Walker Patton, the Chief Commercial Officer at Woody Nelson, recently sat down with David Brown, the founder of StratCann, to speak about current Canadian cannabis news, policy, and predictions. A transcript of this interview has been adapted into a mini-series of articles, discussing topics that range from farmgate, engaging with government, edible extracts, policy, and effective lobbying. Some of the transcription may have been altered slightly for clarity or length.
Previously, David discussed farm gate; his opinion on what happened, why the program has been so ineffective, the government’s response, and what that means for policy engagement and activism. Here, Brown discusses the importance of public engagement when it comes to activism and policy change.
Engaging with the Public
David: I think constantly going to politicians is potentially the wrong approach. Politicians don't lead crowds. Politicians get in front of a crowd once one appears. I think the industry has to address public perception and that requires exiting out of our own little confirmation bias bubbles where everyone agrees with us. The reality is that cannabis users are a small portion of the adult population. Far more Canadians drink, and therefore Canadians are a lot more sympathetic to the demands of the alcohol industry.
The cannabis industry wants to think that we're there, but we're not. Until we can admit where we actually are and start changing the conversation with the general public, then you'll start to get those politicians falling in line. The general public doesn't care. The general public's primarily sees us as a bunch of stock market millionaires or stoner losers. We have to acknowledge that.
So these lobbying groups - it's great to spend a bunch of money and go to Ottawa and hobnob with politicians, but those politicians are not going to listen until their constituents are calling them up and saying, ‘hey, this is a problem.’ I don't see the industry doing that at all. Where are the ad campaigns? Where's the engagement with the public? You know how little a grower makes. The general public doesn't understand that at all. That's a failure of industry. So, the industry needs to be able to explain that to the public in a way that will make sense to them. That's how you then shift that conversation about excise taxes.
Just going to your MP over and over, just going to Minister of Finance, or going to Health Canada who doesn't really have any say in that anymore anyway, just goes back to the time when we were spoiled in the early days of legalization and we thought that that that was how you made change. We didn't realize that the reason why Trudeau stood up in 2014 and said ‘I'm going to legalize’ was because polls at that time were starting to show that this was a popular thing. He was brave, but he was also standing in front of a growing crowd.
About David Brown
David Brown is the founder of StratCann, a cannabis industry news and events company based in British Columbia. David has been working in the Canadian cannabis space for about ten years now, as a writer, event coordinator, policy advisor, and all around industry facilitator. David was a founding member of Lift Cannabis from 2014-2018, a Senior Policy Advisor with Health Canada’s cannabis branch from 2018-2020, and the founder of StratCann in 2020 where he has been working as a writer and policy advisor ever since.