Vancouver, Canada’s Marijuana Capital, Struggles to Tame the Black Market

VANCOUVER — In the pot-friendly city of Vancouver, illegal marijuana dispensaries outnumber Starbucks outlets, and among the most popular is Weeds, Glass and Gifts. There, in a relaxed space reminiscent of the coffee chain, jovial “budtenders” sell coconut chocolate bars infused with marijuana and customers smoke powerful pot concentrates at a sleek dab bar.

When Canada legalized recreational marijuana, on Oct. 17, one of the central aims was to shut down the thousands of illegal dispensaries and black market growers dotting the country. But taming an illegal trade estimated at 5.3 billion Canadian dollars is proving to be daunting.

Many of the products sold at Weeds, Glass and Gifts are banned under the new law, which restricts licensed retailers to selling fresh or dried cannabis, seeds, plants and oil. Yet the retailer’s owner, Don Briere, an ebullient 67-year-old and self-styled pot crusader, has no intention of shutting down his four Vancouver stores or changing his product lineup.

He even has plans for expansion with a new line of outlawed canine marijuana treats, which purport to reduce pet anxiety.

“We’ll keep selling what we are selling,” said Mr. Briere, who in 2001 was sentenced to four years in prison for being one of British Columbia’s most prolific pot producers.


The Canadian government faces many challenges in stamping out the illegal marijuana industry. For one, there are too many black market shops like Mr. Briere’s for the government to keep track of.

And as sluggish provincial bureaucracies struggle to manage a new regulatory system, licenses to operate legally are hard to come by, giving illegal sellers added impetus to defy the law.

At the same time, the police and the public have little appetite for a national crackdown.

“The government taking over the cannabis trade is like asking a farmer to build airplanes,” Mr. Briere added.

Canadian policymakers say legalization is a giant national undertaking that will take years to be enforced. Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s minister of public safety, argued that civic pressure and market forces would help gradually diminish the illegal trade.

“It’s a very Canadian way of doing things,” he said. “It won’t happen overnight.” There will, he added, be no mass raids, “guns and head-bashing.”

Nevertheless, he noted, newly created “community safety units” in British Columbia, staffed by 44 unarmed inspectors, have been given the power to raid dispensaries without a search warrant, seize illegal products and shut them down.

In the week since legalization took effect, there are signs of a chill, if a modest one.


In Toronto, police raided five illegal pot retailers, two days after the law went into effect. Dozens of others in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa have voluntarily closed their doors to avoid being shut out of the legal market.

Even Mr. Briere, who once owned 36 shops across Canada, is applying for government licenses for his stores, and has shuttered nine shops, including in Ottawa, Alberta and Saskatchewan. He is steering those customers to his illegal online shop instead.

Yet hundreds of black market pot outlets remain defiantly open, abetted by provincial governments slow to implement the new law.

On Oct. 17, only one legal government pot retailer opened in British Columbia, in the city of Kamloops, nearly a four-hour drive from Vancouver. That assured that Vancouver’s illicit trade would continue to thrive.

And that day, none of the roughly 100 illegal pot dispensaries in the city had the provincial licenses they needed to operate legally, even those that had applied for one.

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In Ontario, where the government’s online Ontario Cannabis Store has been overwhelmed with soaring demand, some pot smokers unwilling to wait five days for delivery are reverting to their illegal dealers instead.

“Definitely going to use my dealer from now on his business is going way up because of your crappy service,” one frustrated customer wrote on Twitter.

In Montreal, some underground dealers, who do home delivery, are challenging the new legal market by offering two-joints-for-the-price-of-one deals.

As cities across the country grapple with a new national experiment, Vancouver offers a striking cautionary tale about the challenges of policing the illegal trade.

In this picturesque multicultural port city less than a three-hour drive from Seattle, marijuana is as much a recreational drug as a state of mind. Young professionals toke before work, take pot-fueled hikes and chat about strains of vaunted “BC bud” — grown illegally near snow-covered mountains in the southeast of the province — as if discussing fine wine.


For decades, cannabis has been so deeply embedded in the social fabric of the city that illegal pot shops operated with impunity as so-called compassion clubs for those seeking medical marijuana, with the police largely turning a blind eye.

But in 2015, City Hall officials, fed up with the proliferation of black market dispensaries, including some selling to minors, passed tough regulations stipulating, among other things, that shops must be about 1,000 feet from schools, community centers or other outlets.

