In this episode, Kirk and Trevor bring forward the importance of Cannabis advocacy. With the legalization of recreational cannabis, some may see the need for Cannabis Advocacy as being dispensable. Stephen Stairs, a medical cannabis consumer is a leader within the Winnipeg green culture. He explains how the many interpretations of regulations, from all level of governments, requires his continuous attention. Self described as Manitoba’s Loud Advocate, Stairs shares his back story, passion for the cannabis industry, and confronts the controversy he faced as the leader of Winnipeg 420 movement. The My Cannabis Story for this episode is from Neil Linton at the Calgary Cannabis Club adding further insights to the need for Cannabis advocacy.
E82 - Manitoba's Loud Advocate - Steven Stairs
Meet our guest
Music ByDamian Marley
(Yes we have a SOCAN membership to use these songs all legal and proper like)
Trevor: Kirk, you've got a really interesting guy from Winnipeg named Steven Stairs. Tell us a little bit about him.
Kirk: Yeah, Steven Stairs. Well, as I say, when I was talking to him, he is... He calls himself Manitoba's Loud Advocate for cannabis. And I've seen him on the news, you know, local CBC and CTV news and I've sort of kind of followed him a little bit because if there's an issue happening in Winnipeg, he seems to get himself interviewed for it. So, I thought I thought, you know, we're out in Alberta, we're talking to people getting lots of stories. And it was time that we needed another Manitoba story. And I was thinking, you know, what happens to these old advocates of cannabis back in the day because, you know, cannabis is now legal in Canada. So, why do we need advocates to advocate for cannabis? Because it's legal now. So, let's just all the advocates can just go away. Right? But yeah, no. But I don't believe this is true because...
Trevor: and neither does he.
Kirk: Well, of course not. And because there's still a lot of decisions being made about cannabis by people who don't fully understand this plant. And it goes back to some of the comments I've made before about, when the government legalized recreational cannabis, did they ask the right question? Did they ask the right question? Did they? You know, the whole deal about legalization of recreational cannabis was that they wanted to protect the public and keep the public safe from cannabis. So, advocates like Steven Stairs, they approach cannabis differently. They approach cannabis from the perspective of, there are benefits to cannabis and people benefits from cannabis. And maybe now that the government feels that they've legalized recreational cannabis, they have forgotten about the medicinal side of cannabis. You know, and this is where advocates like Steven Stairs: come in and say, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You know you're making decisions here by asking the wrong question or with wrong information. So, this is why I wanted to get him. This is why I wanted to get him in, again a voice in our library, because I think I think we still need advocates to talk about cannabis, and that's where that's where it comes from.
Trevor: Yeah, no. And as you mentioned, or I can't remember who mentioned this on Mike, this is a longish interview, and he he does a good job of introducing himself. He's obviously spoken about this before. How about will we'll get into Steven and then we'll have a couple of comments at the end?
Kirk: Sure. Okay.
Steven Stairs: Well, my name is Steven Stairs. Long time cannabis advocate here in Canada. Medical cannabis patient, grower. Legally blind. That's a great time. That's part of the reason why I'm a medical cannabis grower. Stop the degradation of my vision loss smell. Let's, let's say, hinder that. Let's not say stop. And then, yeah, that's basically where I got my my start in cannabis advocacy is that it was a passionate part of my mental health regeneration from dealing with the vision loss and just the results were were enough to sway me like this needs to be pushed out to the masses. The indication needs to be done. The legislation needs to be passed and we need to have a better social construct on the way we treat cannabis as a whole. But specifically, at that point, it was medical cannabis. So, you know that just stuff that fostered all the growth from there. And, you know, 11 years later, almost 12 years now, we're, you know, we have a legal cannabis in Canada. And, you know, hopefully in the next year or two, we might have a DIN for some medical cannabis. I don't know, I think it's a progress man.
Kirk: Okay. So, So, you're in your late teens when you were when you were starting to lose your vision?
Steven Stairs: Yeah, I was actually I was born legally blind.
