Out in the Open

Legal cannabis lobbyist opposes illegal dispensaries

"If you're having a race and somebody jumps before the starting gun, they're disqualified," Cam Battley says.
Licensed producers of medical marijuana like Aurora require a legitimate prescription and only send their products by mail. (Twitter/aurora_mmj)

More than half of the 31 licensed marijuana producers in Canada are members of a lobby group called Cannabis Canada.

Members of Cannabis Canada have been vocal in their opposition to illegal marijuana dispensaries, like the ones raided at the end of May in Toronto. The group talked to city authorities months before the police crackdown, warning them of the rapidly growing number of pot shops operating outside the law.

Out in the Open talked with Cam Battley, who is the Chair of Cannabis Canada Advocacy Committee and senior vice president of one of the licensed producers of medical marijuana, Aurora. Cam said that he finds it difficult to understand the anger and shock of the Toronto dispensary owners whose shops have been raided.

"They were warned multiple times. There were letters delivered to their landlords. Essentially, the police were saying, 'We will bust you if you don't stop operating.' And then they got busted and they pretend to be shocked. I find that perhaps a little bit disingenuous."

Another reason why Cam can't sympathize with the dispensary owners is that his company, and other licensed producers in Cannabis Canada, conduct their business by the book. So he knows firsthand that it is possible to make a living on legal marijuana without breaking the law.

"When you follow the rules, it's a little hard to see yourself as hypocritical," Cam told Out in the Open host Piya Chattopadhyay.

Cam doesn't see the battle between licensed producers and dispensary owners as a class issue, despite the fact that many of the latter broke into the industry from illegal street dealing.

"In the legal industry, we look like Canada. We've got men and women of all backgrounds, every race, every class involved in this," Cam explained. "What we're doing is simply playing by the rules. When people suggest that this is a class issue, they're really saying they can't compete according to the rules."

Cam added that once marijuana is legalized in Canada, everyone with appropriate knowledge and experience should be able to participate in the industry.