After dozens of dispensaries brazenly flouted the new rules, the city in 2016 began fining transgressors, issuing 3,729 tickets amounting to more than $3 million in fines. But the dispensaries mostly ignored them; only $184,250 has been paid.

Then the city began trying to shut down illegal operators with injunctions.

In March of this year, 53 dispensaries banded together to file a constitutional challenge, saying closing the operators would breach Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms by denying patients access to medical marijuana they purchased at the black market stores.

“The City is using legalization to try and impose Prohibition,” said Robert Laurie, the lawyer representing the dispensaries.

The case is before British Columbia’s Supreme Court.

Kerry Jang, a left-leaning councillor on the Vancouver City Council who is also a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, and who helped develop the 2015 rules, said the injunctions were necessary to root out “a wild West” of illegal dealers.

Today, those who want to operate legally must pass rigorous criminal background checks and apply for a $30,000 license from the city.

But Professor Jang conceded that the restrictiveness of the new federal cannabis law posed enforcement challenges. “If you make cannabis legal but restrict where you can use it, it will just go underground.”

The challenge of enforcement is all too visible on Vancouver’s gritty downtown east side, an epicenter of Canada’s opioid crisis. Hundreds of addicts sit sprawled on the pavement every day, shooting Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid that Professor Jang said killed, on average, seven people a week in Vancouver.

Traffic is periodically interrupted by the sound of sirens as police officers break up drug deals.


Chief Constable Del Manak, police chief of Victoria and president of the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police, noted that the police had to grapple with Fentanyl overdoses, violent crime and sex offenders, and must prioritize resources according to public safety.

Investigating whether British Columbia residents are violating the law by growing more than four pot plants per household is not a priority, he said.

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington State and Uruguay, he added, has shown that “it is naïve to think that just because cannabis is legalized, the criminal will walk away from a highly lucrative industry.”

Nevertheless, as the government floods the market with legal cannabis, prices are falling, squeezing out illegal growers. Black market growers who were able to fetch more than $3,000 United States dollars for a pound of cannabis five years ago complain that today they can barely get $1,000.

The new legal marijuana supply chain was in full force on a recent day outside of Vancouver at Pure Sunfarms, where immigrant workers in surgical masks were trimming buds from cannabis plants next to a sprawling greenhouse that once housed tomatoes.

Rob Hill, chief financial officer of Emerald Health Therapeutics, a licensed producer which owns part of Pure Sunfarms, predicted that it was only a matter of time before black market growers went out of business as consumers demanded the purity of government-approved pot, free of contaminants found in some street marijuana.

“We expect a new consumer market of women age 35-45 who will smoke pot instead of drinking chardonnay,” he said.

But Dana Larsen, owner of several illegal dispensaries in Vancouver, countered that underground cannabis cultivation remained deeply entrenched.

Legalization is doomed to fail, he added, because there is so little will to enforce it.

He said he had accumulated heavy unpaid fines from City Hall, had no intention of applying for a license, and was far more concerned about being able to provide cannabis to the elderly and ill customers who relied on him. “In Vancouver,” he said, “you have to make an effort to get busted.”



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World first clinical trial – impact of medicinal cannabis on Australians with malignant brain tumours

The phase 2 trial will examine whether high THC medicinal cannabis* can be tolerated by people with glioma (a type of brain tumour) and if it can affect tumour growth when taken with standard treatment, according to lead researcher Dr Janet Schloss, the Clinical Trials Coordinator at Endeavour College of Natural Health. (*THC is the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis)

“This will be the first clinical trial worldwide to examine tolerability and tumour effect from orally ingested medicinal cannabis in humans with cancer of any type,” Dr Schloss said.

“Our Endeavour College research team will collaborate with Professor Teo to examine the impact of medicinal cannabis when it is used alongside standard treatment for cancer.

“As well as tumour impact, we’ll be looking at whether medicinal cannabis can improve quality of life, by reducing common symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting.”

Dr Schloss said glioma is a particularly aggressive brain tumour that often proves resistant to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

“This resistance means it’s vital for researchers to develop new therapies to treat this disease, which is one of the reasons why the clinical trial is important,” she said.

