Op-Ed: The Need for Regulation in the Emerging Canadian Cannabis Market

Don Briere tells reporter Mike Hager that illegal pot dispensaries are a force for good, “drawing the money away from organized crime, who buy guns, heroin, cocaine and do human trafficking.” (Pot entrepreneur joins run to open shops in hot Toronto market, Thursday January 14, 2016 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/pot-entrepreneur-joins-rush-to-open-shop-in-hot-toronto-market/article28178581/)

 

Tokyo Smoke CEO Alan Gertner (photo: Jesse Milns)

Tokyo Smoke CEO Alan Gertner (photo: Jesse Milns)

As a pot entrepreneur, activist, and owner of Tokyo Smoke — a Toronto-based, cannabis lifestyle brand — I agree diverting money from organized crime is a good thing. However, the aggressive expansion of illegal dispensaries raises important safety concerns of a different sort. These new dispensaries are 100% unregulated, turning Canada’s cannabis market into the Wild West and distracting consumers from responsible players who are committed to producing and distributing quality products. Although it’s exciting that the market for marijuana is “hot,” we need to ensure that consumers are properly educated and have access to consistently high-quality product, which is not possible at an unregulated dispensary.


To underscore the benefits of effective oversight, we should look to Colorado. After the state legalized marijuana 2012, edibles became incredibly popular, accounting for 45% of sales. But they also became a potential liability, as they resulted in a highly volatile experience. Reacting quickly, Colorado enforced state-wide limits on strength and instructed customers on recommended dosages. This regulation and education were required to ensure the well-being of the consumer.


This is why, instead of running a dispensary, I am concentrating on re-branding the cannabis movement to prioritize education, quality and value. I am also committed to supporting the 26 producers licensed by the Canadian government to grow and supply medical marijuana to 35,000 patients that have medical prescriptions. These producers are the trusted leaders of the industry and are being underused. Whether it’s Peace Naturals, Tilray, or Tweed, these companies produce what is arguably the world’s best marijuana.


Beyond dispensaries and the prioritization of franchise opportunities; there is a burgeoning cannabis industry that deserves to thrive under effective regulation and quality control. A smarter, more resilient way for businesses to develop the marijuana market is by providing education for the broader community, and working with regulators to ensure safe, enjoyable experiences with the product.