Remember When?

Opinion Editorial – by Eric Vengroff, Financial Analyst, Cannabis Daily

“Everything that follows, is a result of what you see here…”

Dr. Alfred Lanning’s hologram from the movie I, Robot,  2004

As Canada collectively gets ready for recreational adult-use cannabis next week, the Globe and Mail reported last week that Canada’s cannabis supply, already widely expected to be in a shortage for the next year or two, is not in great shape.  Canadians will likely experience these effects at legally-accessible retail outlets, online or otherwise, in the form of empty shelves come Oct.17.  Growers are behind on deliveries to the provincial distributors.

When I read this, I was reminded of the above quote from the movie I Robot, based on the book of the same name by Isaac Asimov.   We arrived at this moment in history through of the various actions of governments at all levels, along with business, health care, police, bureaucrats and professionals of all manner and description and their influences along the way to legalization.

If we recall that post-2015 election, Canadians were generally left with the impression that Canada Day 2018 onward would henceforth be known as Cannabis Day.  Rates of cannabis use and acceptability vary across Canada and as the Senate debate reflected, some seemed determined to keep the cannabis genie in the bottle.  The windup was that Canadians will get their weed, but it will come at a cost, in the form of incremental taxation as each level of government takes their share of the revenue and manage the costs of public safety and law enforcement.

The cost to Canadians will also take shape in the form of myriad rules that treat cannabis similarly to tobacco in some instances, like alcohol in other cases, and like a nuisance houseplant in still others.  Although emphasis is being deliberately placed on keeping cannabis out of public view and unattractive to young people, and everyone is talking about ‘education’, when one sees entire communities opting out of having any industrial or even retail presence within their boundaries, de facto declaring themselves ‘dry’ on behalf of all their citizens, one fears that old biases and stereotypes will take years, if not decades to eliminate.

To be fair, some jurisdictions appear to be ‘getting it’, and have taken steps in years to come to harmonize cannabis use and purchase with other legal forms of commercial endeavor.   Laws are changing quickly, with some areas of the country loosening up slightly and others going the other way.  Even when provincial elections place right-wing leaning governments in power, inconsistencies appear.  Ontario’s recent election brought Doug Ford and the Ontario PC’s in, and after radio silence on cannabis for a month or more, implement progressive polies such as freer public consumption laws, and more retail competition, albeit delayed until spring, 2019.   Meanwhile, the election in neighboring Quebec, which already has banned personal growing, notwithstanding Canadians’ legislated right to do so, elects Francois Legault and the CAQ, who now promises to ban public consumption altogether and raise the minimum age to 21, the highest in Canada.

Perhaps we can look forward to the day when some policies will be viewed as anachronistic.  Hopefully it will lead to discussions in years to come such as “remember when?”, as it “remember when there used to be separate entrances for men and women in public drinking establishments in the days following alcohol prohibition?”   “Remember when you couldn’t drink whiskey, gin, or any other alcohol that wasn’t wine or beer in bars and restaurants?”  And so on…

Meanwhile, back at the farm, growers appear to be discovering that growing cannabis on an industrial scale, meeting standards for consistent content, safety and quality, may not be as easy as it looked to be on an Excel spreadsheet.  The expectation is that it may be possible, but some enterprises further in their growth trajectory may ultimately abandon cultivation in favour of raw product acquisition from lower cost zones.

Unlike the previous experience with alcohol prohibition, where an industry and distribution were already somewhat in place, no such formal or informal system ever existed for cannabis.  Canada is constructing a legal system of enterprise with no living memory of how it used to be, not that anyone would care to revisit that history – it’s being sewn together from whole cloth.   We are living through a new chapter of history, and the plan is to do it right, with all the various perceptions of what that means to everyone.  The edibles, chewables, drinkables, and other products yet to come represent a further challenge that we will face as a society.  Whether Canada, and we as Canadians get this right or end up doing a spectacular belly-flop in the middle of the pool in full view of the world, in a few years, we’ll all say “remember when?”.

 

The information and opinions presented here are that of the author and do not represent the thoughts and opinions of this website.  The analyst owns but does not represent any of the companies listed in this article and receives no compensation from any party mentioned in this article. Readers are urged to do their own research and due diligence and should seek advice from an independent financial advisor before making any financial investment.

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