Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An Ideological And Horticultural Taint

Although I am not a user of medical cannabis, the current scandal (and it can only be termed a scandal) regarding dangerous and forbidden pesticide use by companies with the Health Canada seal of approval is instructive.

First, a recap of the situation is in order:
After a string of recent recalls by Mettrum Ltd., OrganiGram Inc. and Aurora Cannabis Inc. because of the presence of myclobutanil – a banned pesticide that produces hydrogen cyanide when heated – a number of patients told The Globe and Mail they don’t see how Health Canada can assure them the product can be trusted. Revelations that the government isn’t testing regularly to prove all companies aren’t using harmful chemicals have left consumers concerned for their health.
The real villain of the piece is our current 'new and improved' government, which seems quite content to follow the same practices set out by the former, much-despised neoliberal Harper government.
In a background briefing with The Globe and Mail, a senior Health Canada official acknowledged that even though the government prohibits the use of potentially harmful chemicals such as myclobutanil, – which is known to emit hydrogen cyanide when heated –the department has not been testing cannabis growers to ensure the 38 federally licensed companies were, in fact, not using it.
Instead, the regulator has been leaving it up to the growers to police themselves on the use of potentially harmful chemicals.[emhpasis added]
The rather naive justification for this betrayal of the people using pot for therapeutic reasons is unconvincing:
... we have not required licensed producers [LPs] to test for any unauthorized pesticides, nor have we been testing all LPs, and it is because we expect their companies to be pro-actively watching and taking the appropriate measures to ensure non-authorized products aren’t used.
Perhaps the most damning aspect of all of this is that when a recall of tainted product took place in December, Health Canada refused to reveal the reason: the discovery of myclobutanil.

We will soon be a year-and-a-half into our 'new' government's tenure, more than sufficient time to set new directions for all government bodies, but just as Revenue Canada has shown no particular appetite for chasing down offshore tax evaders, despite the revelations of The Panama Papers, Health Canada and undoubtedly many federal regulators are still hewing to the much-vaunted neoliberal tenet of belief: industry self-regulation.

A damning indictment, to be sure, both of the medical marijuana industry and the Trudeau government, which clearly has not yet met a free-market policy it doesn't like.

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