Steven Stairs: But, I never really got diagnosed or anything until, you know, I mean, like basically when I was a little kid in school, you know, I had the coke-bottle glasses and I had to do that whole like, you know, patch over the eye thing. But I mean, as far as as, you know, the school system or like society's understanding, and I was just the kid who couldn't see, well, right, that's, you know, I was just a kid to make fun of or, you know, who couldn't see the board properly or whatever. There wasn't really like a social diagnosis until I was older, and the ramifications started kicking in like, Wait, this kid can't see the board at school. You know, this kid, you know, won't be able to ever drive things like that. So, that's when the real, you know, I guess the severity of it really kicked in for people.
Kirk: And did you discovered in cannabis as a as a teenager, you start recreationally and it sort of helped through the anxieties.
Steven Stairs: Yeah, yeah. So, basically what it did is as a teenager, I found it was not only a social mechanism, kind of like the social aspect of smoking cigarettes. You know, there's always a group of them having a conversation, even though I'm not a smoker. But it was kind of that mentality. You know, there was a group, peers, you know, non-judgmental, you know, same age demographic that we all gravitated towards each other and I just happened to be through cannabis. And that's where I have some of my long lasting friends. Still, to this day, it was from that small core group. So, yeah, I mean, I never knew the medicinal value of it at the time. But I mean, looking back on it from a retrospective point, I mean, definitely it, it caused me to cope better. I think with the vision loss at that time, just through different manifestations rather than actual culpable physical manifestations.
Kirk: No, that's a good story. When did you when did you become a medical cannabis user then at like an official guy. Card carrying.
Steven Stairs: Carrying card. Ya ya, back in the day that line. So, it was about two 2008 that I got the idea. One of my friends, actually one of my friends, actually just kind of jokingly in passing was like. "Man, you should get medical marijuana." I'm like, Wow, oh, fuck that, you know, like, I can't. What are you talking about? Like, come on. And then, you know, the stoner in me was like, Hmm. Maybe. So, I did my research, you know, and I went on the Health Canada website, and back then it was, you know, the two tiered system, you know, the B-1 and the B-2, right? B-1 was all, you know, the, you know, like hardcore, you know, illnesses, you know, cancer, you know, AIDS, spinal bifida, all these, you know, real serious conditions. And then the secondary category was things like arthritis, glaucoma, you know, anxiety, a whole bunch of other ones, right? So, I ended up, you know, blindness like glaucoma. So, I took it to my doctor, the form that I just printed it out. I took it to my eyes specialist. And yeah, it was a very interesting process. I mean, a lot of people at that time were running into hurdles with their doctors being gatekeepers and still today. But back then it was really prevenient because there were very few doctors. I mean, when I became a medical cannabis patient, eventually in 2009, there were only 5600 of us in Canada and then that ballooned to close to 45,000 by 2013. So, it grew exponentially over those few years. But my doctor was pretty cool that he took the paperwork and, you know, kind of gave me a, he's an old British guy, So, he kind of gave me this like stoic, I was around for the 60s kind of like lesson. And it was it was as if he basically told me, "You know, Steven, I had a gentleman back in the in the 70s, you know, he thought cannabis was the world. And he ended up losing his vision because he thought it would save it. And you know what? He didn't. He didn't listen to what I had to tell him." I'm like, I'll do whatever you tell me doc. You sign that paperwork. I'm your frigging, like I'm your gofer. You know, So, you know, yeah, he signed it. He basically just told me, make sure I take my eye drops and do whatever he tells me on top of that, and he was good to go. And he has been ever since. Even to this day, he still signs my table for free. No charge.
Kirk: OK, So, that was back in the day. So, now you're then you got into advocacy. So, from my search, my Google search of you, you're involved with 420.
Steven Stairs: Yeah, yeah. Funny story, how that actually happened. I was on the UofM council, University of Manitoba here. I ran for the student body there. I was the disabled student rep on council and I ran for on a platform of like legalizing pot on campus and all these other kinds of things. Because I had some advocacy background that started there. The Legal department at the UofM gave me like a written legal paperwork to carry on me at all times. So, I could like dry herb vape inside class at U of M, which was great.
Kirk: Wow. Well, when was when? When was that?
