We recently caught up with our friend Dana Larsen for a chat about what he sees happening in the future of Cannabis in Canada. Dana is a long time Cannabis activist and business person,
HempFest Canada: For starters, can you tell us a little about what got you interested in Cannabis advocacy in the first place?
Dana Larsen: I started using cannabis when I was 18. As I learned more about it, I realized what a terrible policy prohibition is, and how harmful and destructive the so-called war on drugs really was.
I began writing letters to Canadian politicians about the issue, and kept their replies in a big binder. When I started university, I met other people with similar ideas, and we started a club on campus. That was over 25 years ago, and was really the beginning of my activism career.
HFC: How do you see your job as an activist changing now that cannabis will be legal for adult use recreationally next year?
DL: I'm not convinced that the federal government will meet their timeline, or that we'll actually have legalization next year. But even when the legislation passes, there's still a lot of work to do. This first version of legalization has many serious flaws, and I expect there are many legal challenges, court battles and civil disobedience campaigns still to come.
Also, for me this campaign has always been about more than just cannabis. I am working to end the whole war on drugs, which I consider to be a war on the world's best, more culturally relevant and medicinally valuable herbs. Cannabis flowers, opium poppies, coca leaves, psilocybe mushrooms, peyote cactus, all of these are beneficial plants with potent healing and medicinal effects. I want to see an end to the prohibition on all these plants, and an end to the persecution and imprisonment of those who use them.
HFC: Why do you think the Cannabis distribution model will look like in Canada in say, 2 years? Do you anticipate a mix of dispensaries and clinics?
DL: In two years I predict a lot of confusion. I think there will still be dispensaries, as well as raids against some of them. Many provinces will stilll not have their distribution system in place, and those that do will still be facing a shortage of cannabis from the federally licensed producers. Two years from now we'll also be heading into a federal election, so things could take a new direction in 2020 if Trudeau doesn't keep on as Prime Minister.
HFC: It sounds like you're expecting it to take many years to sort out the direction of legal Cannabis in Canada! Of the US States that have legalized, which do you feel has got the best model?
DL: Yes this is going to be a long process. I call the coming legalization version 1.0. It will take several more versions until we're getting to "real legalization" which actual equality for cannabis users and growers. Every US state with legalization has flaws. But I like Colorado more than others, because it allows some home growing for personal and more for medical, it included dispensaries, and it doesn't have a lot of extra penalties involved. That being said, their rules still treat cannabis much more strictly than alcohol, which isn't right.
HFC: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Dana! We're looking forward to hearing your talks at some of our upcoming shows!