Much is being made of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's plan to legalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana in Canada. But licensed producers in the already-legal medical marijuana sector are growing impatient with the slow pace of urgently needed reforms.
The current state of affairs is hazardous for the health and safety of Canadians, according to the Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association (CMCIA). The organization represents medicinal cannabis producers who are licensed and inspected by Health Canada.
The CMCIA says the government has lost control of the current system, which only officially allows for the dispensing of marijuana through the postal system. Nonetheless, unregulated "gray market" dispensaries are sprouting up across the country, leading to police raids and health hazards.
"The situation is getting out of control," Colette Rivet, Executive Director of CMCIA said in a press release:
"In the past few months, more than 30 dispensaries have opened in Toronto, selling illegal, unregulated marijuana to people, many of whom are not aware that they are breaking the law. The marijuana comes from unknown sources with no quality control, no guarantee it doesn't contain contaminants, no product recall system, and no interest in properly protecting the interests of legitimate medical cannabis patients."
Trudeau promised that legalization would help combat the black market for cannabis. But Rivet and the CMCIA see the opposite happening: the uncertainty surrounding the law is benefitting criminal organizations:
"It's time for the federal government to step in and bring clarity to the situation, by clearly explaining the legal status of medical and non-medical cannabis, and stopping the rapid spread of illegal marijuana stores. The current environment of uncertainty is benefiting criminal organizations, which is counter to the federal government's stated policy of divorcing cannabis production and distribution from criminal elements."
Marc Emery and other prominent activists, who don't consider many of the gray market dispensaries to be "criminal organizations," want the prosecutions of dispensary owners to stop. Mark Haulk - the owner of the Saskatchewan Compassion Club, which was raided by police in October 2015 - told reporters, "I only wanted to help people who needed their medicine."
But the one thing everyone agrees on is the dire need for clarity regarding the legality for cannabis. However, they want Trudeau to stop the police raids and allow the "gray market" dispensaries to continue operating in peace.
"We're looking for action on this issue and not endless talking," Dana Larsen - the founder of Sensible B.C. - told Civilized in December 2015. With dispensaries being raided in B.C., with arrests at an all-time high across Canada, we're calling on Trudeau to decriminalize as soon as possible - to stop arrests for possession, trafficking and growing."
At this point, the only thing that's clear is that dispensers on both sides of the law are equally frustrated with the lack of direction coming from Ottawa.