Canada on Monday launched a public consultation seeking to tighten rules for individuals who are allowed to grow their own medical cannabis, in an effort to clamp down on pot seeping into black markets.
In a draft guidance issued for the consultation, Health Canada highlighted recent police raids and arrests at production sites where people were using licenses to “cover and support large-scale illegal production and sale.”
The move comes as Canada tries to fix its ailing pot market, where illegal producers sell more annually than hundreds of licensed cultivators, even over two years after the country became the first major nation to legalize weed in 2018.
Households spent more than $3.1 billion buying non-medical pot from illicit channels last year versus $2.9 billion of legal purchases, according to Statistics Canada data.
“Abuse of the medical purposes framework undermines the integrity of the system that many patients and health care practitioners rely on to access cannabis to address their medical needs,” Health Canada said in the draft document.
Reuters first reported the news earlier on Monday.
The draft guidance for the first time sets out factors that the regulator may consider in refusing or revoking a registration for “personal production.” Factors include authorization of unjustified amounts and “criminal activity and/or diversion of cannabis.”
In January, Ontario Provincial Police seized over 180,000 cannabis plants and numerous vehicles and firearms by raiding illegal cultivation facilities, many of which exploit Health Canada’s personal medical weed cultivation licenses.
Under the rules, people using cannabis for medical purposes must get a daily amount authorized by medical care practitioners – doctors, nurses and social workers – to either be bought from official retailers or grown personally.
Health Canada said in December it was seeing a surge in the amount of pot personal cultivators were being authorized to grow.
The number of patients registered for purchase from federally licensed retailers was 377,024 in September last year, a 24% increase from June. Meanwhile, registrations for personal cultivation grew 29% over the period to 43,211.
Even though personal cultivators remain a small fraction of overall patient registrations, these people are allowed to grow as much as 36 grams per day on average, compared with just two grams authorized for daily purchase from retailers.
As part of its public consultation, Health Canada said it was inviting Canadians to share their views on the factors that should be considered in “refusal or revocation of a registration on public health and public safety ground.”
The consultation will run for 60 days through May 7, the regulator said.
After the end of the two-month period, the regulator plans to finalize the guidance and make it public.
U.S. confirms it will accept Canadian travellers with mixed vaccines – CBC.ca
Canadians with mixed vaccines and U.S. travel plans can breathe a sigh of relief tonight.
Following weeks of speculation, the United States confirmed late Friday it will accept mixed vaccines when new rules kick in on Nov. 8 requiring that foreign travellers entering the U.S. be fully vaccinated.
Individuals inoculated with any combination of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization will be considered fully vaccinated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CBC News.
WHO-approved vaccines include Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and its Indian-made counterpart, Covishield. So travellers with any combination of these vaccines will be allowed to enter the U.S.
The CDC does not recognize mixing COVID-19 vaccines but said it updated its guidance to reflect growing global acceptance of the practice.
“While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccine in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for the interpretation of vaccine records,” CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said in an email.
Millions of Canadians have mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines. When the U.S. recently announced it would impose a vaccination requirement for travellers entering by both land and air, many Canadians with mixed doses worried they might soon be barred from entering the country.
“We felt kind of blindsided,” said snowbird, Ingrid Whyte of Toronto. Following Canadian government guidance, she and her husband, John, each got one dose of Covishield and a second dose of Pfizer.
“We did everything that we were supposed to do in terms of getting vaccines,” Whyte said.
The couple had booked a flight to Florida for Nov. 17, but cancelled it due to concerns over their mixed vaccines. They’re now relieved to hear their vaccine combination won’t be an issue when entering the U.S.
“We are thrilled,” Whyte said. “I wish it could have been a little sooner. It would have allowed people to plan a little bit more effectively. But in the long run, it’s great news.”
It’s also good news for Petar Sesar of London, Ont., who has a mix of Moderna and Pfizer.
Sesar’s fiancée, Mara Bakula, lives in Cleveland. Sesar welcomed news this week that the U.S. land border will reopen on Nov. 8 to non-essential travellers, as he prefers to drive instead of fly to Cleveland.
However, he worried he might have no U.S. travel options come Nov. 8 if the country rejected his vaccine mix.
“That was a very scary moment,” he said. “It felt like house arrest of sorts, like now I [may] have no option.”
Earlier this year, the CDC stated online that a mix of two mNRA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, would be accepted in “exceptional situations.” But Sesar didn’t rest easy until he learned that the CDC had approved his exact combination.
“It is unbelievable,” he said. “It is such a relief. I share the relief with millions of [Canadians].”
Where does the U.S. stand now on mixed vaccines?
Canada updated its vaccination guidelines in June to recommend mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses based on emerging research that found it was both safe and effective.
Meanwhile, the CDC still maintains that “data on the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series are limited.”
But that could change.
The U.S. recently conducted a study exploring the effectiveness of using a different COVID-19 vaccine as a booster shot.
