Cannabis Consultations: Answering questions with more questions

 

The only thing clear about the legalization of cannabis is – there are more questions than answers. Since the Trudeau Liberals foisted responsibility of delivering the stash, provincial governments have been hunting for a flashlight to see through the policy smoke.

In Nova Scotia, Justice, Finance and Health and Wellness are co-leads on the file, but there are lots of other folks who have a stake in this including Business, Community Services and Education. The conflicting priorities and broad implication of this massive policy piece were clearly on display at the consultation session I attended this week.

From the medical community, there is deep concern about the accelerating proliferation of cannabis use among youth. For good reason. More and more evidence is piling up around the impact more potent forms of cannabis have on adolescents’ brains undergoing rapid and extensive development. Instances of schizophrenia among younger and younger cohorts have been growing significantly in the last 20 years, coincidentally tracking with the increase of both the use and the potency of the product.

The number of youth (22%) and young adults (26%) who used cannabis in 2013 was more than two and a half times that of adults 25 and older. But, let’s put that in context – 60% of Canadian youth between 15 and 19 drink alcohol. There was lots of discussion about how legalization, taxation, and control must put the binders on youth access to cannabis, but if our experience with alcohol is any indication, we should keep those expectations in check. I will admit however, that train has left the station.

It’s now up to the provinces to figure how to implement this policy pronouncement from on high and the public consultation has begun. MQO Research in doing a handful of facilitated roundtables and there’s an opportunity for online input at http://novascotia.ca/cannabis.

The questions posed in the online survey and at our roundtable session deal with the following; Age restrictions, where folks can or should be able to smoke it, how we deal with impaired drivers and what the delivery model should look like (who should sell it and how).

On the question of age, the medical community says the age for legal use should be around 25. While those arguments are science-based and clearly well-intentioned, I’ll refer back to the usage rates of alcohol with an existing restriction of 18 or 19. Once cannabis is a legal product, the likelihood that usage among youth will decrease, is a pipedream. In my opinion, and this is my opinion, societal acceptance of cannabis as a legal product will not discourage access and use among youth any more than it has discouraged access to alcohol or porn. Setting the legal age at 25 would be seen as laughable given current usage statistics. Restricting or reducing usage will depend exclusively on vigorous education campaigns and severe restrictions on marketing to kids and product oversight.

On the topic of where folks can smoke it, there is some consensus the province should stick with its smoke-free places legislation, but other questions emerge. There are those who feel users of medical cannabis should be able to smoke it at home. If that’s the case, how do differentiate between medical and recreational cannabis use and how do you balance the rights of those who own or coexist in apartment complexes and don’t want their properties to smell like a Negril nightclub. You get the sense there will be lots of work for lawyers in days ahead.

As for the impaired driving question, apparently, there is no answer. Strangely, the question posed was about the severity of penalties for driving while under the influence of cannabis. Police still don’t have a chemically based way of estimating what the drug is doing in the brain. A blood test exists that can detect some cannabis components, but there is no widely accepted, standardized amount in the breath or blood that gives police or courts or anyone else a good sense of who is impaired. So in light of no available tests reliable enough to determine the level of impairment among cannabis users, why are we talking about penalties? I’m sure Crown lawyers are really looking forward to this busy work. There is consensus, however, that getting drunk, getting high and then driving is a very poor idea indeed.

The fourth subject area dealt with how cannabis should it be sold in Nova Scotia? CFIB members in the province are evenly split on this issue. When asked in 2016; should government agencies (e.g. liquor commissions) be exclusively responsible for the retail sale of marijuana? 41% said YES, 41% said NO and 14% were UNSURE.

There are arguments for a public sector monopoly, except none of them are particularly compelling and not surprisingly, all center on command and control. A public sector monopoly, such as the model in Ontario and the recently announced direction in New Brunswick, seems simply to be the path of least resistance for politicians and bureaucrats. Why they believe the public sector delivery model of anything is the gold standard remains perplexing.

