Resource Wise New Brunswick
Will New Brunswick become the Canadian pot capital due to double standards? The contrast in how the marijuana is treated compared to shale gas is amazing.
New Brunswick is now planning to, literally, grow its economy. We got a hint of this on August 22 with a headline in the provincial newspaper blaring the following:
NEW BRUNSWICK’S ECONOMIC GROWTH PLAN: PUSH MARIJUANA
Aside from the obvious pun, the rest of the story is truth. How sad it is, though, how this attempt to make New Brunswick the Canadian pot capital, is being promoted without the slightest attempt to secure the “social license” demanded of the shale gas industry.
Susan Holt is the province’s chief of business relationships and part of the jobs board secretariat, tasked with creating opportunities for jobs/economic growth in New Brunswick. She’s part a three-member super team named by the Premier, Brian Gallant. When I met with her about what our group, Resource Wise NB, was trying to do, she was the President of the New Brunswick Business Council. In that capacity she was a shale gas booster, speaking publicly about the opportunities the industry would provide to businesses in the province. We were encouraged she would have the ear of the Premier in the debate over hydraulic fracturing.
Imagine our surprise when we read what Ms. Holt had to say about growth opportunities in New Brunswick :
New Brunswick is ideally suited for producing and selling marijuana, said Susan Holt, the province’s chief of business relationships and part of the jobs board secretariat, which is developing the province’s economic growth plan…It also has a population that is very good at cultivating and growing things, Holt said. the provincial government will be actively looking for ways to help the industry grow…That could include providing capital to help companies defray the costs of investing in facilities, equipment or staff. And it will be looking to attract people from outside the province.
~ Telegraph Journal August 22, 2016
To be fair, New Brunswick’s RPC, our provincial research council, is the country’s “best tester” of medicinal marijuana according to Ms. Holt. With the federal government promising to legalize recreational marijuana the provincial government is anticipating billions in revenue. The provincial liquor agency is already queued up to sell pot. All we need is for the federal government to pass legislation making recreational marijuana legal.
The New Brunswick government has been backing the province’s move to a pot economy by providing loans to two marijuana growing/dispensing companies, alluded to by Ms. Holt. You can read about them here and here.
The second company hasn’t begun construction yet, let alone been licensed by Health Canada. Yet our Premier, Brian Gallant, is willing to pour $4 million of our tax dollars in to the company. This announcement came a mere day after Ms. Holt declared our province’s economy will grow on pot. Add to that the province’s relationship with Norway’s Jiffy Products (NB) Ltd, a manufacturer of peat pots, pellets, plastic trays and other horticulture-related products, it’s obvious how we’re really “growing” the economy.
The above-mentioned study on shale gas opportunities for New Brunswick says that “per well” the benefits to the province are $13 million and about 21 full-time jobs. Yet our government has all but abandoned the shale industry in favor of marijuana.
Let’s look again at the five conditions the New Brunswick government has set out to lift the moratorium on the shale gas industry:
- Ensuring a social licence is in place;
- Clear and credible information is available about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on public health, the environment and water;
- A plan is in place to mitigate the impacts on public infrastructure and to address issues such as waste water disposal;
- A process is in place to respect the duty of the provincial government to consult with First Nations;
- A mechanism is in place to ensure that benefits are maximized for New Brunswickers.
Before charging ahead with basing our province’s future on pot, shall we apply the same five conditions to marijuana production and sales?
Ensuring a social license is in place:
The marijuana industry has proceeded almost without notice here in New Brunswick. Only now are citizens questioning government money going to build/expand the industry. However, there’s no organized, funded group opposing it. The government has decided this is the future, without researching the social, socio-economic, and health implications. Already enterprising individuals have set up illegal dispensaries with questionable sources, in vulnerable neighborhoods.
Clear and credible information on the impacts of marijuana production and selling on public health, the environment, and water:
Let’s unpack this one.
- Health – From the Canadian Medical Association re: medicinal marijuana: “The CMA still believes there is insufficient scientific evidence available to support the use of marijuana for clinical purposes. It also believes there is insufficient evidence on clinical risks and benefits, including the proper dosage of marijuana to be used and on the potential interactions between this drug and other medications. The CMA will continue to urge that Health Canada support development of rigorous research on the effects, both positive and adverse, that the use of marijuana for medical purposes will have.”
- Environment – Growing indoors can use excessive amounts of energy. Indoor marijuana production requires high-powered lights, heating and cooling equipment. Data from 2012 estimates that a typical growing operation can run at up to 200 watts per square foot (supporting just four plants indoors could require as much electricity as 30 refrigerators).
Marijuana growing requires fertilizers, pesticides, and rodenticides. If growth operations are outside, rodenticides will have impacts far up the food chain. Wastewater contains toxic chemicals. In the States “…growers are finding it difficult to dispose of this waste without violating environmental guidelines of the Clean Water Act…The two biggest pollutants found in hydroponic wastewater are phosphates and nitrates. Phosphates can attach to sediments such as clay particles, while nitrates are very soluble in water. Both of these pollutants can trigger eutrophication, causing algal blooms, which deplete oxygen in the water and can also release toxins that can kill animals or cause humans to be sick. Nitrate leaching can cause several environmental problems including the loss of calcium and other cations as well as moving into surface or ground water where it can severely impact drinking water. Elevated nitrate-N concentrations in drinking water can result in “blue-baby syndrome” and be fatal to infants by interfering with oxygen transport in the blood. These potential problems associated with managing hydroponic wastewater are among the reasons why the Clean Water Act was established to set water quality standards. The Act made it unlawful for anyone to discharge pollutants into waters unless a permit is obtained under its provisions.”
- Water – Marijuana is a plant that requires a lot of water, on average 6 gallons per plant per day. The bigger the plant, the more water required.
A plan is in place to mitigate the impacts on public infrastructure and to address issues such as waste water disposal:
In many places people and companies producing marijuana are not allowed to discharge wastewater in to the sewers, and require permits to do so where they may. (See above point on the environment.) The government of New Brunswick has no regulations for waste water from marijuana production.
A process is in place to respect the duty of the provincial government to consult with First Nations:
I am unaware of any consultation, however considering the environmental impact of and land use required to grow marijuana, I believe the government has the duty to consult. One First Nations group has already invested in the yet-to-be-built facility. With legalization and sales controlled by a government agency, I’m sure First Nations will want to have their say.
A mechanism is in place to ensure that benefits are maximized for New Brunswickers.
The provincial government wants to sell marijuana. It will collect taxes just as it does now on cigarettes, alcohol, and gambling. These dollars will be needed in our health system and criminal justice system.
Although New Brunswick has the strongest regulations in North America for shale gas, there are currently no provincial rules for the marijuana industry, other than federal requirements for licensing. All that’s in place so far is a working group. Yet, the government is already open for business.
Of course, I am talking about “legal” operations. Those people growing marijuana illegally don’t care about waste water running in to streams and rivers, or cutting trees, or the amount of water they use and where it comes from, or the amount of garbage and poisons they leave behind in our woodlands.
Where are the environmentalists now? Jim Emberger? Council of Canadians? Sierra Club? Who is going to protect us from the effects on public safety, our health and our environment as the province puts all its eggs in the pot pipe?
I think New Brunswickers should demand that the marijuana industry meet the same five requirements as shale gas.
New Brunswick is a province in dire need of adults to run it before it’s too late.