Out-of-control medical pot claims

Pot adverts contravene Criminal Code, foes say
LETTER TO OTTAWA: Group says false advertising threat to safety
GORDON McINTYRE , The Province, 14 May 2015

Pamela McColl thinks she’s found a way to nail the scores of marijuana dispensaries that have opened in Vancouver, if only she could find an agency to go along.

The issue is a hot potato, with regulatory bodies, federal departments, police forces and city halls only too happy to pass it along.

Health Canada made it clear to The Province earlier this week that such dispensaries are illegal under the Food and Drugs Act, as is their advertising on radio and in print.

But Health Canada said it can only enforce advertising rules, not shut down the dispensaries.

“(But) I was told by Health Canada they do not look after illegal operations, only the licensees,” McColl said.

In frustration, McColl, a director with Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada, has turned to federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay, whose department oversees the Competition Bureau.

“It is our organization’s view that recent advertising of illegal marijuana retail operations have been running in Vancouver newspapers and radio stations contravening Canada’s Criminal Code, under which advertising regulations are governed,” she wrote MacKay.

By law, only licensed industrial growers — there are six in B.C. — can sell medicinal marijuana, and promotion of their products is strictly limited to name, strength and price.

Yet mosey into many street-front dispensaries and you’d be informed cannabis can apparently heal more ills than snake oil and echinacea combined.

“Claims are being made in regards to marijuana as a medicine that cannot be substantiated and which amount to false, misleading and deceptive advertising,” McColl said. “Such advertising and claims pose a serious threat to public safety.”

With marijuana retail stores popping up like Starbucks coffee houses, McColl said there are now 91 dispensaries in Vancouver.

There are many concerns, not the least being the lack of child-proofing pot packages and marketing pot to teens, as some tobacco companies have done, she said.

“And our concern is, if selling marijuana becomes normal and commercial, Big Pot would get control, just like Big Tobacco. If the big guys get in, we’ll never get rid of them.”

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