Issue #2 February 2019

February has always been a special month for me. It is the month of my mother’s birth, my own birth, and my wife’s birth. And Valentine’s Day. February 2019 is also the second anniversary of the release of my report “Cannabis Law Reform in Canada: Pretense & Perils”. I think of this report as a balanced, evidence-based antidote to both cannabis cheerleading & demonizing. Along with many academic citations, it has also made over twelve thousand “impressions” on Twitter (whatever that means).

Cannabis legalization is moving fast. So fast, that ‘Pretense & Perils’ requires some updating. The first installment of a planned trilogy has just been released as a chapter in a book called ‘High Time’. Among excellent articles by bold, engaging authors, it includes my chapter: “Cannabis Legalization: Lessons from Alcohol, Tobacco, and Pharmaceutical Industries”. 

More information is available from the publisher in the attached file.

I am currently working on the second installment of the trilogy that focuses solely on cannabis legalization – including many challenges and adventures at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels.


• Federally, a CBC investigation has found numerous connections between legal cannabis production licensees and organized crime. Health Canada’s background checks missed these connections that were uncovered by apparently more diligent journalists.

• Provincially, in Ontario’s cannabis retail lottery ‘for the people’, the licences are landing in the hands of large licenced producers. In Manitoba, a licensed producer was caught purchasing illegal, untested product and selling it to legal retail outlets in Saskatchewan.

• Municipally, our public health authorities are very aware of the challenges of maintaining a public health imperative within the context of local business opportunities arising from legalization. Edmonton City Council just changed a bylaw to allow cannabis stores in shopping malls. How will that impact visibility, and perhaps access, for underage youth?

I’ve always believed that story telling is a powerful tool in education. Stories of cannabis legalization are included in my upcoming publications and in my updated presentations. And what fascinating stories they are! My spring presentation schedule already includes events in Ottawa, Hamilton, and Toronto.

As we continue to grapple with cannabis legalization, there will be opportunities to make improvements. Here’s one, admittedly provocative, idea from the planned third installment of the trilogy. Cannabis retail outlets are a reality. What if they were managed by a local, non-profit public health authority? It would simply serve the existing market with credibly tested, lower-risk product and accurate harm reduction information. There would be no attempt at market expansion through any form of product promotion. All revenues in excess of operating costs would become public, not private, capital. Think of the possibilities for funding local community engagement, prevention, treatment and research programs.

I would love to join you in engaging your community. My list of presentations is attached.
February 28, 2019