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Weed at work: N.L. employers prepare for legalization

June 6th,2018


Lawyer Blair Pritchett leading marijuana in the workplace seminar in St. John’s.

Blair Pritchett is helping businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador prepare for legal cannabis. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

In anticipation of marijuana, dry herb, weed vaporizers, becoming legal across Newfoundland and Labrador, and in the rest of Canada, employers still have many unanswered questions.

Some of them have been turning to lawyer Blair Pritchett, a partner at McInnes Cooper in St. John’s.

He led a half day seminar on Tuesday at Memorial University to brief them about what they’ll have to look out for when pot is legalized.

“I think the biggest issue is going to be … the issue of residual intoxication,” said Pritchett in an interview with CBC Radio’s On the Go.

“A lot of drugs … we have a more firm understanding about how long they stay in your system, how long they’re psychoactive, and how long they impair your performance, and marijuana that’s very much up in the air.”

He said it also isn’t clear how many people will start smoking weed when it’s finally legal.

“There’s a small part of me that thinks that this may be another Y2K phenomenon,” he said.

“That [day] will come along and the world will keep spinning, and the people that consume marijuana in their own time in their own way will continue to do so and we won’t see a serious change in circumstances.”
Strict drug testing laws in Canada

One of the things employers will want to do is make sure their employees aren’t using or impaired from marijuana while at work.

Pritchett said in Canada employers can only test employees for intoxication if there’s reasonable cause, or if it’s suspected following a workplace accident.

“It’s certainly not like the United States where you can randomly test your workforce as you see fit,” he said.

In the meantime, employers will have to assess on the job performance on a case-by-case basis.

He’s hopeful that after legalization there will be more evidence of how long the effects of marijuana linger after ingestion.

“Until there’s a bit of an advance in the scientific understanding it’s going to be very difficult to sort out when can you comfortably [know] somebody is no longer impaired.” said Pritchett.

“But at the end of day, that uncertainty about how many more people will be using, how much bigger a problem might on the job intoxication be, that’s what scares people right now.”

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Veterans with PTSD to take Ottawa to court over cuts to medical marijuana funding

May 8th, 2018

New Brunswick veterans with PTSD are preparing to take the federal government to court in hopes of winning a declaration that Veteran’s Affairs Canada violated their rights when it reduced the amount of medicinal marijuana it would cover.

Members of the group use the drug to treat their service-related injuries. In an unusual move, instead of seeking payments for damages, the veterans plan to ask a federal court to rule that VAC violated its obligation to vets last May, when it reduced the daily allowance of medical cannabis by 70 per cent, from 10 grams to three.

David Lutz, the Saint John-based lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs, said they want to be compensated for enough cannabis to avoid resorting to prescription drugs to control symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions. The lawsuit, which has yet to be filed, could also seek a declaration that VAC must address the rights violation by restoring funding to its previous level.

“We are asking for a declaration by the court that reducing from 10 grams to three grams is a violation of the government’s obligation to the veterans,” Mr. Lutz said. “We need to make a new law here.”

When the cuts were instituted last May, more than 2,500 veterans across the country had authorization to use more than three grams of medicinal marijuana a day to treat symptoms of PTSD, chronic pain and more, even though scientific evidence on its use as a treatment is scant.

The cuts forced all of those veterans onto lower doses and many former soldiers told The Globe and Mail they tried to take their own lives to avoid relapsing with uncontrollable symptoms. Some followed through, including one veteran who told his family he could not survive on the reduced dose and killed himself after just one week.

One year later, funding has been restored for nearly half of the veterans whose coverage was cut to three grams, in many cases up to 10 grams a day. Those who have signed onto the effort to launch a class-action lawsuit – which is being funded by Veterans for Healing, an advocacy and support organization in Oromocto, N.B. – want to ensure nothing similar happens to vets in the future.

“It’s not about money, it’s about doing what’s right,” said Jamie Keating, a Saint John-based veteran who will be the named plaintiff. It is also backed by well-known veteran and cannabis advocate Fabian Henry. “You can’t just cut vets off cold turkey when something works,” Mr. Keating said, adding: “If it was opiates, they wouldn’t be able to just stop.”

Costs of VAC’s medical marijuana had skyrocketed to more than $60-million – making it the most costly item in the department’s drug-benefit program – and the lack of science to support using cannabis as a treatment factored prominently in the decision to scale back.



Canada’s marijuana millionaires surprised by stock surge

April 4th, 2018

Terry Booth didn’t expect his life would come full circle, thanks to canadian marijuana.

He sold pot in high school, peddling quarter ounces for $25 to help out his dad. He spent the next two decades working as an electrician and entrepreneur, and planned to semi-retire to the golf course after taking a step back from his construction permit firm. That idea went to pot, literally, when his business partner Steve Dobler said his brother-in-law was looking for investors on a marijuana play.

