Even attendees at Canada’s biggest cannabis trade show, Lift, on this weekend at Metro Convention Centre, had mixed feelings about legalization, with some worried government control and corporatization would crush the little guy.
Longtime head shop owner Luke Reynolds sees recreational marijuana in Canada eventually rolling out “like Tim Hortons and Starbucks” on every corner.
“It will be government run and I think they’re going to crush all the little guys like us who started this movement in the first place,” said Reynolds, owner of PipeDreamz in Ajax, while selling his vaporizers and pipes for pot smokers at Lift, Canada’s biggest cannabis convention, Saturday in Toronto.
With legalization of recreational weed in Canada slated for July 2018, there was a lot of uncertainty in the air — among other distinct aromas — at the massive expo of all things herbal that runs through Sunday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
A new study released at the convention backs up some of the pot paranoia out there, with support clearly sliding for legalization of recreational marijuana since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the July, 2018 launch date.
The latest Hill+Knowlton Strategies survey shows approval has dropped to 43 per cent from polling done this time last year, which found 60 per cent of Canadians support pot sales.
Recent recommendations put forward by the federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization, coupled with the announcement that recreational marijuana will be legal sometime on or near July 1, 2018, “is making this whole issue real for people,” said Ivan Ross Vrána, senior director, Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
“People were excited at first. But today the flavour of public opinion has shifted,” he said, noting the public is “more guarded and uneasy” about the issue.
The report found 41 per cent of Canadians feel Ottawa is rushing legalization, while 53 per cent said they feel the federal government is underestimating the overall impact it will have on society.
H+K’s vice-president of public affairs Omar Khan, former chief of staff to Ontario’s health minister Eric Hoskins, also told the convention crowd that Ontarians “will not see co-location of alcohol and cannabis” once it becomes legal, even though the LCBO is very interested in selling it.
“The federal task force strongly recommended against it from a public health perspective. Also the provinces won’t want to further normalize the use of cannabis; selling it next to beverage alcohol can lead to normalization,” he said in an interview.
“You don’t see cigarettes sold with alcohol either,” he said. Alcohol and tobacco are both government-regulated products.
The poll says among those who support a completely government-run sales network, 46 per cent prefer to see dedicated marijuana-only stores (which Reynolds of PipeDreamz predicts), while 41 per cent would like to see it operate out of a separate entrance and area in provincially-run booze stores and 18 per cent would like to see it sold alongside alcohol.
Meanwhile among those who support a mixed public-private system, 52 per cent favour dedicated marijuana dispensaries and 43 per cent would like to see it in pharmacies like Shoppers Drug Mart.
Reynolds said he found the Lift expo had a decidedly more corporate feel to it this year, with the emphasis on the business and supply side as legalization nears.
“Too many suits, not as much fun,” he said.
He echoed the sentiments of many in attendance who were bummed to find the convention’s “vape lounge”, which hosted a steady flow of people using vapourizers, were not given free product samples as was the case last year.
“We were handing out samples earlier today then we got in trouble,” said a young woman dressed as a stewardess at a booth flogging Flyte-branded pens and carts that vapourize oil, along with Flyte snack gummy bears.
The convention has nearly double the booths and exhibits this year, with attendance expected to reach 15,000, up from 10,000 last year.
Source: 420Intel – Politics