“Recent studies have shown that the active agents in cannabis may slow tumour growth and we believe further research is essential. If we can establish dosage guidelines and understand whether medicinal cannabis can assist standard treatment, this could be life-changing for glioma patients and their families.” (see page 2 for glioma details)

Coming together for better patient outcomes

Professor Teo, a former Australian of the Year, will be an Associate Investigator for the trial and will lead patient recruitment through his clinic at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital.

“This is a great example of complementary medicine researchers working in conjunction with the medical fraternity to bring about better outcomes for our patients,” Professor Teo said.

The clinical trial is funded by BioCeuticals, Australia’s leading provider of nutritional and therapeutic supplements, who have invested more than $500,000 as part of their commitment to provide practitioners with evidence-based solutions for health conditions.

BioCeuticals Director of Research, Development and Emerging Markets, Belinda Reynolds, said: “There is increasing public, political and practitioner awareness of medicinal cannabis, and it’s important that we have credible research into any health benefits”.

About the world-first trial

The trial has ethics approval and NSW ministry of health approval. Endeavour’s research team will assess the suitability of volunteers from among Professor Teo’s patients and other glioma patients who meet the inclusion criteria. The team will then administer the liquid medicinal cannabis and coordinate MRI, blood and other testing.

Patients will continue to see Professor Teo, his colleague Dr Mike Sughrue, or their medical specialists for treatment during the trial, while being monitored by Dr Schloss’ team during the three months of taking medicinal cannabis. The team will then follow patients for up to two years after the trial.

While medicinal cannabis is classified as a medicine, it is actually a plant. The herbal medicine expertise of Endeavour’s Office of Research, and their experience leading robust empirical research, makes them ideally placed to bring this world-first trial to fruition.

The clinical trial aims to strengthen complementary medicine’s evidence-based research and explore how it can impact on patient care and outcomes.

Dr Schloss said she hoped the trial’s findings would be valuable in guiding policy change, given the growing public demand for safe, reliable and legal access to medicinal cannabis through authorised doctors.

About gliomas

• Glioma is the most common form of primary brain tumour and among the most malignant cancers, often not responding effectively to surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

• Median survival time is one year. Gliomas remain a major medical challenge due to the tumour’s location, aggressive behaviour, rapid growth and low survival rate.

• Treatment usually involves surgical removal of the bulk of the tumour, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Prognosis for patients is bleak, with only half surviving for 15 months and less than 5% of patients still alive five years after diagnosis.

• Gliomas can affect any age group but are more common in older people (average age of diagnosis is 64). 1000 Australians are diagnosed each year.

• Common symptoms are memory and speech difficulties, weakness on one side of the body and changes to vision.

Lead researcher Dr Janet Schloss is Clinical Trials Coordinator at Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Office of Research. She has dedicated her career to supporting cancer patients and expanding the body of evidence-based research for complementary medicine and its ability to assist people undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Dr Schloss has coordinated and conducted clinical trials for more than 8 years on a variety of research topics involving cancer, chemotherapy and chronic disease.

She has 19 years’ clinical experience in the field of oncology and complementary medicine, and collaborates with many oncologists around Australia. She also currently practices at the Mater Private Breast Cancer Centre and Body Organics, alongside medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons and related health professionals.

Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Office of Research is dedicated to strengthening professional practice for complementary medicine professionals through an expanded body of evidence-based research for complementary medicine in Australia. It works to disseminate and critically examine all aspects of contemporary complementary medicine practice through the application of non-partisan, rigorous, and robust empirical research. The Office of Research is an arm of Endeavour College of Natural Health, Australasia’s largest degree conferring tertiary institution offering qualifications in complementary medicine and natural health. It has six campuses in Australia and two in New Zealand, five Bachelor degrees, four Honours degrees, 5,000 students, 350 staff and leading academics in the field.

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The five best U.S. senators on marijuana policy

With the 2018 election almost upon us, I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about why Congress has never passed a bill legalizing marijuana.

Despite overwhelming public support for both medical marijuana and regulating it like alcohol, our government has been incredibly slow to turn that into policy.

There are many reasons for this, but 535 of the biggest reasons are the members of Congress themselves — debates in the legislative branch aren’t just abstract concepts, but conversations between real people with their own beliefs and priorities. I started this series with the five best U.S. House Reps on marijuana policy, and followed that up with the five worst House members. This week, I’m turning my attention to the Senate, and once again I’ll lead with the best. My team at 4Front and I looked at senators’ voting records, public statements, committee positions, and other factors to see who ranks as the top champions of reform in the legislature’s upper house.

