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Editorial: Planting the seed of opportunism

Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton sits with Chris Mitchelmore, minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation at Confederation Building Friday morning.  — Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram
Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton sits with Chris Mitchelmore, minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation at Confederation Building Dec. 8. — Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

It’s funny how quickly a criminal enterprise can turn into a legitimate business opportunity.

As a federal Conservative politician, even as late as 2015, Julian Fantino was opposed to the legalization of marijuana.

In 2004, he even compared weed to murder in an interview with the Toronto Sun, saying, “I guess we can legalize murder too and then we won’t have a murder case. We can’t go that way.”

Now, he’s partnered with former RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar to open a medical marijuana business, Aleafia Total Health Network.

Asked about the about face by the CBC’s "As It Happens,” he responded, “So we’re talking about a different issue. We’re talking about me today, as a responsible, educated, informed citizen who’s had the experience of knowing the benefits of medical cannabis for people who are suffering from ailments that are normally not well cared for by plying them with opiates.”

Former Conservative MP Gary Goodyear has apparently been hired by the same marijuana company. Goodyear once told the House of Commons that he felt there should be stronger penalties put in place for those who operate marijuana grow-ops.

But it’s not just individuals who suddenly see opportunities in the formerly criminal business of the production and sale of marijuana.

In 2013, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador set up a joint police task force to deal with organized crime, including the drug business: last week, that same government announced its multi-million-dollar involvement in a massive marijuana grow-op.

New Brunswick touted marijuana growers as part of its economic growth plan, and started community college classes in marijuana cultivation in November, even paying full tuition for the first group of 25 students.

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are turning to weed sales in provincially-run outlets, while Newfoundland and Labrador’s liquor corporation will both wholesale the drug to private retailers and sell it through its liquor stores. In other words, a criminal scourge will now be a government cash crop.

And private enterprise sees opportunities galore.

Just a few years ago, police officers were trotting out rows of seedlings seized from someone’s basement and valuing their find on what the same number of fully-grown plants would be worth on the street.

Now, there are even companies that specialize in home-sized grow-ops, and they are rubbing their hands together at the idea of potential windfall profits — in the weed equivalent of home brewing.

Aurora Cannabis, already a major player in the marijuana business, spent $3.85 million in October to buy up a smaller company that specializes in “grow boxes” that are around the size of a fridge, and grow four to 18 marijuana plants, complete with hydroponics, lights and ventilation. The company expects an avalanche of interested customers once marijuana is legal.

From criminals to capitalists, and all in the span of a year or so. Magic.

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