The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Jul. 31, 2016 5:00PM EDT
Last updated Sunday, Jul. 31, 2016 5:00PM EDT
We don’t let you cook up medicines in your kitchen and dispense them on your front lawn, or brew moonshine in your garage and sell it from a storefront. There are all kinds of good reasons why governments can’t allow people to do as they please when it comes to homemade pharmaceuticals and intoxicants – and there is no reason why marijuana should now be the exception to a regulatory environment designed to protect our society and keep it healthy.
And yet, as a Globe and Mail investigation into the largely unregulated and illegal business of marijuana retailing has shown, government inaction has fostered a Wild West mentality where the prospect of quick profits can encourage risky practices and false advertising.
Cannabis dispensaries have thrived in the vacuum created when the federal government announced that marijuana would soon be legalized. A medical-marijuana industry previously subject to stringent controls in production and access – and answerable to Health Canada – was transformed almost overnight into an unregulated and unmonitored consumer-products business that proudly goes its own way.
Among The Globe’s findings were that three out of nine samples of pot purchased in Toronto dispensaries didn’t meet Health Canada’s safety standards for licensed medical marijuana. They contained excessive and potentially dangerous levels of bacteria; one sample had worrisome levels of mould and yeast.
Other tests showed that so-called “edibles” – cookies, lollipops and other snacks that purport to contain the active medical ingredients in marijuana – don’t always contain as much of the ingredient as billed. Four out of five samples tested fell far short of their claims.
That kind of misleading labelling would bring the wrath of Health Canada down on any other business. But pot dispensaries are selling whatever they want and making any claims they choose about the quality, safety and provenance of their product. This clearly must stop. Medical marijuana should be available to those who need it. But right now too much of the product on sale in Canada is hard to distinguish from the snake oils of yesteryear.