Despite having fewer members to choose from, narrowing down the top five leaders in reform was even harder in the Senate than in the House. This is because there are far more than five champions in the Senate, with multiple strong champions on both sides of the aisle. In NORML’s 2016 Congressional Scorecard, 38 Senators got a B or higher. The CARERS Act of 2015, which would have legalized medical marijuana, got up to 19 sponsors. The STATES Act of 2018, which would allow states to legalize marijuana for adults, currently has 10 sponsors.

After putting this list together, I did notice one major trend: Jeff Merkley, first elected in 2008, is the most senior senator in our top five. Since he is only the 44th most senior senator overall, this reflects the generational nature of marijuana reform. Politicians who just got elected did so at a time when marijuana legalization outpolls most candidates, while those who entered public service decades ago came of age when supporting legalization was taboo. Some candidates have updated their views, but sometimes they hold onto their prohibitionist beliefs until they’re voted out of office.

Another trend that sticks out is that, while this remains a largely bipartisan issue, it has become one that Democrats with national aspirations now must embrace in order to be viable in a Democratic primary. Between those who made the list and the honorable mentions, it includes most of the Democratic Senators largely considered front runners for the 2020 party nomination. Even former prosecutor Kamala Harris (D-CA) who didn’t quite make the cut has recently embraced legalization in her rhetoric. As Republicans like Cory Gardner from states with legal cannabis have started coming around on legalization, supporting prohibition has become an untenable position for anyone seeking elected office as a Democrat, a notable shift in the party’s dynamics over the past few years.

1: Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Senator Booker was first elected in a 2013 special election, and then won a campaign for a full term in 2014. As a member of the Judiciary Committee he quickly became a champion of marijuana policy reform, either introducing or sponsoring nearly all of the major reform bills considered by the Senate.

In 2015, he was one of three senators to introduce the CARERS Act to legalize medical marijuana (he also re-introduced it this Congress). In 2017, he introduced his own Marijuana Justice Act to end federal marijuana prohibition and provide incentives for states to legalize, going further than other bills by attempting to correct some of the worst injustices of marijuana prohibition. And he’s one of the 10 Senators who are sponsoring the STATES Act, which is the main bipartisan vehicle for legalizing marijuana under the Trump Administration.

Booker’s term is not over until 2020, but it is unclear whether he will seek re-election since he is commonly discussed as a contender for the Democratic nomination for President. Whether he remains in the Senate or seeks the Presidency, it’s clear that Booker will run on a platform that includes marijuana legalization.

2: Cory Gardner (R-CO)

Senator Gardner and Senator Booker have a lot in common: they were elected to their first full terms in 2014, they’re both named Cory, and they’re leading their parties on marijuana reform. However, they approach the issue from very different perspectives. Booker strongly believes in marijuana legalization, with a focus on the racial and social injustices of prohibition.

Gardner actually opposed marijuana legalization when it was being considered by Colorado voters in 2012, but after it was passed and implemented, he decided it was his responsibility to protect the will of his constituents from federal intervention. After Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was revoking the Cole Memo, Gardner led a blockade of DOJ nominees that ended with President Trump agreeing to support reform. To follow up on this commitment, Senator Gardner teamed with Senator Warren to introduce the STATES Act, which would let states make their own marijuana policies.

Gardner is not up for re-election until 2020. Being from a purple state like Colorado that has trended blue in recent years, Gardner could hardly afford to be seen as anti-legalization in a state with that continues to lead the nation on cannabis. His transformation on this issue may have been less about a change of heart and more about protecting his electoral future. Whatever the reason, we are thankful for his recent work and advocacy on this issue.

3: Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Senator Warren was first elected in 2012, and spoke in favor of the medical marijuana ballot initiative that was also being voted on in Massachusetts that year. The initiative passed, and Warren became a leader on medical marijuana policy in the Senate, advocating for cannabis as a way to help combat the opioid overdose crisis.

And while she did not publicly endorse Massachusetts’ recreational marijuana initiative approved in 2016 (although she claimed to have done so after the fact), she did vote in favor of it. Since then, she has also led on legalizing marijuana for all adults, most notably as the lead Democratic sponsor of the STATES Act.