“Steve’s a pretty conservative guy; I thought he was kidding,” said Booth, 53, sitting in a hotel conference room in Edmonton, not far from where Aurora Cannabis Inc. is building a greenhouse the size of almost 14 football fields. “But he wasn’t.”

Booth and Dobler are the largest individual holders of Aurora, Canada’s second-largest marijuana firm. Their combined stakes are now approaching $200 million, making them among the wealthiest shareholders in Canada’s growing crop of newly-minted marijuana millionaires.

As Canada moves to legalize recreational cannabis, the value of the nascent market has ballooned to more than $25 billion, swelling the ranks of affluent pot investors who have significant holdings in companies such as Canopy Growth Corp. and Aphria Inc. The U.S. legal market is expected to reach $75 billion (U.S.) in sales by 2030, almost as large as North America’s soft drink market, according to research firm Cowen & Co. Canadian sales could soon be worth between $7 billion and $12 billion a year, Beacon Securities estimates.

Even after a recent sell-off, many marijuana-related stocks have more than doubled in the last year. Never mind that recreational marijuana won’t be legal until later this year and some publicly traded companies have yet to make a sale.

“Insiders have created a huge amount of wealth for themselves and even early investors,” PI Financial analyst Jason Zandberg said in a telephone interview. “It reminds me of back in the dot-com days. You always heard of a friend of a friend who got in early and got their company bought out.”

Companies initially began piling into the sector in 2013 after Canada changed the rules governing medical use to allow access through licensed producers. Still, before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wooed voters in the 2015 election with a promise to legalize recreational marijuana, publicly listed medical pot firms were trading for pennies. In mid-2015, Aphria traded for less than $1 (Canadian), while PharmaCan, which later renamed itself Cronos Group Inc. and listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market, hovered around 30 cents.


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Sale of recreation marijuana in Canada delayed….

March 12th, 2018 

  Canadians will have to wait until at least early August and possibly as late as early September to legally purchase recreational marijuana. That’s the bottom line now that senators have struck a deal to hold a final vote by June 7 on the legislation that will usher in the legal cannabis regime. As recently as last week, the Trudeau government was insisting it was on track for legalization in July. But given the Senate timetable, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor conceded Thursday that’s not going to happen.

“If you do the math, you can certainly see it certainly won’t be July 2018,” she said.

Assuming Bill C-45 is passed by the Senate by June 7, royal assent would follow almost immediately. But it would take another two or three months before legal weed was actually available for purchase. That’s because, as Petitpas Taylor reiterated Thursday, provincial and territorial governments need eight to 12 weeks following royal assent to prepare for retail sales. In other words, legal pot won’t be available until at least early August, and possibly not until a month later. Petitpas Taylor said legal cannabis will go on sale in all provinces and territories at the same time, which suggests if just one of them requires the full 12 weeks to get ready, they’ll all have to wait.

As part of the deal struck by Sen. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate, with other Senate factions, initial debate on Bill C-45 will continue until March 22. That’s three weeks beyond the deadline Harder announced earlier this week, when he threatened to move a motion to cut off second reading debate if senators didn’t agree voluntarily to end it by March 1. However, the additional three weeks includes a two-week parliamentary break so, in reality, senators will get just an extra three days of debate.





Global News:

Alcohol and Marijuana won’t be seen together in B.C. stores

 February 5th, 2018

Only cannabis and cannabis accessories will be on the shelves in legal marijuana dispensaries in B.C come July. The prohibition is one of several details Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth released Monday. Countless more will come out in the next few months before the new era of legal cannabis arrives in Canada on July 1. Farnworth said the government’s adaptation will carry on for a long time after that. And a lot of the further details will involve municipal governments, which have significant say in shaping the retail landscape and have been grappling with how to do so.

July is only the beginning…

All governments will be assessing and refining the regimes being put in place for months and years to come.

B.C. is the one taking shape, looks to be a middle-of-the-road approach comparable to what other provinces are putting together. Cannabis will be sold in both public and private stores, but only the government-run side will be able to offer online sales. Various sensible restrictions are imposed, but public use will be allowed, although not in high-traffic areas like parks or beaches. Other jurisdictions allow use only in private dwellings.

Interest groups urged Farnworth to allow cannabis to be sold in through B.C. liquor stores, but he was warned off that idea by public health officials who didn’t want to see alcohol and marijuana available together. Very few jurisdictions are going that route, so the government stores will be stand-alone cannabis-only shops. And there are no distance limits from schools or other retailers, although municipalities can set them.

The decision to sell separately from alcohol will involve building a brand-new network of dozens of government stores from a standing start. A separate wholesale system is also planned.

That is only one part of the tens of millions in up-front costs B.C. will incur, well before it starts bringing income in, by way of sales and taxes. Which means mark up on Marijuana and weed vape products.