Steven Stairs: That was 2011. Yes, super cool. Yeah. So, that snowballed me into this whole. Well, what's let's further this, right? And that year I went to 420 at the ledge, here in Manitoba legislative building. And it was very. It was it was what all the negative stereotypes that had been reinforced to me or what the past 10 years as to why I didn't go. It was just very prevalent to me in my face. It was, you know, high school kids who were, you know, skipping school. You know, you had idiot like, you know, thug wannabe gangsters selling shit weed, you know, like it was just there was no organization. It was just it was just a shit show. We didn't have that cultural event that other cities with long standing cannabis cultures, like B.C., Toronto, you know, Vancouver, all these all these areas of the country outside of Canada had a much more established 420. So, I looked to other cities at that point and said, this is this is embarrassing. You know, this is who I mean, I can't come to this if I want to be a cannabis advocate in Manitoba. I mean, 420 years, you know, that was back then 420, was it, you know, 420? Right? It's like the king of advocacy, right? So, without it being something that I could stand up and stand behind, I was shocked. So, I ended up getting the University of Manitoba, their student body, their university council to give me a $500 grant. And with that $500 grant, I took it and I rented a bus and I and I paid for a parade permit. So, what I did is I showed up at the ledge. I had a bunch of signs and shit we made and stuff we had a little prize draw. But the main thing is I took this bus and we shipped. In retrospect, it wasn't a great idea trying to get stoners onto a bus without knowing where they were going. But we ended up getting a couple of bus-loads of people and we shipped them to City Hall. And from there we had a police escort march through the downtown back to the ledge. So, that was like my first real. We can change this, right? We can change this image. And then from there, every year we got a little bit more leash from the government, a little bit more leash from the province, from the city, from police. You know, all these different departments who you know, eventually we got to basically in 2018, just before legalization happened, we had a full-on festival. You know, we're talking road closures, we're talking music performers, we're talking street vendors with food trucks, with public stage speakers, with politicians. And you know, we had, like all the great part about that year was there was the last time we had a real melding of legal and legacy. Because I had I had the illegal like DAB vendors from B.C., like I had Glacial Gold out there before they went legal. I had them in a booth serving dabs on the street right before right beside tweeds, big booth, handing out free sunglasses and shit.
Kirk: What year was this?
Steven Stairs: That was twenty eighteen.
Steven Stairs: Just amazing, man. It was amazing. And there's So, much possibility now for 420 to become that cultural event again with legalization. I mean, post-pandemic, you know, pandemic really screwed things up for public festivals, and we've kind of been in a lull with legalization since then virtually. So.
Kirk: What is your what is your what is your role with 420?
Steven Stairs: I am the chair on the organization?
Kirk: OK. And just give me some background 420, because to be honest, I don't know much about it. How many people sit on the committee? How does that work?
Steven Stairs: Sure, sure. So, in the committee's beginning days, it was virtually just me, which was fun at the UofM, and then it snowballed into my wife and I, and then it snowballed into a full-on group or committee where by about two 2014 or 15, we had, you know, a full on council meetings. What we would do is this is kind of it's this further, throughout the years, we wanted to build community as we did. It's what we would do is we would have the committee members all show up at like a different head shop. So, sometimes we would be like this one kind of quasi dispensary, I think that was like 2015 era where there was a few dispensaries and in Winnipeg where we would have our meetings and sometimes it would be at a head job, sometimes it would be at someone's restaurant, you know? But it was all great, there was interesting times, right?
Kirk: I remember I remember walking down the street in Winnipeg, near the Great Canadian Shoe Store, right in the Exchange and just walking down towards center of town. I forget what street I was on and there was a there was a store selling cannabis and it was like, Hold on. We're not legal yet. I don't even think the Liberals were in power yet. So, you were involved in that kind of stuff.
Steven Stairs: Yeah, yeah. So, I think well, then it might have been. I'm not sure which one it could have been Vapes Off Main. It could have been Weeds Glass and Gifts.
Kirk: I think it was Weeds.