Warren is up for re-election this year, and faces a Republican opponent who has fought against marijuana reform in the state legislature. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like we need to worry about losing this champion in 2018, since polls show her with a 26-point lead. But Warren might not finish that term, as she is also discussed as a contender for the 2020 presidential race.

4: Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

As mentioned above, Merkley is the most senior senator who made it into our top five. He has been able to use this seniority, as well as his position as a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, to fight for major changes to U.S. marijuana policy.

He’s led the fight for his namesake Merkley Amendment, which would have blocked federal regulators from going after banks for working with marijuana businesses. While it has passed in committee multiple times, unfortunately the amendment has not yet made it into law. He also is a leader on the Daines/Merkley Amendment, which would allow doctors within the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana in states where it is legal. No wonder NORML gave him an A.

Senator Merkley is not up for re-election until 2020.

5: Rand Paul (R-KY)

Senator Paul, first elected in 2010, is the second-most senior member of our top five. Despite representing conservative Kentucky, which doesn’t even allow for the medical use of cannabis, Paul has a strong libertarian streak and has advocated for reform since long before it was popular.

He’s following in the footsteps of his father Ron Paul, who for many years was the only Republican member of the House to sponsor marijuana reform legislation.  Rand Paul was the lead Republican on the CARERS Act, and is now one of five Republicans sponsoring the STATES Act. Like Senator Gardner, Senator Paul’s party identification is particularly important while Republicans control both the Senate and the presidency.

Senator Paul is not up for re-election until 2020.

Honorable mentions

The lawmakers above deserve recognition as the five best in the Senate, but there are many others who have also done great work to advance the cause of marijuana legalization. We can’t list them all, but here are a few quick highlights:

  • Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
    • Senator Sanders is the only member to receive an A+ gradefrom NORML, and his advocacy during the 2016 presidential primary demonstrated the issue’s popularity among Democrats.
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
    • Senator Leahy is the most senior member of the entire Senate, ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, and a member of the Judiciary Committee.
  • Steve Daines (R-MT)
    • Senator Daines serves on the Appropriations Committee, and is the lead Republican sponsor of the Daines/Merkley amendment.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
    • Another potential Democratic Party 2020 nominee, Senator Gillibrand was the original sponsor of the CARERS Act with Senators Booker and Paul, and also joined as a sponsor of Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act.
  • Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
    • To be clear, the current Senate Minority Leader has not traditionally been a friend of marijuana reform. But he had a major change of heart this year, introducing the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act to legalize marijuana at the federal level. A party leader introducing reform legislation earns a place on this list despite his past transgressions on this issue. Your move Mitch McConnell…

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Cannabis jobs in Canada: What are they, and how do I get one?

Recreational marijuana legalization may have happened Oct. 17, but job postings for the cannabis industry— and interest in them— is still blooming. According to an August report from job site Indeed, openings from the cannabis industry have more than tripled since last July, and searches for terms like cannabis, marijuana, and dispensary have more than quadrupled.

‘A candidate market’ for jobs

Jennifer Ellis, human resources manager at medical marijuana company Cronos Group, told HuffPost Canada “it’s really a candidate market as opposed to an employer market.”

It’s unclear how many jobs will be created and what the skills shortage will be now that marijuana is legal. But Ellis said though she’s received a lot of resumes for jobs at Cronos, it’s been difficult to find candidates with cannabis experience because it’s such a new industry.

But many skills in other fields are transferable, such as horticulture or working in a greenhouse.

Quality assurance for a food manufacturer would also give a job-seeker transferable skills, she said, because that type of work is also done under strict regulations set by Health Canada.

“It’s a lot more challenging for employers right now,” she said.

Ellis recommends putting a high-level summary on resumes or writing strong cover letters so employers can see what transferable skills candidates have.

A company in Toronto is hiring part-time workers to smoke marijuana, but most jobs don’t necessarily involve cannabis consumption.

Many of the administrative jobs are typical of any emerging or rapidly growing industry, such as marketing or sales. But of course, production jobs are aplenty.

Professionals in the cannabis industry say the main jobs in demand (as echoed by the Indeed report), are for workers to grow marijuana and for others to sell it.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance workers for cannabis companies can be hard to find, as they need to not only be able to work with growers, but also follow proper procedure, fill out paperwork, and operate under a government framework.