Marijuana legalization provides Canadian entrepreneurs with the opportunity of a lifetime

January 10th, 2018

The prospectors in Canada’s new market are working hard and cutting deals as we steadily approach the nationwide legalization of marijuana and weed vaporizers. The Canadian marijuana industry is currently valued at more than $22 billion. This figure includes growing and retail sales, transportation, security, edibles, taxes, and tourism.

Canadian entrepreneurs could also be at the forefront of a growing global enterprise. Not only exporting cannabis, but the technology used to grow it. Marijuana sales have amounted in billions of dollars while employing many people. However, this is on the black market run by illegal criminal organizations.

The first major test for cannabis entrepreneurs is whether or not that can capture the nations estimated five million customers and take them away from the black market. “Just like any other competitor entering a new market, the incumbents aren’t going to give up easily,” says Kyle Murray, vice dean of the University of Alberta’s school of business.

Replacing the black market

   Many provinces are still discussing how exactly they plan to sell marijuana and weed vaporizers to the public. The only two that have announced a retail plan are Ontario and New Brunswick. Both have agreed on government-owned stores. According to an analyst with Mackie Research Capital Corporation, they are making a big mistake. Greg McLeish things that government-run retail stores will only help the black market. “These guys have been growing for a long time,” he says, noting that price and convenience will be key in determining where people buy their weed.

When Corporate and cannabis cultures combine

  Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis is one of the early leaders in the industry, among those actively recruiting from the black market. “The hybrid culture that we’ve created, that uniquely hybrid culture has been incredibly satisfying to be part of,” says Cam Battley, Aurora’s executive vice president. 

He says, “Aurora is made up of suits like me, people from business backgrounds as well as people from the cannabis culture and have extensive knowledge and passion for the cannabis plant itself.” The company is currently producing medical marijuana at its 5,000-square meter facility.

More money, more jobs

   The impact of legalizing marijuana and weed vapors could be large, in the area of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. Cannabis companies that emerge will need to hire people like accountants, customer service professionals, packagers, security, lawyers, etc. These same organizations will need to rent out office space, purchase furniture, pay taxes, and hire a lot of new employees.

Governments are currently spending millions of dollars on education, legal authority and testing. Labs are also receiving a boost as part of research and development. The legalization of cannabis and weed vaporizers provides the potential for many new jobs. People with the skill of recognizing the subtle different qualities of a bong rip could find themselves with a career in bud-tending. The opportunities are endless.




Marijuana related charges on the rise in Montreal despite sinking trend in rest of Canada

December 1st, 2017

Marijuana charges have been occurring increasingly in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec, even though the rest of Canada has been seeing a steady decline in cannabis-related charges.

For Canadians over the age of 12, 17,700 were charged with possession last year alone. This number is down from the 21,300 charged just two years ago, in 2015.

Even the more serious trafficking charges are in decline, while production and import charges remained level. This trend has been seen across a variety of provinces, and in a majority of them we are seeing record-low charge rates. But for some reason, Montreal and other Quebec cities have been evading the trend and going their own course. Charges have been on the rise, steadily increasing since 1998.

Eric Sutton, a Montreal-based criminal defense lawyer, said he was surpirsed by the discrepancy. He also said that he had noticed concernes of the medical community and other lobby groups being aired in Quebec media, more than any other places in the country.


“In Quebec, there has been a fairly hot debate, and that may have influenced policing and the attitude of prosecutors,” Sutton stated. “Legalizing something doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s a legal decision, not a moral decision.”

Sutton also mentioned that prosecutors usually consider somebodies prior criminal record, along with other factors to determine whether charges are pursued or left alone.


He said the drive to legalize “reflects an understanding that so many people use marijuana and, like it or not, it’s probably here to stay.” President of Canadian Police Association, Tom Stamatakis said that, “In certain police districts, the fading number of charges may be a question of resources and capacity.” He also mentioned that police have not targeted simple possession “for years now.”

Stamatakis stated, “The focus is on high-level trafficking, organized crime, and other related activities that are more serious and have a bigger impact on the community.”

Later saying, “I would anticipate that police forces are redirecting priorities on the basis that marijuana will become legal in the near future.”


It’s not clear whether or not Montreal police are actually doing that.


Montreal Coun. Alex Norris stated, “There’s a much bigger market here, there’s much more activity, more grow-ops, just as a percentage of criminality.” He was speculating on what could cause the discrepancy, which he thought to be pretty interesting. 

Alex is a member of Montreal’s public safety commission and plans to ask police Chief Philippe Pichet about the topic at the commissions next formal gathering.


Historically, Quebec police have been more lenient and tolerant when it comes to cannabis possession, compared to other provinces. In 1998, there was an average of 53 people charged with possession per 100,000 in the province. Canada’s rate at the time was 76. 

The rate in Quebec has been rising steadily ever since, following right behind the Canadian trend, but still recording lower every year up until now.


Blog Publish Date: 10-16-2017