to marijuana. It makes sense that they shouldn't be bypassed."
However, she also said that dispensaries owners should be prepared to cooperate with the government's regulations. When asked if she was concerned with the growth of illegal dispensaries, May told Civilized, "I'm not. I mean, they'll have to be prepared to comply with the system that emerges, but I think they should be eligible to comply."
4) Don't let 'Big Cannabis' take over
While she isn't very worried about the "gray market" dispensaries, May is concerned about the rise of corporate interest in the marijuana industry:
"As we legalize marijuana, it's very likely that large corporate interests will want to step in and take the profits. And in the context of sustainability, maintaining local [interests] where you can...makes a lot of sense. Just as you would with fruits and vegetables, so you know something is locally grown and organic. And that you actually know your grower is a good guard against any additives that are a more significant threat to health."
And she thinks that the issue of protecting local businesses needs to be discussed more when we talk about legalization.
"The key thing that I don't think I've heard about enough is this question of making sure that those people who are making cannabis products - whether salves or teas or or lotions - to make sure that they're not pushed out of the market in doing something that is local and sustainable by larger corporate interests."
5) Using tax revenue to spread awareness
May wants to see a portion of Canada's cannabis tax revenue go toward educating the public about the plant and its effects.
"We...want to see funds collected in a tax on cannabis sales [used] to [raise] awareness to where the health threats are. We're not saying that it's a product with no health risks. We think that use by adolescents should be discouraged. We certainly think that there should be a way of preparing society and for traffic police to learn how to spot people who are under the influence and driving."
6) Outdoor grow operations have a lower carbon footprint
As a federal party, the Greens take on numerous causes and issues of national importance. But the environment remains the cornerstone of their policies, so we had to ask how legalization could reduce the environmental impact of marijuana cultivation.
Her answer addresses the issue of where it's grown. Simply put, May wants to see indoor cultivation become rare in Canada.
"The sort of hysteria around marijuana and cannabis in the past, the process of government-grown, and government-approved regulations over marijuana growing operations has essentially insisted that the operations move indoors. And as a result, it's created a very heavy...carbon footprint from the growing of marijuana. It's bizarre given that it's a product that grows outdoors perfectly well...To the greatest extent possible, we should not be moving the cultivation of this crop to indoor facilities. That creates a huge carbon footprint that is completely unnecessary."
She recommends that cultivators learn from the tobacco industry and produce enough cannabis during the growing season to last the entire year.
"Tobacco's also a seasonal crop. It doesn't grow year-round. You can dry enough to meet annual demand. From what I've seen so far, I see absolutely no point whatsoever in seeing an indoor growing regime for cannabis."
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