Article by Alex Shiff, Lift News
With legalization fast approaching, provincial governments are only now starting to awaken to the reality of the significant policy issues facing them. On Friday September 8th, the new Government of British Columbia presented their throne speech to the Legislative Assembly. A throne speech is an opportunity for government to present their agenda and policy priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Notably absent that Friday was any mention of the substantial work ahead for the B.C. government to address the provincial responsibilities associated with the federal government’s legalization of cannabis.
The cannabis industry should not be surprised that the government has not made cannabis legalization a public policy priority. British Columbia recently concluded a long, drawn out provincial election where cannabis was barely mentioned by either major political party. At official debates and informal press events the issue of cannabis was conspicuously absent—only being discussed in passing—with the B.C. Liberals criticizing Premier John Horgan for a fundraiser targeted at the cannabis industry.
This was truly a lost opportunity. Elections are a chance for voters and industry to differentiate between the approaches that differing political parties will take on major policy issues. The new B.C. Government, led by Premier John Horgan and the NDP, will decide how the future of B.C.’s multibillion-dollar cannabis industry will look. Politicians should have been compelled to stake out public positions and tell voters what their plans were for the crucial policy choices ahead.
Sadly, this is consistent with an ongoing pattern of inaction in the cannabis industry across Canada. A simple search of the B.C. lobbyist registry shows that very little advocacy work is ongoing in Victoria. Industry stakeholders must step up and more effectively lobby federal, provincial, and municipal governments across Canada. As a former political staffer, I regularly participated in meetings where stakeholders in highly regulated industries made their needs and wants clear to elected officials. Even the most ubiquitous and entrenched industries, such as beef, concrete or universities, have armies of consultants and lobbyists constantly advocating on their behalves to government and the public at large. This is even more important for the budding cannabis industry, where every government decision made today will have a significant impact on the bottom lines of stakeholders across the country in the years to come.