There are other questions with a public sector monopoly which need answers. Will public sector salaries/benefits and bricks and mortar costs add to the final cost to the consumer? Add this to the federal and provincial tax, are we leaving the door open for the underground economy to undercut and continue to thrive. What are the implications of being regulator and retailer? The decision has been already made not to co-locate sales with alcohol, so why would we build another bricks and mortar version of the NSLC or LNB? When New Brunswick rolled out their public sector monopoly this week, one staggering question was not even addressed…the cost.

The government should carefully examine the option of private sector retailers rather than simply defaulting to building another bureaucracy. Politicians also need to answer this larger question; should selling recreational cannabis be a core government service and can we afford spending precious tax dollars on building the required infrastructure to do so? Are there better options for generating external private sector investment with appropriate government oversight? My guess is there would be an entrepreneur or two willing to pony up some dough for the opportunity to sell legal pot. Just sayin’.

Then there’s the issue of online sales. This system, by most reports, has been working just fine for medicinal cannabis, however, there is resistance emerging as some folks feel children will now gain access to credit cards and somehow game the system. Note to skeptics, children are already buying weed. Having them input online credit information, wait for days or weeks and sign for packages at the door from bonded delivery agents will not make the process easier for them. (“Hey Mom, did that FedEx package for me arrive?”)

There were also puzzling omissions in the consultation. For example, there is little guidance for employers or employees on implications around occupational health and safety issues or work restrictions. Additionally, there has been no indication of how the provincial governments are creating any alignment of regulation either in the region or nationally. Does this mean we will end up with another massive patchwork of regulatory regimes?

As you can see, legalizing cannabis is creating many more questions than answers, and we haven’t even started with the edibles. Gummy bear anyone?

Fall Back Up with Jeremy White

Jeremy White and his wife Melanie were looking for a summer retreat in Cape Breton after honeymooning in 2008. What they found were a new way of life and a successful small business.

Big Spruce Brewing sprung from a passion for craft beer and a serendipitous real estate buy in Nyanza.

Jeremy’s background was in international engineering and while living in Nicaragua, they stumbled upon an opportunity to relocate to Nova Scotia.

He had been a home brewer for years, and have wanted to scale his production up to a commercial level for a long time.

With favourable condition for growing hops and an industry that has been taking off in the region, they opened up Nova Scotia’s first certified organic on-farm brewery. Big Spruce quickly established itself as a local favourite.

Jeremy has made his views known broadly about the public policy challenges facing the craft beer industry publishing this open letter to the people of Nova Scotia.

In our wide-ranging conversation, we talk about the challenges of starting the brewery, his ongoing frustration with regulatory issues and his views on the future of craft brewing and the Atlantic Canadian economy.

I spoke with him in the brewery in the beautiful setting overlooking the Bras d’Or Lakes.

Click here to listen

Fall Back Up with Tim Moore

Tim Moore is the founder of several highly successful Canadian businesses. Starting in 1971, Tim borrowed $2000 to purchase a small moving truck.

That launched a career of serial entrepreneurship resulting in the founding of AMJ Campbell Van Lines, Premiere Executive Suites, Premiere Van LinesPremiere Self-Storage, Premiere Mortgage Center, Oceanstone ResortsMoore Executive Suites and Atlantic Signature Mortgage and Loan.

He is the author of two inspirational books, On the Move and You Don’t Need a MBA to Make Millions where he shares his journey and provides practical advice for entrepreneurs.

MovingVan1.jpg

Tim has received The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, The Distinguished Service Award from the Canadian Mover’s Association, and the Certificate of Merit, Entrepreneur Category, in the Canada Awards for Business Excellence.

He’s been honoured multiple times as one of the Top 50 CEO’s for Atlantic Canada and awarded a tribute as Master Entrepreneur of the Year, Atlantic Region.

An active philanthropist, Tim has given back through mentoring and charitable activities, including Junior Achievement of Canada, Best Buddies of Canada, the Canadian Olympic Association, the Alzheimer Association of Nova Scotia, the Mental Health Association of Nova Scotia and the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

I met with Tim at his ocean-side home in Chester Nova Scotia, where we sat down to talk about his life and his philosophy of doing business…

Click here to go to my podbean site to listen

Fall Back Up with Rob Steele

Show Notes:

Rob Steele built his entrepreneurial career in auto-related industries throughout the 1990s. The Steele Auto Group, is now the largest and most diversified auto group in Atlantic Canada with 900 employees, and 17 dealerships in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, representing 22 brands.