Alison McMahon is the co-founder of Cannabis At Work, an organization with a website for jobs in the cannabis industry, and provides training to workplaces on how to deal with marijuana.

McMahon said the highest volume of jobs she sees is in quality assurance for licensed cannabis producers, who need to be able to work under a combination of government regulations.


The number two spot in the Indeed report, budtenders are retail workers at private dispensaries or Crown corporations, depending on the province.

Growing, cultivation, and production

As more licensed medical marijuana producers shift into the business of growing recreational pot— not to mention the new entrants to the business— the demand for growers, preferably with experience, is rising.

“In terms of demand, where there’s a shortage of talent, then we’re talking more on the cultivation side, especially more senior growers who do actually have experience within the regulated framework,” McMahon said.

Marketing and sales

Marketing and sales are a key role for companies in the cannabis industry. After legalization, they’ll need to be able to get their names and products out to larger retailers and bigger brands— a shift from working with smaller dispensaries or head shops.

Sasha Kadey is the chief marketing officer at Greenlane, a distributor that supplies products like bongs and vaporizers to smoke shops and dispensaries. He told HuffPost Canada that cannabis culture and the way consumers make purchasing decisions “doesn’t exactly resemble anything else out there.”

“Understanding how that 20 per cent of consumers that consume 80 per cent of the cannabis make their purchasing decisions and develop an affinity for a particular brand, can be pretty hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the culture, because it’s a little unique,” he said.

Kadey said there’s a lot of people out there who have a lot of marijuana product knowledge and many people with conventional business experience, but “not a huge, easily accessible population of people who have both.”

“The sort of sought-after skills— that are actually quite hard to find in the right combination— are people who have the traditional business acumen and experience, but can couple that with sort of intricate knowledge of cannabis culture and the way cannabis consumers make their purchasing decisions.”

The ideal candidate

McMahon told HuffPost Canada that finding someone with the right traits to work in the field can sometimes be more challenging than finding the right credentials. She said the perfect candidate is entrepreneurial and can work in an environment that’s constantly changing.

“It’s an incredibly fast-paced industry..even if you think you’ve been in some other industry that’s fast-paced, this sector is really, really, really demanding in terms of people’s time, but also just the pace at which they can work.”

Ellis said she’s also looking for people with a long-term commitment to a company.

“You want people to have the right attitude and come in because they want to see how the industry’s going to evolve, not just someone who necessarily comes in for a paycheque,” she said.

“Because it is such an exciting time, you want those people who are passionate about it, and who believe in it. It’s really important to the product as well.”

There’s a ton of opportunities to learn new things, and to kind of make your own little specialty area in terms of skill set within the industry. Alison McMahon, Cannabis At Work

McMahon said because cannabis is “one of the most prominent growth sectors over the next number of years,” working in the field is “an opportunity to get it still kind of early in the game.”

“It’s a really interesting way to take whatever your skill set is and transfer that into a new industry where it is very exciting,” she said.

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Mexico may be next to legalize cannabis: incoming FM

Mexico “absolutely” could follow Canada’s lead in legalizing marijuana as a way to reduce violence generated by a war on drugs that “doesn’t work,” its incoming foreign minister said Tuesday.

Marcelo Ebrard, who will become foreign minister when Mexico’s president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office December 1, said he discussed Ottawa’s experience Monday with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Asked whether Mexico might follow Canada’s example, Ebrard told reporters, “Sure, absolutely.”

“We think it is a very interesting option in the short term for Mexico,” he said. “We think there are two options: the Canadian model or the Uruguay model.”

“It doesn’t make sense to have a law forbidding the possession or production of cannabis and we have 9,000 people in jail for that, we have a huge amount of violence in the country,” Ebrard said.

“You spend a huge amount of money (on policing), you cause suffering for a lot of people and it doesn’t make sense.”

Prohibition, he added, “doesn’t work, you have the cannabis anyway.”

Canada legalized cannabis on October 17, becoming the first major economy to do so. Uruguay legalized recreational use of the drug in 2013.

Mexico has long been a major supplier of marijuana and other illegal drugs to the US market, spawning powerful drug cartels and violent struggles for control of drug routes.

Since 2006, when the government deployed the army to fight the cartels, more than 200,000 people have been murdered, including a record 28,702 last year.