Steven Stairs: Yeah, because they were just in that Exchange area. Yeah. You know, very interesting dynamic back then. I mean, kind of a weird way. There was a lot more protests back then because it was needed. And I honestly, I feel like I mean, it's got a little bit more about 420 in a second. I just feel like that protest is still needed. You know what I'm saying? Because a lot of people have lost. The general population thought legalization solve all our problems. Boom. Oh yeah, great. See you later, everybody. But the people who are diehards in the community are like, No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. This created more problems. We got to sort this shit out now. So, it's there's a lot more that has to do with public advocacy. With every social change we have to have a society behind us and right now, society has kind of left the fight. They're just happy with going to buy weed. It's the people like you and me who are causing the fight to keep going, right?
Kirk: Yeah. Pacify the public. One of the things I'm marvel at is that with new regulations, we actually got more laws now than we had before, before legalization, recreational legalization.
Steven Stairs: Yeah, I mean, granted, I mean, there's the criminal code violations are fewer, but the municipal violations and the provincial penalties and fines and all that stuff are way more. So, I mean, I don't know. It's it's a tit for tat kind of thing. I mean, honestly, the real key is enforcement. And if they're not enforcing it, even though they put them on the laws, then I think we're clear.
Kirk: So, what was a good point? So, what? So, what has happened was 420 now as an organization, I guess. Are you able to speak to 420 globally or just Winnipeg? Like what has happened to that movement now that now that you won? I guess in some ways.
Steven Stairs: It's a really interesting question. I mean, the media has posed that to me before in the past. You know what? What does 420 become? And I think 420 stays exactly what it is, and that is a cultural event. I think just the meaning behind that cultural event is shifting with the times. You know, we used to use rotary phones. Now we have them on a screen in our pocket, you know, So, everything changes with the time, but phones are still there, right 420 will still be here. It's just a matter of what it changes into when it will have a like I kind of alluded to before and we'll have a protest event still to it. I think continually until we reach a point where cannabis legislation throughout, not only Canada, but throughout the world is much more equitable towards societal benefits than it is detriments. So, I think if we keep that notion there, plus we further the idea of the successes of the wins of the victories that we've accomplished and we celebrate those in our cultural events, we can combine the two to where we have a realistic approach towards where we've been and where we're going.
Kirk: So, where are we going? Where are you going?
Steven Stairs: I think we're just going up, man. I mean, I can make the higher joke, but I mean, I think that's a bad pun.
Kirk: I said it in my head and I think the listeners probably said the same thing, we're getting higher. Yeah, yeah.
Steven Stairs: Right? But I mean, there's a lot there. There's a lot where we can go with. I mean, right now, Canada really needs to to take another another approach towards the way we treat medical cannabis. Sorry, just.
Kirk: City Living.
Steven Stairs: a Siren going by. There was one. Yeah, medical cannabis. That's really where it needs to be going and look at where we're at psychedelics possibly being. I mean, we got BC looking at, you know, decriminalizing all drug possession under small amounts. So, only places to go is up man.
Kirk: Well, Steven Stairs, I've seen you on the local CBC and CTV news you were advocating what six - seven months ago. People were complaining about grow ops in the city, stinking up neighborhoods. And I heard you speak to the City Council on that, I believe. Do you want to speak a little bit about these grow ops? What is the fear and what is your idea of a solution?
Steven Stairs: Well, I mean, So, the problem is that's been raised in Manitoba, here in Winnipeg specifically is since about last December, the City of Winnipeg has been fielding complaints. Like officially. They would call it. From concerned residents, from certain areas of the city actually kind of all over the city. But they're mostly in a more affluent residential area. You know, middle class areas. It's called that
Kirk: St. James area.
Steven Stairs: Yeah, yeah. And what they're doing is they're basically they have concerns regarding medical cannabis gardens. Now, this isn't specifically kind of nuanced. This isn't specifically the medical cannabis gardens program. It's the, you know, perceived abuses of that program by criminal elements in this case, which would be backed up by police, you know, evidence, etc. if they can prove it. But it basically has to do with the use of houses for non-residential spaces, for only cannabis garden production. And I mean, like, we're talking, you know, the houses where no one lives, where 600 plants are grown under like four licenses and all that kind of stuff. I mean,
Kirk: and the walls and the walls are weeping because of the moisture. Yeah.
