Joined: 16 Dec 2009
|Posted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:59 pm Post subject: Ex-RCMP Commissioner now CEO of Pot Company!
|This gets more like Gilbert & Sullivan all the time ... or is it Monty Python? I can never decide ...
|Marijuana task-force member's move to legal weed company raises conflict-of-interest concerns.
A New Democratic MP is warning of a ‘clear appearance of conflict of interest’ after it was revealed that a member of the government’s marijuana-legalization task force is now running a medical marijuana company.
Raf Souccar, a former RCMP deputy commissioner, served on the independent task force that advised the government on legalizing recreational marijuana use. The task force filed its non-binding report on Nov. 30, 2016, and it was made public two weeks later.
Souccar is now president and chief executive officer of Aleafia, a Toronto-based company that specializes in medical cannabis therapy for people suffering from chronic pain and other conditions. According to its corporate registry, Aleafia was incorporated on Jan. 17, 2017. On Apr. 13, 2017, the government unveiled its legislation to legalize marijuana.
Members of government advisory panels are required to disclose their interests in the subject matter before joining the panel. They also sign a confidentiality agreement stipulating that they cannot disclose material given to them by the government unless given permission to do so. But they are not under any obligation to refrain from commercial activity in the sector afterward.
In an interview with the National Post, Souccar said nobody approached him about joining Aleafia until his work on the task force was fully completed, and that his first conversation about the company didn’t come until January 2017.
“The circle of people that know me know better than to have approached me while on the task force to get into this type of business,” he said. “I would have never entertained any discussions with anybody while on the task force.”
But he said he can understand why some might have concerns. “There is clearly a potential conflict that could have occurred. And I made sure to the extent that I believe is safe and ethical, I separated that,” he said.
Don Davies, an NDP MP who serves as vice-chair on the health committee that has been studying the marijuana legislation, said the task force did very good work — but the optics of one of its members now running a medical cannabis company shows the government may need to look at instituting a cooling-off period for people who consult on policy.
“I’m wondering if it’s not time that we look to Parliament to put those kinds of meaningful rules in place for those that serve on task forces on policy, because there are conflicts of interest, and then there is the appearance of conflicts of interest,” he said.
“I think this is a case where there is a clear appearance of conflict of interest, whether it’s there or not. And I think that the government would do well to examine it.”
Souccar was recruited to Aleafia by Julian Fantino, a former Conservative cabinet minister and former Ontario Provincial Police commissioner and Toronto Police Service chief. Fantino — who took a notoriously hard line against marijuana legalization while in politics — serves as the company’s executive chairman, and says he became convinced of the benefits of medical cannabis therapy while serving as veterans affairs minister.
As opposed to acting as a simple marijuana dispensary, Aleafia is conceived as a health therapy company that sets up treatment plans for people suffering from chronic pain and other conditions, and provides them with products from licensed cannabis growers.
The National Post had spent the past week trying to clarify Souccar’s role with the company. He was not listed on Aleafia’s website or in public corporate documents. Three people who work for Aleafia had repeatedly declined to answer questions about him — including William Car, the only person currently listed a director of the company in Ontario’s corporate registry.
“I will not confirm or deny,” Car said when asked about Souccar on Tuesday, Sept. 13, saying the communications staff would have to answer.
I think this is a case where there is a clear appearance of conflict of interest, whether it's there or not
A day later, Aleafia spokeswoman Heather Curran would offer little information about Souccar’s role. “He’s providing counsel to Aleafia, in the early stages here,” she said. “As a federal government marijuana legalization task force member, he’s an educated source. He is just providing counsel at this time.”
Then on Friday, Souccar told the Globe and Mail he was in fact running the company as president and CEO.
In an interview with the Post the next day, Souccar said his work on the task force had changed his views on cannabis as a therapy treatment, particularly in how it can act as an alternative to opioid use.
“Doing the task force was probably the big change that happened in me … And so when an opportunity presented itself, I said, well how can I help? How can I move this thing forward?”
Among those who paid close attention to Souccar’s work on the task force was Liberal MP Bill Blair, another former Toronto police chief who is stickhandling the marijuana file for the government.
Blair had approached Souccar in the spring of 2017 about continuing his advisory role on the marijuana file, but Souccar said he recused himself from it.
“I said to him, ‘I’m now, full disclosure, I’m now involved with the company,’” Souccar said. “I felt … just that this would not be right.”
Blair confirmed he’d had that discussion with Souccar, but said he was otherwise unaware of his work with Aleafia. And he said he doesn’t see any reason Souccar shouldn’t be involved with the new company, given the task force’s focus was on recreational use, and given medical marijuana use has been legal for 15 years.
“For the panel members, we do place requirements of confidentiality that they no disclose certain information they become aware of when they’re working with us,” he said. “But when they’ve handed in their report, we place no further obligations on them.”
"This is one of those cases where there's an appearance of a conflict of interest, whether there is or not"... blah, blah, blah ...
What balderdash! The whole reason a pot company, engaged in the establishing a national monopoly over what was previously a criminal enterprise, gets a retired top cop as their glorious leader isn't because of his skill at marketing drugs. It is to help them with licensing! It's just how a useless tit like George Smitherman gets this kind of post. It isn't because he has good business judgement.
It's to give companies advantages when the licenses are awarded. (See pay-to-play meetings with the premier.)