Canadian politicians warn of political violence after U.K. MP is stabbed to death – CBC.ca
Shocked and saddened by the killing of a long-serving British MP on Friday, Canadian politicians say the threat of a similar incident in Canada appears to be growing.
David Amess, 69, was fatally stabbed around noon on Friday while meeting with constituents in Leigh-on-Sea, a town about 62 kilometres east of London.
The Conservative lawmaker had been a member of Parliament for 38 years.
“The MP who was murdered was doing something that we all do as members of Parliament,” said Lisa Raitt, a former Conservative MP and cabinet minister.
“When it’s part of your job, and a fundamental part of your job, it really shook me up.”
For Canadian politicians who have faced harassment and threats of violence, Amess’s death was a startling reminder of the danger that can come with serving as an elected official.
“News like this … I saw this and it just really hit me in the gut,” said Michelle Rempel Garner, the Conservative MP for Calgary Nose Hill.
Police in the U.K. have arrested a 25-year-old man in connection with Amess’s death. He has not been identified.
Rempel Garner said she’s experienced multiple instances of public harassment and received a death threat at her office during the summer election campaign. She said the political climate in Canada is experiencing an escalation of vitriol unlike anything she’s seen before in her 10 years as an MP.
“This last campaign, for me, I have never felt so unsafe,” Rempel Garner told CBC News. She said the next Parliament should do more to ensure the safety of its members.
“Something has changed and it has not changed for the good.”
‘Intensity’ of violence growing
The summer election campaign was marred by repeated incidents of violence and vandalism targeting candidates from across the political spectrum. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was pelted with gravel at a campaign stop in London, Ont. as anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters doggedly followed his campaign.
Far-right extremist groups were also said to be more active than in any prior campaign.
“I’m pretty sure that the same groups of people that were attacking the prime minister on the campaign trail were the same people that were after me on the campaign trail,” Rempel Garner said.
Barbara Perry, a criminology professor who studies extremism at Ontario Tech University, said the campaign made it clear that the threat of political violence has become very real in Canada.
“The pattern is not new. I think the intensity and the breadth of the problem is different and changing,” Perry said.
She said that while women and people of colour have long faced serious threats of violence in the political sphere, that danger appears to be more widespread now.
“It seems as if that has broadened out to represent a risk to virtually anyone who runs for office or holds office now,” Perry said.
“I don’t know if it’s social media, I don’t know what it is,” Raitt said. She described the shift in tone as an “undercurrent of anger and a lack of respect for the job that’s being done.”
Former MP says better security needed at local offices
Raitt said she began taking extra safety precautions about halfway through her time in office, which ran from from 2008 to 2019. Those precautions included installing a panic button at her constituency office and rearranging the space to create obstacles that would make an attack more difficult.
She said those measures were meant to help protect her staff during visits from “very angry people who wanted action immediately.”
I’m no longer a sitting MP – but tragedies like this still send a chill through me. <a href=”https://t.co/mVo8zuL57f”>https://t.co/mVo8zuL57f</a>
Raitt said current MPs would be wise to focus on security at their local offices rather than on Parliament Hill, where security is much more robust.
Perry also laid some blame at the feet of political parties and politicians. She said the embrace of attack-style politics may be fuelling some of the anger that is now threatening politicians themselves.
“The parties themselves have escalated the personalization of issues, blaming individual politicians rather than parties or processes,” she said.
“Even politicians themselves have to be very careful in their language so as not to enhance the kind of polarization that can lead to this sort of hostility and violence.”
Horse race marks Sydney’s emergence from long COVID-19 lockdown
Thousands of Sydney residents flocked to a prominent horse race on Saturday, as Australia’s biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination.
Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/horse-racing-third-time-lucky-nature-strip-everest-2021-10-16 in Sydney, Australia’s richest turf horse race, and the country’s most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2.
New South Wales State, of which Sydney is the capital, reached its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of Australia.
“80% in NSW! Been a long wait but we’ve done it,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Twitter.
The state reported 319 new coronavirus cases, all of the Delta variant, and two deaths on Saturday. Many restrictions were eased in New South Wales on Monday, when it reached 70% double vaccinations.
Neighbouring Victoria, where the capital Melbourne has been in lockdown for weeks, reported 1,993 new cases and seven deaths, including the state’s youngest victim, a 15-year-old girl.
Victoria is expected to reach 70% double vaccination before Oct. 26 and ease its restrictions more slowly than New South Wales has, drawing criticism from the federal government on Saturday.
“It is really sad that Victorians are being held back,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Australia is set to gradually lift its 18-month ban on international travel https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/covid-19-infections-linger-near-record-levels-australias-victoria-2021-10-14 from next month for some states when 80% of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 67.2% of Australians were fully inoculated, and 84.4% had received at least one shot.
The country closed its international borders in March 2020, since then allowing only a limited number of people to leave or citizens and permanent residents abroad to return, requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.
Australia’s overall coronavirus numbers are low compared to many other developed countries, with just over 140,000 cases and 1,513 deaths.
(Reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)
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