Steven Stairs: And I said this very publicly, and I'll say it again, I really don't have a problem with the black market because the black market is how we got to where we are. OK, legacy exists for a reason. However, as soon as that black market started using the medical cannabis system as a cover, for their illegal activities that made it whole way tainted. It's very unethical for you to put the right and and the lives of sick people and their gardens at risk for your own personal profit. And I've gotten a lot of flack for that over the years, but it's something I will hold true to because if you want to grow black market, go ahead. Please do.
Kirk: But it's interesting. I'm kind of wondering if the gray market, the black market before recreational legalization, I'm wondering if a lot of the weed that we were seeing on the streets between 2005-2018 wasn't medically grown cannabis that somebody was subsidizing, their grow op. So. So, when we talk about the black-market people perceive, you know, the Hells Angels motorbike gangs. But I can't help but wonder if some of those medical growers back in the day were subsidizing their gardens with something out the back door.
Steven Stairs: Oh, I'm sure they were. And there's then again, that this comes with a level of nuance as well is that there are large and still are people who are using the medical cannabis system to its benefit to supply medical patients who actually need cannabis, who can't afford it, who are on low income. All these kind of people, the ethical, the people who we take our hats off to, you know, those people, they still exist out there, but unfortunately they get blanketed just like, like me. I don't. Luckily enough, if I had a bigger garden I'd probably do that, but I don't. So, I only grow for myself, right? But it puts people like us who are legitimately trying to help ourselves or others. And then it kind of coats us with this veneer of, OK, well, what about this weird criminal organization that has these weeping walls and stuff like you're mentioning? So, it's it. There is nuance to all of this stuff, and that's what I tried to explain to the city is that there are certain levels to this. So, if you just the city's plan was to basically just move all medical cannabis gardens to to an industrial area
Kirk: that's just not going to work.
Steven Stairs: I know Allard already basically ruled that that can happen based on safety risk. And So, it's it was it was it was comical. OK, but it's comical from a perspective from me and you, right? We're like, Yeah, no chance right. But we know it. We know the industry, we know the system, City of Winnipeg councilors, they don't know shit.
Kirk: So, what is So, what is the answer? Because the government, I mean, the government regulations allow people to, you know, medicinal cannabis license and I can grow my own, but I don't know how to grow it. I don't have the time. I'll give my license to someone else. He'll grow it. And then those growers by regulations are also allowed to gift up to 30 grams, right? You can gift 30 grams.
Steven Stairs: Yeah, you can gift 30 grams of weed to anybody. I mean, that's a great part about legalization and C45 it gave these little outs in it.
Kirk: So, how do you how do you now as a city, then, what is the answer? How do you regulate the federal regulation that doesn't understand cannabis either? Sorry that was a little bit of bias on my part.
Steven Stairs: So, it's interesting. I mean, through C45, there are like different tiers of where like legislation kicks in. I mean, provincial legislation is, you know, implemented for the sales and distribution and all that kind of stuff in municipal municipalities and cities can do things regarding bylaws and zoning. All right. And then So, basically the feds did the law, the province takes the brunt of it in cities can make all the minutia details. Well, in this case, I mean, the city tried to do like bring up a plant count. Like, OK, well over 50 plants, you've got to go industrial. I'm like, OK, well, they'll just grow 49-tree like plants and you're like, this is all old school arguments, right? Like, I mean, think about this people, right? Because I've tried to explain to them that the only way if they if they even choose to do this, they'll be accompanied with a constitutional challenge, I'm sure, right? But even if they try to nuance it and try to make it, it's, you know, palpable towards, you know, the people who are complaining about it to the people who are growing it. I think what they'll do is they'll put in basically like a registry. So, what they'll do is they'll ask you to register your plants after a certain amount, which is stupid again, but then they'll have an inspection team from a municipal point of view, which will take basically take over for the federal point of view where you know, Health Canada doesn't ever inspect gardens. When they ever inspect gardens if they've had multiple criminal elements, you know, that had to send them there because of the police or something. So, all I'm saying is that's not happening. So, the city will send out these inspectors who will somehow be qualified to say this is legal like electrical work or legal plumbing or whatever, and I really don't know how they're going to create it. But the main point that I told them is that if they're going to do this, then the people who are really abusing the system, they have lots of extra money and they'll just pay all your stupid, you know, registration fees or whatever and keep doing what they're doing and the people who can't afford it are going to be stuck with, you know, having to pay this arbitrary fee every year. And then you have to then put in a compassionate program for sick and disabled people who actually need their gardens.