Another 37,000 people are reported missing.

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Canada: Want future job security? Take a college course on cannabis

Canada is legalizing recreational cannabis for adult use on October 17, so now would be the time to take a college course on cannabis.

With Canadian cannabis businesses offering sky-high wages in exchange for expertise, many are now looking for a reliable way to break into the industry. Prospective cannabis industry workers—and the businesses doing the hiring themselves—are now looking for academia to provide that bridge. Canada is preparing to officially legalize recreational cannabis for adult use on October 17. With the cannabis industry booming, businesses have begun teaming up with universities to expedite the implementation of college and university cannabis courses.

The cannabis company Sunniva, one of Canada’s licensed producers under the newly legal recreational cannabis legislation, has already partnered with Okanagan College in British Columbia.

The college recently created an advisory board in order to consult with legal cannabis companies like Sunniva directly, as to better inform their courses that train students to work in the cannabis industry. The courses offered to students range from programs on investment and trading, business, to cultivation and more.

While courses are often developed with governmental input, the cannabis industry is simply moving too fast. And as a new industry, cannabis businesses themselves are more experienced and can offer practical guidance. As thousands of new job opportunities crop up as a result of legalization, colleges need a way to keep up with the industry.

Cannabis companies are partnering with colleges1 Want Future Job Security? Take a College Course on Cannabis

This also stands to benefit both students who are looking for work within the cannabis industry and businesses that are seeking professionals to hire. As the CEO of Sunniva, Dr. Tony Holler, says in the Financial Post, cannabis businesses are currently forced to hire and train inexperienced employees themselves, which is both expensive and time-consuming.

Durham College in Ontario is also already offering a two-day course for business graduates to learn about medical cannabis, and this fall is rolling out a new specialization program in partnership with a subsidiary of Emblem Corp, a Canadian licensed cannabis producer. This program includes six courses, some of which require students to be at least 19 years old.

The Ontario college has also partnered with software company Ample Organics Inc, lab testing company Molecular Science Corp, recruitment company Cannabis at Work, and the publication CannaInvestor Magazine.

Niagara College is also now offering its own graduate certificate program for students who want to learn cannabis production, which was designed with the help of multiple licensed producers.

While this type of arrangement between cannabis companies and colleges is novel, so is the cannabis industry itself and the university courses needed to help it thrive.

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Border Patrol agents prepare for legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada

Recreational marijuana will be legal in Canada starting Oct. 17.

Border Patrol agents say they are ready for heavier traffic, which can impact anyone going to Canada.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Officer Aaron Bowen warns anyone that may try to sneak weed back into the U.S. will face anything from a fine to a zero-tolerance policy.

“A smell is obviously going to alert an officer and probably going to get you a secondary exam because we want to make sure the actual marijuana isn’t in the vehicle,” Bowen says.

Medical marijuana will also be seized at the border.

Anyone who gets caught could be arrested and fined $500.

Agents urge people planning to use marijuana in Canada to spend the night or have a designated driver.

Weedcraft Inc. Is A Tycoon Simulator For Future Ganjapreneurs

Expect to play it in early 2019.

The cannabis industry is experiencing an all-time high when it comes to growth and acceptance for the plant that powers their business. Grassroots legalization efforts are happening all across the country, while surging stocks for cannabis companies, like Tilray, have reminded investors of the dotcom boom. Even politicians have turned heel, joining the Green Rush however they can.

Now you too can participate (from the comforts of your computer) thanks to a tycoon game-parody called Weedcraft Inc. Published by Devolver Digital, the game allows players the typical mechanics and systems found in a tycoon game, but wrapped in the specificity found in starting a marijuana business. Instead of a free-for-all sandbox experience, Weedcraft Inc. will follow a loose narrative, as players explore different vignettes of the cannabis start-up enterprise.

According to Alexander, the game will change based on the state and situation players find themselves in depending on the vignette. You can also play the game with varying degrees of morality and legality; bribing cops or building false storefronts to hide your cannabis farms is totally allowed. The line the game developers won’t cross? You won’t see any kids smoking weed on screen. The style in which you play the game will also affect whatever bonuses and abilities you’ll acquire.

“There are certain perks you can only get if you’re super shady,” Alexander said. “There are certain perks you can only get if you’re decent.”

