Article by Bill Kaufmann, Calgary Herald
Albertan Nathan Mison said it’s no accident he’s co-chairing a bid to empower the country’s cannabis sector as a crucial review of Canada’s legalization of the drug nears.
The province’s outsized presence in the country’s cannabis retail industry makes it likely that someone like him would help lead the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to supercharge the sector with a federally mandated review to begin three years after legalization.
“Alberta has four of the largest cannabis retailers in the world based here,” said Mison, a former executive with one of them, Edmonton-based Fire and Flower.
He pointed out that on June 2, Calgary-headquartered High Tide became the first Canadian cannabis retailer to be listed on the NASDAQ exchange.
“It’s because of Alberta’s leadership that these companies have been able to scale and grow,” said Mison, who’s also past-chair of the Alberta Cannabis Council.
Alberta also has by far the largest number of cannabis stores per capita in Canada.
But that critical mass of expertise and its counterparts in other provinces are needed to weigh in on a review of the Federal Cannabis Act, which itself triggers a review of how legalization has worked and what can improve it three years in, said Mison.
That should include a dramatic liberalization of highly restricted marketing and consumption rules governing the industry, he said.
“The feds haven’t done anything on cannabis lounges — why can’t we have conversations where we have cannabis infused in foods and cannabis cocktails (to be served there)?” said Mison.
While Canada dithers on consumption cafes, border states including Michigan and New York are moving ahead on them, he said.
The industry is also seeking to lift the 10-mg cap on THC for individual edible sales and constraints on packaging — both governed by federal law and also areas in which U.S. states have a more liberalized approach.Tight limits on the in-store promotion of brands is another sore spot that should be included in the review, said Mison and John Carle, executive director of the Alberta Cannabis Council.
“Just as you can sample wine or beer in a liquor store, you should be able to have a hoot of a joint or consume a tiny amount of edible just to get the flavour,” said Carle.
“You can have a big Budweiser display but in our stores, all you can talk about is how much THC there is in a product and how much it costs — it doesn’t make for a very healthy industry.”
The current 30-gram possession limit for legal cannabis should also be increased, he said.
Nearly three years of recreational legalization has dispelled critics’ worst fears of its societal effects and the industry should be rewarded for operating responsibly, said both men.
“For three years we’ve learned these lessons — why don’t we loosen these rules?” said Mison.
Ottawa should also loosen product excise stamp restrictions that prevent interprovincial trade, he said.
The biggest barrier holding back the industry’s development is a mental one, with a stigmatized view of cannabis persisting, said Mison.
“Our politicians are still caught in the stereotypical tropes of the past. . . . we have to get away from the fear we can’t talk about cannabis,” he said.