Kirk: So, it just seems like it just seems like more bureaucracy and more money spent. Yeah.
Steven Stairs: Total bureaucracy, nonsense. So, I'm really hoping that with flooding them with the realities of this, they'll choose to put this on the back-burner issue. And then if there's really concerns from a neighborhood perspective. Then let the police do their job, let the police go and sit outside and watch for guys with guns or whatever the hell you think is going on and then fucking take care of it. Like don't over bureaucracies, sick people because police aren't doing their job. That's it.
Kirk: Well, OK. Fair comment. Tell me about Tell me about the Cannabis Business Association of Manitoba.
Steven Stairs: Great question. Every association or every industry, I should say, has its own association that represents it and lobbies and protects its interests and the people who are stakeholders in it. Manitoba specifically didn't have one of those. Canada has the Cannabis Council of Canada C3, which is great, but they're on a much more national level. And, you know, grassroots issues, no pun intended, are definitely something that's still needed to be done on the local level. And cannabis is still much of very much grassroots local issue because it still affects everybody day to day just west until we fix that. It's not going to be something we can just blanket out one rule for it. So, the need for that in Manitoba was not great in the beginning. There were very few initial retailers here in the province. Some of them were quite big corporations, So, they already basically had their own lobbying power with the governments. But now we have here in Manitoba, excuse me, we have almost a hundred and twenty-five stores and that's built out of, you know, plus 50 different companies. So, there's a lot of different interests and different needs from that point of view to deal with the government and regulators and, you know, just the public in general. So, as a as a kind of a Loud Advocate here in the province and already kind of having relationships with these people, it kind of fell on me to start the association. In the beginning of the pandemic, Manitoba's cannabis stores were deemed essential, which was great because they were allowed to stay open and flourish during the pandemic. However, in early February of this year (2021), I got a phone call from a store owner that told me he had something to tell me and that he would get back to me and I kind of just, you know, blah blah blah. Something big who was coming up and he had to sort it out, and I was to pass it off as normal nonsense that I hear every day right. I got to keep it up to date, right? All right. Something's going on, I'll file away right and I ended up walking into that said store later on in the day. Well one of the stores that that company owns and I was greeted with a check my I.D. and then someone asked me for, or someone told me as I was leaving, that I could only buy cannabis products, couldn't buy any accessories or papers or. And I was like, what? And that's not how it works. I mean, who told you that? They're like, Oh, we had one of the security companies in Manitoba that was doing third party enforcement of the provincial bylaws during the pandemic. They came up and I guess they sent out a letter, you know, showed up and said, No, you can always sell cannabis products and accessories, blah blah based on some sort of bullshit rule. I knew that was bullshit. I ended calling... Sorry. Siren. I knew that was bullshit, I ended up calling up the gentleman, the lawyer actually for the company, and I said, Hey, you know, I'm in your store. What's this? And it's like, This is what I was going to tell you, but I had to sort it out. I'm like, OK, blah blah blah. Back and forth. Long story short, is through a couple of phone calls between me and a couple of regulators I know and a couple other people. That situation got resolved within a few hours to the point where the LGCA, which is the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Association our authority in Manitoba. They sent out a letter basically saying, Hey, these guys are deemed essential. They can sell anything on their inventory list. Stop bothering them, and then we got a letter from that security company's owner apologizing to the company that was selling weed for like the mistake. And all I'm saying is that happened in a few hours, and at that point it was like, boom. I was like, I have to start this association because if we have that lobbying power just between a few of us. Look what we can do as a group. And from there, it's snowballed. I mean, had the Cannabis Business Association of Manitoba had its first events, that ended up being one of the first of its kind in Canada, where we had retailers and regulators involved in a Q&A session. So, they could sort out details and questions that they might have for the regulators regarding upcoming changes or things that they might want to see changed. So, it was really groundbreaking.
