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Quebec Summit of cooperatives needs to talk the toke

by Tony Patterson at Co-op Canada Accelerator

Quebec Summit of cooperatives needs to talk the toke

We should be talking about cannabis (marijuana) at the International Summit of Co-operatives 2014 in Quebec City this October.

  • Because health care is one of five major themes under discussion during this five day extravaganza for business leaders of the movement;
  • Because the medical cannabis regime is undergoing significant change in Canada;
  • Because a Member of Parliament is calling on government to allow co-operatives to produce marijuana for medical purposes;
  • Because legalization is proceeding piecemeal in U.S. states and Latin American countries and is on the political agenda in Canada. Soon it will be legal or decriminalized worldwide, representing a huge new market poised for the taking by co-ops.

The active ingredient of cannabis, THC (tretrahydrocannabinol), is as useful and versatile as ASA (acetylsalicylic acid) as a natural remedy and prophylactic for a number of conditions that afflict us. Sir William Osler, the Canadian doctor known to the western world as the father of modern medicine, repeated in all three versions of his famous textbook that cannabis was the best treatment for migraine. THC and ASA both work for headache. A big difference between them is that governments haven’t criminalized aspirin.

As the journalist Paul Taylor writes, “Marijuana, once vilified as an illicit weed, is increasingly seen for its medicinal benefits. Its active ingredient, THC, is being used to treat pain, the side effects of chemotherapy, AIDS-induced anorexia, nausea and other medical conditions.” The list also includes glaucoma, Krohn’s Disease, PTSD, weight control, epilepsy and diabetes. In the latter part of the last century, scientists at Pacific Medical Centre in California proved the inhibitory effect of cannabinoids on human brain cancer cells, glioblastoma multiforme. The list ends only because research is so difficult. It’s difficult because this herb, often called grass because that’s how readily it grows, is illegal to possess or cultivate. For now. It’s the policy of a contending national party in Canada that it will legalize cannabis when it forms a government.

Is there any meaning at all to the objective set by the International Co-operative Alliance to make co-ops the fastest growing form of enterprise in the world by 2020? If so, they should be talking the economic potential of cannabis at the Quebec Summit, a gathering that aims to become the Davos forum for the movement. Does anybody doubt that Shopper’s Drug-Loblaw is planning for the day cannabis can be sold to adults? T.P. Loblaw got his start as a co-op manager. Is the rejigging of an existing multi-billion dollar market from the dark side to the light, the conversion of cannabis to legal trade, a co-opportunity he would have eschewed? Not likely.

The tide, rising to full flood, is there for the taking by co-ops. It’s an opportunity that needs special handling by a trusted source with concern for the community. Almost 5,000 Canadians are already licenced to purchase and possess cannabis for medical purposes and this number is expected to increase rapidly to 40,000. This alone is a market that is already drawing millions of dollars of investment. But it’s just the start of an economic opportunity made to fit the co-operative advantage.


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SCAN1 (Tony Patterson)
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