“Right now, it’s like the end of Prohibition meets the Gold Rush,” Scott Alexander, the game’s main writer, told Polygon. “The federal illegality combined with the state-by-state legalization has created a financial morass and just a weird, interesting place. And we thought, ‘Well, that’s a tycoon game waiting to happen.’”

“Playing fully decent is like getting a cultural victory in Civilization,” he added. “[It’s like,] ‘Can I play the whole game without fucking anyone over?’”

According to Devolver Digital co-founder Mike Wilson, you can expect Weedcraft Inc. to debut in early 2019.

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Medical marijuana businesses given deadline to get licensed with state

LANSING, Mich. — The deadline for medical marijuana businesses to get a license from the state has changed, again.

Businesses now have until October 31 to get a license or face legal action from police or the state attorney general’s office.

This is the fourth time this year officials have changed the deadline.

Officials with the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs are trying to force businesses into a licensed system.

Last month, state officials tried to force nearly 100 medical marijuana businesses to close because they hadn’t submitted paperwork by the previous deadline of September 15.

In November, voters will decide whether or not recreational marijuana should be legal for adults in Michigan.

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Boston inches forward with recreational marijuana permits

Every two weeks, at meetings of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, marijuana officials display a map showing how many completed applications for recreational pot business licenses have been submitted from each county in the state.

Conspicuously lagging behind: Suffolk County, home to Boston — which, unlike most cities in the state that haven’t banned such companies, has yet to issue a local permit to a recreational marijuana operator.

Now, those numbers are poised to grow. Officials in the administration of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh told the Globe last week that the city will negotiate its first so-called “host community agreements” with marijuana companies in the first two weeks of October.

Those contracts are required in order to win a state license from the commission, so Walsh’s signature on one would allow that company to move forward at the state level. The deals typically call for payments from the company to the municipality and spell out other conditions, such as the facility’s hours of operation.

City Hall officials declined to put a timeline on when pot shops might open in Boston, however, saying it depends on when the state issues final licenses to applicants from the city. They also declined to make Walsh or other city leaders available for an on-the-record interview.

The officials also gave new details on how they would apply the city’s zoning rules, which require a half-mile buffer between licensed marijuana facilities. In several neighborhoods, two applicants are vying for permission to open in the same area, raising the question of how the city would choose between them.

The officials said those decisions will be made by the office of Alexis Tkachuk, the city’s director of emerging industries, in collaboration with the city’s transportation, planning, and legal departments.

Officials will consider a number of variables: which company applied first, the reaction of neighbors to each proposal, traffic impacts, how the proposal fits within the city’s development and planning schemes, and whether the company is eligible for state programs boosting entrepreneurs from communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

Those variables, however, will not be weighted, and applicants won’t be assigned a score. Instead, officials will simply judge the “totality” of each application.

That behind-closed-doors process is unlikely to placate advocates and some city councilors, who have called on the city to enact more robust mandates favoring companies owned by minorities and local residents over wealthy out-of-state investors.

Shanel Lindsay, an attorney, businesswoman, and the cofounder of Equitable Opportunities Now, a group pushing for equity in the cannabis industry, slammed the city’s “opaque” process. She said the failure to create an objective standard and make decisions in public opens the door to bias and favoritism, and is likely to favor already-wealthy white operators who can afford to hire sophisticated lawyers and former city officials to grease the wheels.

“This is exactly what we were worried about,” Lindsay said. “It’s really vague and subjective. There’s no clear standard, no community collaboration, no transparency, and no clear acknowledgment of the necessity to make equity a prevailing favor in their decisions.”

City officials noted that every applicant must hold a public hearing and address neighborhood concerns. They also said they would consider waiving the half-mile buffer for applicants that qualify for the state commission’s equity programs, explaining that such entrepreneurs might apply later, after prime properties are taken and buffer zones have been drawn around facilities whose owners moved faster. The process for seeking such an accommodation is unclear, though.

Officials further stressed that Boston, unlike other municipalities, hasn’t categorically zoned marijuana businesses out of residential areas or off of main streets. They also pledged not to impose onerous conditions on or demand large payments from marijuana operators, saying the city’s host community agreements would mostly be focused on addressing concerns raised by neighbors — for example, agreeing not to install benches and picnic tables where people might hang out and smoke weed.

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