Witnessing the legalization of recreational cannabis is a historic event. There’s the excitement of knowing you are here for this unique moment in time, as well as the guilty anticipation of waiting to try legal products that could have landed you in prison not too long ago. Alongside these pleasures, we also get to observe, with fascination, as marijuana consumption becomes normalized and permeates our culture until it takes its place as a social norm.
But how did we get here?
An obvious answer is that we were carried on the backs of those who risked freedom and challenged the status quo of the time.
One such individual is Pete Young, a long-time cannabis activist who has been challenging the government to end marijuana prohibition since the late 1980s. He is now the master grower at Indiva, a licensed producer in London, Ont., where he continues to promote cannabis and at the same time, grows marijuana as a commodity.
“I’ve always had a strong belief that the cannabis community should take care of the people who need cannabis more than the people who want it,” he said in an interview with The GrowthOp. Although Young is referring to the fact that patients with actual debilitating health conditions should receive medical cannabis first, he supports the legalization of the plant for everyone. “Cannabis should have never been criminalized.”
Young can’t speak for other licensed producers, but he personally wants to provide medical marijuana to as many patients as possible. “At Indiva, we focus on the medicinal value first and then we will get into the recreational market once we feel we’ve done as much as we can within the medical community.”
Helping patients is something that has always been paramount to Young. He feels that Health Canada should have allotted a finite amount of patients per producer; based on the amount of cannabis they were able to grow. Instead, they were allowed to get as many clients as possible, despite the fact that they may not have had enough medicine to go around. This was arguably one of the reasons behind unlicensed dispensaries popping up in major cities across the country.
“The [first licensed producers] were just absorbing as many clients as they could because maybe it made their stock value look better,” said Young. “[The LPs] were taking more clients than they could provide for.”
Medical access aside, Young also recognizes the importance of a financially robust recreational cannabis sector and does not judge licensed producers who are clearly in existence to make a profit. “If an LP wants to get into this industry to [solely] make money, who am I to stop an entrepreneur to do whatever they want? And it’s not just LPs, its dispensaries [as well]”.
Finding that balance between helping people in need and profit can be a challenge, but in Indiva, Young felt that his vision was secure when he met with Niel Marotta and Koby Smutylo, the CEO, and COO of the company. “They believed in my mantra that you focus on the plant, you focus on the client. If the plant is happy, the client is happy.”
Despite the bumps in the road and laundry list of criticisms that seem to come from all sides over the process in which legalization has taken place, Young is optimistic about where we’re headed.
“You can’t argue with the direction we’re headed towards. It means our brothers and sisters will stop going to jail. That is one of the biggest things, to stop destroying people’s lives because they are cannabis users.”
This article originally appeared in The GrowthOp.