Cannabis: The Good Neighbour

Canadians are okay with cannabis shops in their community. And for good reason.

by Shaun Chapman, Director of Government Relations at Weedmaps

In a few months, the Canadian government will begin a top-to-bottom review of the federal Cannabis Act, the controversial 2018 law that legalized adult-use cannabis. Monday morning quarterbacking a major piece of legislation is often a meaningless exercise. But in this case, a thoughtful and intentional review of what is working and what is not could help improve the integrity, success and sustainability of the nascent cannabis industry. More importantly, the review, which begins in October, will address and could offer solutions to important and outstanding issues impacting medical cannabis patients and adult-use consumers.

Those issues include: the quality of legal cannabis, its marketplace accessibility and a myriad of safety concerns.

A new Weedmaps survey examining Canadian’s attitudes towards cannabis since legalization serves as a curtain-raiser for what Health Canada will be grappling with in the Fall.

I won’t bury the lede: 40% of Canadians support cannabis retail in their communities, while 25% oppose them, and 35% are indifferent.

That may surprise those who forecasted doom, gloom and the erosion of Canadian neighbourhoods when legalization went into effect, but it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve seen time-and-time again in the USA that the sky doesn’t fall when states legalize medical and/or adult-use cannabis. In most cases the neighbourhood actually improves. As a matter of fact, a recent real estate industry study found that home values went up in American neighbourhoods when legal cannabis set up shop.

A majority of respondents of the Canadian study said that nothing in their neighbourhood changed significantly post legalization; that owners of cannabis stores were good neighbours; and that the stores boost the local economy and effectively combat the illicit market.

“A good neighbour increases the value of your property” goes the old Czech proverb. Who would have guessed that good neighbour was cannabis?

Moving forward, the cannabis industry must continue to be that authentic good neighbour, and heed the advice of the British philosopher Francis Bacon, who wisely said, “People have discovered that they can fool the devil; but they can’t fool the neighbours.” It shouldn’t be long before the cannabis store is viewed, respected and relied on just like the neighbourhood grocery. Dispelling the negative stereotypes and unsubstantiated fear of what happens to a community with the arrival of cannabis retail should play a significant role in the growth, success and prestige of the industry.

This level of public awareness and support, reflected in the survey results, also indicates Canadians’ appetite to address barriers to quality, affordability and access — issues that fuel the illicit cannabis market (and, according to the survey, are the top reasons why they continue to patronize illegal sources). So these topics will surely dominate the October review.

With that in mind, there are several things that provincial and federal government officials can do to significantly improve those areas. And the survey results clearly indicate that the public will enthusiastically support these actions:

  • Good neighbours are always welcome, so no need to cap on licences.
  • Legal cannabis retailers are just like any other business in the community. Allow them to display appropriate signage.
  • Safe access for every neighbourhood. Delivery is the way to do it.
  • Reduce costs and package waste. Remove onerous restrictions on edible packaging.

Implementing these simple “good neighbour” recommendations will yield huge benefits — not just for the legal cannabis industry, but for neighbourhoods across Canada.

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