The Steele Auto Group is recognized as one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies.

Rob’s other hat is President and CEO of Newfoundland Capital Corporation or Newcap. Since taking the job in the early 2000’s Rob has focused on the radio business, and now controls 95 radio licenses across Canada with 1000 employees.

Rob also sits on the boards of Stingray Digital, Montreal, and Atlantic Signature Mortgage, Halifax.

rsteele bio picRob has a strong passion for music. He’s been a Past Co-Chair of the East Coast Music Awards Event Committee and continues to be involved with the ECMA’s in an advisory capacity. He also serves on the Advisory Committee for Junior Achievement of Nova Scotia, and is also a Director of the Halifax Mooseheads Hockey Club.

Rob is a strong supporter of giving back to the communities and both Newcap Radio and the Steele Auto Group are very actively involved in many charitable causes and Rob is personally active with the Alzheimer’s Society, the Mental Health Foundation, Family SOS, Daffodil House, Feed NS and the Arthritis Society. He was named Outstanding Individual Philanthropist of the Year in 2014 by the NS Association of Fundraising Professional.s I met Rob at his home near the Kearney Lake Road and we sat down on a beautiful afternoon on his patio to chat…

To listen Click here

*In our conversation, Rob mentions a unattributed poem called the Creativity of Living. The quote is as follows;

The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.

Creativity in living is not without its attendant difficulties, for peculiarity breeds contempt. And the unfortunate thing about being ahead of your time is that when people finally realize you were right, they’ll say it was obvious all along. You have two choices in your life; you can dissolve into the mainstream, or you can be distinct. To be distinct, you must be different. To be different, you must strive to be what no one else but you can be . . .

There is some investigation of this quote, attributed to several figures, available at http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/10/18/follows-crowd/

Fall Back Up with Don Bureaux

SHOW NOTES:

On this episode I’m delighted to sit down with the President of the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), Don Bureaux

As President of NSCC, Don Bureaux serves as the chief executive officer for the operation of 13 campuses, with over 120 programs, and approximately 24,000 students and 2,000 staff.

don convocationDon Bureaux has been president of NSCC since 2011 but his commitment to adult education spans over two decades working with adult learners at colleges and universities as well as professional designation granting organizations across Canada and internationally.

At NSCC, he works to bring the college’s vision – transforming Nova Scotia one learner at a time – to life.

Don holds a certificate in Adult Education and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Acadia University and an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. He’s Chartered Professional Accountant, Certified General Accountant and holds an international designation as a Certified Business Counsellor through the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

He’s been granted his Fellow Chartered Professional Accountant (FCPA) designation by CPA Canada and his Fellow Certified General Accountant (FCGA) designation.

In 2015, 2016, and 2017 Don was named one of the Top 50 CEOs by Atlantic Business Magazine and serves on the boards of many not-for-profit organizations in Nova Scotia.

I dropped into visit Don in his office at the Leeds Street campus of the NSCC in North End Halifax

During our conversation he references a book Road to Character by David Brooks. Click for the link and below, you’ll find a link to a YouTube video of a Ted Talk on one of his principle areas of discussion, the difference between resume virtues and eulogy virtues.

Don and I began by talking about his childhood…

To listen to the podcast click here

To watch the Ted Talk with David Brooks, click here

What if the results of the Nova Scotia election were declared unconstitutional?

vote-nova-scotia

This was a question some of us were mulling over on election night.

The ambitious and dedicated folks at community radio station CIOE in Lower Sackville asked me to moderate their coverage on election night with a panel comprised of broadcasting legend Al Hollingsworth, former NDP MLA Michele Raymond and former Nova Scotia finance minister and Senator Bernie Boudreau.

