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The Canadian government has turned marijuana into a “gong show”, says Brett Wilson

Canadian government
Brett Wilson on BNN Bloomberg

Brett Wilson has a bone to pick with the Canadian government over how it has handled the rollout of legal weed, where too many bureaucrats have had too much say in how the rec pot business is run.

“We had a running start on the world when Trudeau and his colleagues said, ‘We want to legalize recreational marijuana.’ Unfortunately, the framework was an only in-government approach where they allowed both provincial and municipal interference —and I call it interference because it’s a complete gong show trying to get from processing into distribution and then into the dispensaries,” says Wilson, chairman of Canoe Financial and former Dragons’ Den panelist, to BNN Bloomberg on Monday.

“The jobs are there, the work is there but regulatory impediments are extraordinary,” he said.

The story so far has Canada making marijuana for medical purposes legal back in 2001 and then after a decade and a couple of iterations of the medical cannabis act, recreational bud became a reality in the fall of 2018, with edible products set to become regulated in October of this year.

Last month, Health Canada made changes to the licensed producer application process, now requiring applicants to have grow facilities already constructed before applying. The intent was to cut down on the number of approved applications that in the end didn’t amount to verified businesses, although many have criticized the new rules as another example of a heavy-handed approach.

“We go from a situation where if you wanted to submit an application, you submit your paperwork and you sit and wait to hear back from Health Canada,” said Matt Maurer, to BNN Bloomberg in May. “Now you’re asked to build a $30-million to $40-million facility before you even submit your application.” Wilson, who is an advisor for cannabis investment fund Green Acre Capital, says the process in US states like Colorado has been much smoother.

“We’ve over regulated the Canadian industry relative to what they’re doing in the US. The same time frame to take a year and a half to get going here in Canada, I can do that in three months in the US,” Wilson says. “They are open for business.”

“Every level wants to regulate [in Canada],” he says. “We have the province regulating the number of pot shops in the city, then the city will come in and say, ‘Well, we don’t want one too close to this school.’ And so there’s all sorts of regulatory bureaucracy —and let’s never assume that the government is best known for efficiency— so you layer on three levels of inefficiency and no wonder it’s a gong show.”

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About The Author /

Jayson MacLean
Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.

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