As Canada moves towards legalising recreational cannabis, there’s a surprising group of entrepreneurs jumping into the market: cops and politicians.
In 2015, former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino was “completely opposed” to marijuana legalisation and supported mandatory jail time for minor cannabis offences.
Mr Fantino, who was also a Cabinet minister in the former Conservative government, criticised the now governing-Liberals’ plan to legalise the drug, saying it would make smoking marijuana “a normal, everyday activity for Canadians”.
In November, along with former RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar, he opened Aleafia, a “health network” that helps patients access medical cannabis.
He also had a change of heart on legalisation, telling the Toronto Star newspaper he now supports it as long as it keeps pot away from children and criminals.
In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he said his 2015 comments were made “in a different era”.
Mr Fantino said his turning point on medical marijuana came when he was minister of veterans affairs and met ex-soldiers who relied on it.
Marijuana activists who have fought against prohibition for decades – and sometimes faced subsequent criminal charges for their activities – were angry over Mr Fantino’s reversal on pot.
Prominent cannabis advocate Dana Larsen called Mr Fantino’s decision to enter the market “shameful” and “unacceptable”.
“I would not buy from those people,” he says, adding he would tell other marijuana users to do the same.
There is also concern the pot counterculture that flourished for decades will be elbowed out of a likely multi-billion dollar industry by a new corporate sector.
Mr Fantino is arguably among the more controversial entrepreneurs to join the “green rush”.
But a number of high-profile former police officers and politicians have jumped into the industry in recent years, including Mr Fantino’s Aleafia colleague and fellow ex-MP Gary Goodyear, former Ontario premier Ernie Eves and former deputy Toronto police chief Kim Derry.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001.