This Week in Cannabis: Top Stories From Across Canada From Mar. 1-7

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This week in Cannabis: Manitoba claimed cannabis sales canceled out $6M in beer sales, Toronto’s Hot Box turned away a medical patient wishing to vape in the lounge because of changes to Ontario smoking laws, and UN International Narcotics Control Board dismisses cannabis’s medical value, and says “morphine is still the best” for pain.

We’ve rounded up this week’s top stories from across Canada.

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UN Drug Body Complains Medical Cannabis Leads to Legalization

In its 2018 annual report, the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) laments that “poorly managed” medical cannabis programs “may have contributed to the legalization of non-medical cannabis use, contrary to the international drug control treaties.”

While the INCB remains displeased that Canada is breaching drug treaty obligations by legalizing cannabis, their complaint is grounded in the conviction that cannabis has—per its inclusion in Schedule I of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances—“the capacity to produce a state of dependence and constitute a public and social problem.” (The report also names an array of theoretical adverse medical harms connected, however weakly, to cannabis, including damage to adolescent brain development, “disrupted adolescent development,” and “mental illness and psychoses.”

MJ Biz Daily analyst reported INCB president Viroj Sumyai added that “the real [medical] potential [for cannabis] is still limited,” and that there were only “four acceptable medical indications.” For pain, he said, “morphine is still the best.” When journalists asked Sumyai why the INCB focused on Uruguay and Canada as its primary rulebreakers, but ignored “countries breaking the rules with extrajudicial killings [of those suspected of breaking drug laws]. He replied something like ‘it’s hard with strong leaders.’

Manitoba Finance Minister Would Rather You Spent that $6M on Beer

For many, a $6M shift of consumer interest from alcohol to cannabis would represent a public health win. For Manitoba finance minister Scott Fielding, however, the potential loss of millions in beer sales he predicted would occur was proof that cannabis would result in no net revenue. “When cannabis is introduced to a marketplace, what actually happens is beer sales goes down. We anticipate that our beer sales are going to go down by upwards of $6 million dollars,” Fielding said.

Leader of the NDP opposition Wab Kinew shot back, “If this government can’t make money selling weed then I think their reputation as good managers of money is grossly overstated.” Fielding’s prediction of losses was based on US states’ responses to legalization. In the US, however, reports from both the Distilled Spirits Council and the Brewers Association have found legalization did not affect spirits and beer sales, respectively.

Roach Crushed by Ontario Ban on Vape Lounges

Across the Canadian cannabis scene, few figures are as present as activist and business-owner Abi Roach, proprietor of Toronto’s Hotspot Lounge, who’s been serving medical cannabis patients since the dawn of Canadian medical legalization in 2000.

Roach’s long history of advocacy made her story of having to turn a medical customer away from her former vape lounge due to changes to the Smoke Free Ontario Act all the sadder.

In a post to Reddit, Roach described having to turn away a senior citizen who brought cannabis to her café and asked for a vaporizer and a cup of tea. Under the new laws, Roach can no longer allow customers to vaporize in her lounge. “The current amendments to the Smoke Free Ontario Act not only equate cannabis vaporizers with e-cigarettes but also tobacco,” Roach argued. Ironically, the shift away from vaporizer lounges has pushed cannabis users back to smoking, which introduces particulate, including tar, to the lungs.

To Do List

Cannabis for Enhanced Spiritual Wellness

RED DEER, AB – Ommmm… Are you consuming cannabis as a tool for enhanced spiritual wellness? Wondering how you can use the herb in a more mindful manner? Learn more about how the medicine has been used in ancient and modern cultures to connect to higher forces at this event hosted by Ellementa Red Deer on Mar. 9 at The Soul Centre. Admission costs $15.

Cannabis & Hemp Expo – Calgary

CALGARY, AB – Join industry leaders from across Canada at the BMO Centre on Mar. 9. The interactive forum aims to educate on the latest technology, research, and benefits of cannabis. Tickets are $15.