Article by Jenna Valleriani, Lift News
As we move towards legalization there have been many different arguments for how cannabis should be produced and distributed. One of the least discussed approaches in the legalization conversation, across both Canada and the US, has been around non-profit models. The Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), a public health and research organization, has been advocating the Quebec government for exactly this, in order to maximize public health and safety outcomes. The INSPQ work closely with Quebec’s Minister of Health and Social Services to advise on the impact of various public health policies on the population of Quebec.
At the Harm Reduction International Conference 2017 in Montreal last week, Francois Gagnon, the NCCHPP’s and INSPQ’s Research Officer, presented on a fascinating and geographically diverse cannabis-focused panel. Gagnon gave an interesting presentation using the examples of alcohol, tobacco and their medications as a framework for production and distribution that has had extensive negative public health outcomes on the Canadian population. Rather than the legal status of a substance, Gagnon framed the central issue of other legal substances as commercialization—a model that is based on profit and growth. This is supported by data coming from the EU, where the legal status of cannabis in a variety of countries shows no predictable relationship with patterns of use; however, there is an observed relationship between commercialization and use.
The argument for a non-profit model was simply that allowing corporations guided by profit would eventually lead to practices that encourage more users, heavier consumption and lead to lower cost production practices. Again, we’ve certainly seen this through the history of alcohol, as well as tobacco, in Canada. The INSPQ believes a combination of non-profit producers, licensed cooperatives and home growing would have the best outcomes for Quebec, and for Canada more broadly.
A complete non-profit model wasn’t the only option discussed, but rather it was part of a broader discussion that also acknowledged the “political realities” of the landscape: that there is an existing for-profit licensed producer under the medical program based in Quebec. The presentation also focused on a non-profit distribution system that would be completely within Quebec’s jurisdiction. However, the idea of mandating only non-profit licensed production in Quebec doesn’t quite line up.
First, let me start off by saying I really like the idea in theory, and there is certainly a space for this as one potential option in the cannabis market. Gagnon’s presentation was also met by a very loud applause, and it was clear the international audience was certainly intrigued by a shift from for-profit to non-profit in cannabis production and distribution. However, I was rather surprised by the lack of acknowledgement that licensing for LPs falls outside of provincial jurisdiction—why advocate for a system that can’t actually be implemented at the provincial level?