OPINION: It is high time the government normalized its relationship with cannabis

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Author of the article:

Special offer for Toronto Sun, Omar Khan

Publication date:

11/20/202119 hours ago3 minutes read 13 comments Cannabis Satival flower bud in greenhouse, marijuana flower bud background, herbal medicine. Cannabis Satival flower bud in greenhouse, marijuana flower bud background, herbal medicine. Photo to file Photo /Getty Images

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By GEORGE SMITHERMAN and OMAR KHAN

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The cannabis sector contributed $ 17 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product for the year ended July 2021.

In three years, the contribution of adult use and medicinal cannabis to Canada’s GDP has grown to rival the dairy industry’s $ 20 billion GDP.

The growth shows no signs of slowing down.

Sales of legal cannabis products by licensed pharmacies are set to dwarf $ 4 billion on an annualized basis in 2021 and are projected to exceed $ 5 billion in 2022. It is estimated that illicit cannabis sales that are outrageously marketed and distributed to Canadians are at least as large as the legal market (another roughly $ 4 billion per year).

Compared to alcohol, Canadian cannabis sales have exceeded or will soon exceed annual retail sales of wine ($ 8 billion) or beer ($ 9.3 billion). It’s worth noting that, unlike beer or wine, all adult cannabis sold in Canada is made in Canada, which amplifies the impact of cannabis on Canada’s GDP.

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In other words, the legal cannabis industry is impressive in size and geographically dispersed.

With these GDP and retail sales numbers, one would expect the Canadian government to realize the potential of a rapidly growing cannabis industry to add to its social and economic agenda. The general refrain, however, is that the government has no economic view of the cannabis industry.

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As a result, the state-licensed and regulated cannabis industry does not have fair access to various state programs and services that are available to almost all industrial sectors, especially high-growth sectors like cannabis.

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With equal access to federal government programs and services, the cannabis sector can bring even greater economic and social benefits to Canadians.

To date, cannabis license holders have created tens of thousands of quality jobs in hundreds of communities in every province. In addition, legal retailers have created thousands of jobs in 2,800 locations across Canada. Indirect jobs were created by new and established providers of ancillary services.

The legal cannabis sector works with colleges and universities on research and development of innovative products for the health and wellness market. The export of medical cannabis promises to become a multi-billion dollar industry that is all about global leadership.

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Enforcement collaboration between licensees, legal retailers, and the government could improve public safety and prevent hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue from being diverted. Rethinking and revising the over-regulation of the “nanny state” will enable the legal industry to compete with rampant illegal market producers and sellers.

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After three years of legal cannabis and three general elections, it is time for the government to normalize its relationship with cannabis. Acceptance of cannabis by political and state elites lags far behind that of cannabis in Canada.

For “Official Ottawa” this means ending the current practice of referring the cannabis industry to Health Canada only to learn that Health Canada has no economic mandate.

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With a willing government partner, the legal cannabis industry could add to its already significant contribution to Canada’s GDP while supporting the Canadian government’s efforts to create a sustainable economy and a diverse, inclusive and just society.

– George Smitherman is President and CEO of the Canadian Cannabis Council, the national representative of licensed cannabis producers and processors, and was previously Ontario’s Minister for Health and Long-Term Care.

– Omar Khan is Senior Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs for High Tide Inc., Canada’s largest recreational cannabis retailer.

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