Bernie and I share a common failure. We ran in the 2000 federal election in Dartmouth. We both lost. Actually, former Buchanan era cabinet minister and now Senator, Tom McInnes was in the race too, so I was in pretty good company when we all failed to unseat incumbent NDP MP Wendy Lill. (I should point out, my ill-informed run failed much more miserably than the PC and Liberal candidates, mind you Bernie gave up his Senate seat to run, but I digress)

In advance of the provincial election night program in May, I asked Bernie if he would mind having a quick peek at the Reference of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal regarding the Final Report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC). We all felt it was an important issue, but it wasn’t getting much media attention.

The Honourable Justices Fichaud, Saunders, Oland, Bryson and Bourgeois were asked to provide opinion on the following; Does Section 1 of Chapter 61 of the Acts of Nova Scotia 2012, by which provisions the recommendations tendered by the EBC by its Final Report to the House of Assembly were enacted, violate Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by abolishing the electoral districts of Clare, Argyle, and Richmond?

The Court’s answer in late January? Yes.

Now I’m not a lawyer, but Bernie is and his opinion on this, which he freely shared on the radio, is the province could be in some pretty thick soup. If the EBC violated the Charter, does this mean the electoral boundaries are unconstitutional as the Acadian Federation asserts? How many? If the boundaries were illegal during an election, does this mean the result of the election is illegal? What would that mean?

Earlier in the spring, the Acadian Federation’s executive director Marie-Claude Rioux said, “I don’t think it is in the government’s best interest to call an election before this issue is resolved. It opens a whole Pandora’s box, and I don’t think the government wants to go there.” Well, they did.

So, the implication of this seems, at least on the surface, pretty serious and requiring some delicate unwinding.

The Liberals essentially said, our lawyers see it differently and the Premier can call an election whenever he wants. However, the loss of former Minister of Acadian Affairs Michel Samson’s seat in Richmond adds another layer of intrigue, as Samson was widely seen as one of Stephen McNeil’s senior lieutenants, and his loss in the election can be attributed, at least in part, to the redrawing of the boundaries.

Cape Breton Richmond

Progressive Conservative Alana Paon beat Samson in Cape Breton-Richmond by just 20 votes. In 2013, Samson got 50 per cent of the vote. Prior to the election, Tory Leader Jamie Baillie said the legitimacy of an election would be in question if the government doesn’t pay attention to the Acadian Federation. They picked up the Richmond seat, so what are they saying now?

The issue is apparently going to be resolved one way or another later this year, but it could make for some very interesting political posturing.

Fall Back Up with Rear Admiral John Newton

On this episode, the Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic, Rear-Admiral John Newton
newton_2.jpg
Rear-Admiral Newton began his career in the Navy in 1983, after trying his hand as a geologist out west.

He completed tours with the destroyer HMCS Iroquois, HMCS Preserver, and HMCS Montreal gaining a specialty in Canadian maritime sovereignty through countless fishery patrols and three Arctic sovereignty missions.
In 2000, he completed a year of Joint military studies at the Command and Staff College Toronto, followed by advanced military studies in 2004.

Rear-Admiral Newton has deployed on NATO missions of the Cold War, and UN peace support operations, including the Gulf War in 1991, Haiti in 1993, and the maritime embargo of the former Yugoslavia in 1995. He also served at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa as Director of International Plans in the Strategic Joint Staff.

Beyond professional duties, Rear-Admiral Newton focuses strongly on his family, strives to maintain a balanced work-home life in his home in Lunenburg. I dropped in to visit the Rear Admiral Newton at his office at the Navy Shipyard on Halifax Harbour…

Click here or on picture to listen

Fall Back Up

In 1997 Brian Titus was in the navy working as a diver in Halifax…but he had a passion for making beer. At the time, the craft brew market hadn’t washed up on the east coast and he saw an opportunity.

Over the last 20 years, Garrison, along with Halifax’s other well established brand Propeller, settled as two of Nova Scotia’s best known craft beer operations.

However, in the last few years, the craft brewing industry has exploded around the world and other new Nova Scotia brands and brewery operations seemingly come on stream every month.

BRIAN-HS-2For Brian Titus, it’s been a pretty amazing ride and Garrison continues to grow, trying to compete with new entries into the market and a shifting landscape.

