As many of you know we’re putting together a coalition to lobby for change in proposed regulations and generally advocate for the cannabis beverage industry on an ongoing basis. I was recently elected co-chair of the board of directors of the organization so I will be instrumental in making sure we focus our efforts and the organization’s resources in the right place. I wanted to share the speech I gave at the first meeting of the organization’s members which took place earlier this week by telephone. Here is the transcript:
We’re on this phone call because maybe for some of us it’s subconscious – maybe for some of us it’s very conscious. But We’re all on this phone call because we’ve read these proposed rules something inside us is nagging at us, telling us that there’s something just not right about these proposed regulations for cannabis beverages. Don’t get me wrong – they could be worse – but you’re on this phone call – you’re considering getting yourself and your company involved in a lobbying effort because something tells you that these proposed regs are not right are not just and they need to change.
And there’s likely a good reason you feel this way. I don’t know how much experience you have with lobbying. I don’t have a ton but I know enough to know that policy isn’t ALWAYS made to benefit and protect the people – at least not entirely. And I also I know enough to know that policy doesn’t always change to suit those with the deepest pockets – although quite often it does. I know enough to know that the number one thing that changes policy – the thing that those with those deep, deep pockets are always trying to buy with their money – is relationships. Relationships with those who make policy. And in this case that’s where most of us are at a disadvantage. You see we’re on this phone to talk about a list of proposed regulations which were made by Health Canada. And while some do, most of us on this phone call don’t have very deep or long standing relationships with Health Canada. But there are some companies out there that do have those relationships – the specific licensed producers who were the first in Canada to get their licenses. Those who have been working with Health Canada for a long time. And these proposed regulations have the fingerprints of these incumbent LP’s all over them.
Do the entrenched licensed producers want alcohol companies competing with them – of course they don’t. So they’re trying to craft regulations that prevent alcohol companies from entering the industry. Do the entrenched cannabis companies want beverage companies to be able to produce cannabis beverages in their existing highly efficient facilities? Of course they don’t. That could drive these licensed producers out of business. So they’ve been working with Health Canada to craft regulations to make sure that cannabis beverages can only be made in THEIR facilities.
What we’re up against is a classic David and Goliath scenario. I mean these certain incumbent LPs have every advantage. They have the relationships with the regulators. They have a lot of money to lobby and push. And most importantly they have fear on their side. Regulators are afraid of what’s going to happen when they legalize cannabis beverages so they’re easily nudged towards more restrictive policies. So the end of the day we’re sitting here on the phone contemplating getting into a fight we shouldn’t win. But David did beat Goliath and we can win this.
I’m so sure we can win this. We won’t get everything we want. But I’m so sure we can get some of the big changes pushed through. Why? Because some of these proposed regulations look like industry getting greedy. There are proposed regulations on this list which are designed to clearly benefit select industry incumbents so much so that they do so at the expense of public health. And the agency promulgating these rules? It’s called Health Canada. Its mandate is to protect public health. So where we can highlight that these regulations stand in the way of pubic health, we have a chance of winning.
Let’s take an example. There’s a proposed regulation which says that cannabis beverages may not have similarities to alcohol or have brands associated with alcohol. Think about this for a moment. For generations children have been conditioned not to drink things that look smell and taste like beer and wine and spirits. They know the brands associated with beer and wine and spirits are for adults. You can leave a six pack of beer in your fridge go out for the day and your kids won’t drink it. But what if you left a six pack of grape soda in your fridge? Even if you tell the kids not to drink it there’s a good chance a can will be missing when you get back home. And by forcing cannabis companies not to make beverages which have elements in common with alcohol – let me tell you there aren’t that many other choices. These regulations effectively force companies to make sweet sugary beverages like infused sodas and juices the exact type of beverage that will appeal to children. Try telling your kid that the grape soda in this packaging is OK for him to drink, and the grape soda in this other packaging is NOT ok for him to drink. If Health Canada really wanted to keep marijuana out of the hands of children if they want to avoid accidental ingestion by minors – which is their mandate – they should encourage cannabis products to look and smell and feel like alcohol products – which kids know not to drink. But instead they’re pushing manufacturers away from such products and towards sugary beverages which are both appealing to children on the one hand – and full of sugar which is a carcinogen, causes obesity, and everyone knows it’s terrible for you. And you and I understand what’s going on here. The government is trying to protect its incumbent players in this industry from getting crushed by big alcohol rolling in. And that’s an admirable thing to do. But you can’t do that at the expense of public health. You can’t do that at the expense of Canadian families. This is a point we can win on.
I’ll give you another example. There’s a proposed regulation that Cannabis products can’t be made in facilities that also make alcohol or food products. Who has those kind of facilities? Do any of the incumbent cannabis companies? No but big alcohol does, big beverage companies do. So this is another attempt to protect our homegrown industry. Which again I think is a nice thing to do. But when you really think about it, making beverages in a safe reliable and consistent manner. Making beverages which don’t give everyone e-coli or some other food born illness – that’s really hard. There are companies out there who have mastered this really hard thing – who have a perfect record of food pr beverage safety and here’s health Canada saying those companies – those companies are disqualified from making marijuana product s. When you see instances like that where you can just go to Health Canada and tell them they’re not doing their job if they pass these regulations. If you can show them that their proposed regulations are not in the interest of public health. But if we do this right. If we all push together we can change policy, we can change Canada, we can set a precedent and change the world. I’m American – so by nature I’m a fighter. I’ve got that revolutionary blood in me. And let me tell you it’s boiling right now.
Listen maybe I’m naive. Maybe It’s just the way my mother raised me but I have always believed that when you are fighting for what’s right and what is just you will win in the end. And in my experience – sometimes it takes a long, long time, and there’s a lot of ups and downs and sometimes you want to give up but in my experience, if you see it through, if you stick with it… if you fight for what’s right and what is just you will always win. That’s why I’m here. I’ve been through that dark valley enough times to know there’s light on the other end. I’m here to fight for what’s right and just.
This moment in time reminds me of a quote from one of the first settlers to reach the shores of America – his name was John Winthrop but John F. Kennedy made the quote famous many years later. He said “we are as a city upon a hill. The eyes of the world are watching.” We are about to be the first country in the world to federally legalize cannabis beverages. Everyone is watching us. The choices we make, the decisions we make will shape lives far beyond Canada. We have the chance to do this right. And if we do the world will follow our lead. And we will all make a lot of money.