Reality check: Green Party’s cannabis platform has basic errors

Cannabis plants grow in a large field in Southwestern Ontario in this file image. 48NORTH/YOUTUBE

In its cannabis platform, the federal Green Party promises to remove several restrictions  — a ban on outdoor growing, a requirement to use plastic packaging and a federal minimum price — that don’t actually exist.

Here’s a reality check.

The document, released late last week, makes four promises. We had a look, and found problems with three of them.

1) Lowering the federally set price for cannabis to make it competitive with illegal supplies.

There is no such thing as a federally set price for cannabis, explains Brock University business professor Michael Armstrong. Once excise taxes are paid, legal sellers are free to set prices as high or low as the market will bear.

“The excise tax is about a dollar a gram, depending on jurisdiction,” he says. “That makes it difficult to price low, but there’s nothing in the federal rules about pricing.”

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“Politicians talked a lot about $10 a gram as a target, but there’s no minimum price. Quebec sells dry cannabis for $7.50 a gram if you buy a big package.”

2) Eliminating requirements for excess plastic packaging on legal cannabis.

Producers must follow strict and complex federal rules on cannabis packaging. Most producers find the rules easiest to comply with if they use childproof plastic containers.

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Consumers have complained about excess packaging, and about the fact that containers can be hard to recycle.

But nothing in the rules actually requires the use of plastic, and some producers, like The Green Organic Dutchman, ship dried flower in glass jars.

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3) Removing the sales tax on medicinal products.

This promise does not contain a factual error. The sales tax on medical cannabis is controversial, and several other parties, including the NDP and Conservatives, have called for it to be removed.
Several licenced producers run large-scale outdoor growing operations, like this one near Brantford, Ont. (48North)

4) Allowing outdoor production and imposing organic production standards.

Federal rules already allow outdoor cannabis production, and at least one, 48North near Brantford, Ont,, runs a large outdoor cannabis operation, seen above. This past spring, they planted a quarter of a million cannabis seeds on a 100-acre farm.

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Across Canada, thirteen producers are licenced to grow outdoors.

“Health Canada does require security,” Armstrong says. “They want fencing and security cameras around outdoor fields. Is that really necessary? It certainly adds an expense.”

“But the fact that the Green Party doesn’t seem to notice that there’s outdoor production going on is kind of surprising, yes.”

“Of all the parties, I would have thought the Greens would have people who are kind of up-to-date on it.”

We reached out to the Green Party for a comment, and will update this story if we get one.

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