I dropped into Garrison Breweries at their headquarters located in a part of Halifax’s original immigration annex on the waterfront, next door to the Seaport Market. Brian and I grabbed a Spruce beer and settled in for a conversation as a couple of folks nearby worked on a collaborative brew…

What the parties are saying about small business in the Nova Scotia election

baillieburrillmcneil

As an advocate for small business, job one is getting issues in front of politicians. Prior to this election, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) presented each of the parties in the Nova Scotia election a small business “platform’ outlining key areas our 5,200 members in Nova Scotia have identified as priorities.

We sent out a survey to the leaders and they responded. While it wouldn’t be appropriate for CFIB to endorse any of the party’s positions during a campaign, it seems clear each of them understand the importance small- and medium-size business plays in the economy. It’s also clear their approaches differ, sometimes dramatically.

The areas we focused on in the creation of the platform were tax relief, regulatory reform (or “red tape” reduction), spending restraint and support for SME innovation activities to increase productivity and competitiveness.

You can find our platform here, the survey for the leaders here and the responses we received on these issues from the parties, by clicking on their logos.

Atlantica  Green Party of NS nslplogo NDP  Progressive_Conservative_Party_of_Nova_Scotia_2016

If you operate a business in Nova Scotia and are still considering your vote in this final weekend, it might be worthwhile to have a quick look at these documents. You can glean from them the importance each of the parties place on the issues we presented.

CFIB establishes its advocacy agenda based on responses to the many surveys we do of our membership to ensure we are focusing on the priorities that are important to small business. It’s our hope that any government elected on Tuesday, will do the same.

The future of our region depends on the prosperity of our small- and medium-sized businesses. We are not only the engine that drives the economy but are also the first to be impacted by bad government policy. I would encourage you to take few moments and have a look at where each of these parties intends to focus should they be given the opportunity to govern.

Fall Back Up

Jordi FBU Cover 3.01

This week on Fall Back Up, I have two podcasts for you to enjoy with two exceptional people.

The intent of this podcast is to is to provide you with engaging and thoughtful insights into Atlantic Canada through conversations with business leaders, innovators and high performers.

First up this week, one of Atlantic Canada’s digital pioneers. Back in the early 90’s Malcolm Fraser saw a business opportunity in this thing called the Internet. Over the years he built Internet Solutions Limited (ISL) into one of Atlantic Canada’s largest web marketing and development companies, but as you’ll hear, it wasn’t without some bumps in the road.

MalcolmIMG_2060-1000x464-1401900483He is an active member of the business community and has been recognized as one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEOs and is now the Vice President and Managing Director, Halifax at FCV Interactive.

In this episode we have a wide ranging conversation about the early days of the Internet, what business needs to know about adapting to new digital marketing environments, and what’s really going on in the background while you’re scrolling through social media.

The second episode is with Dr. Jeremy Koenig, a fascinating guy who I first met when I was looking to get in shape to run the Bluenose Marathon in 2012. While I never became marathon man, he did manage to whip my 50 year old carcass into the best shape it had been in for 30 years.

Jeremy is a geneticist and athlete. He got his PhD in biochemistry and molecular biologyJeremy_New specializing in genetics. As he tells it, he ran track because it fed his need to train.

After teaching nutrigenomics at Mount St. Vincent University and training high-performance athletes, in 2014, he launched Athletigen in cooperation with the high tech incubation hub Volta Labs. Athletigen uses proprietary software which looks at an athlete’s DNA to uncover data about strengths, weaknesses and ideal diets.

In another wide ranging conversation, we talk about how he landed in Halifax, how DNA analysis could be a game changer in personal health care and thoughts on success and failure.

If you have any feedback, comments, or suggestions, please be sure to leave a quick note on the comments section of my site.

To access the podcasts, there are a few options here. You can click on the pictures above, take this link to my PodBean site and you also can now also find Fall Back Up on  Stitcher or  iTunes.  The Soundcloud versions are below. I’m testing to see what works best so let me know if you have a preference of platform.

Have a great weekend.