Kirk: So, how does someone how does someone look into it? How does someone look into the because I, to be honest with you, I Googled Cannabis Business Association Manitoba. I only found it on Facebook. So, how how do people become members and how many members do you have?
Steven Stairs: So, here's the deal. So, we have a website that I built, but it's not up and running yet because I have to get the interest from the people before I put brands on it, right? I got a list of all those memberships and therefore accredited memberships. I have to get them to pay dues. We haven't done any of that stuff because we don't have a board yet. It's basically just me and a few other of the store owners in the province, you know, as a small little group because remember, it's only been 11 months and you know, a lot of things have happened.
Kirk: Covid ya.
Steven Stairs: But formalization is something that we're working on right now. I mean, the websites built, it's just not available to the public. It is definitely a good group and it involves most of the retail stores in Manitoba.
Kirk: As it should. I mean, we're learning, we're learning through this podcast that there's a lot of minutia and details to become a, you know, a dispensary. It's very difficult. Like Alberta. I don't know if you heard our episode, but we spoke to a bunch of craft growers in and in Alberta, and they explained to us the Alberta system about how do they get their product on the shelf and it's very difficult for them.
Steven Stairs: Yeah, I mean, Manitoba is kind of the same, becoming a retail store is actually pretty easy, but the way the bureaucracy is set up of how stores run is pretty, pretty annoying. You got to like the government buys a weed and you have to sell it back to us
Kirk: So, So, you've been you've been in Manitoba loud advocate for cannabis for about, what, 12 years. So, what are the issues now facing the green culture facing the cannabis industries? What do you think the I guess, five top issues right now are?
Steven Stairs: Well, I mean, definitely. I mean, the number one issue that's on my mind right now is cannabis consumption spaces. So, the province is about to start their consultation period with the stakeholders again regarding retail cannabis-based consumption lounge policies. So, hopefully within the next year, we will have, you know, public consumption spaces in Manitoba, which would be really nice because currently you can't consume cannabis in public, you can consume it in a store or a restaurant or anything like that. You actually can consuming at home and for
Kirk: So, you know, but for those people who live in condominiums and apartments, they can't even consume it there.
Steven Stairs: And that's my point. So, there's definitely a known social aspect of it. So, you're forcing them to then somehow either break municipal bylaws or you're forcing them out in the street somewhere. I mean, what's the difference between that and having street, you know, heroin users? I mean, we're all people using drugs in a back alley. I mean, it's, you know, we all need some equity in life, not even heroin users right. So, I don't know, there's a lot towards. Yeah, I was going to go on to opioid rant. But I mean, definitely. The consumption spaces is one. Retail cannabis store by-Laws is another one of the City of Winnipeg is looking at. So, they're looking at zoning bylaws that could end up having some of those stores close or move. I mean, granting grandfathering would probably be an issue there, but that's definitely something the City of Winnipeg is looking at again. The medical cannabis issue. Something you touched on earlier is something that the province is still dealing with locally here in the city. But I mean, it's other municipalities are still looking at the issue as well. And then we've got, you know, the ban on home growing of cannabis from Tobagrown, Jesse, who is doing that fight constitutionally, which is going on. So, that's a big one. And then I guess the last one is just I would like to see and this is just specifically for Manitoba, but it affects me directly. So, it's a federal thing and and a local thing for me. Is I really want to see the province and the government federally work on treating medical cannabis differently. Medical cannabis has really been left to the back burner when it was the catalyst towards legalization to begin with. And I feel like, you know, we're running around with stoves and we forgot where the fire came from, you know, what I'm saying. We got to get back towards treating medical cannabis the way it was. The thing that saved people's lives, that created a social change among our country that really made us realize that cannabis isn't that bad. So, why not legalize it? That was the starter. That's the impetus. So, why are we not furthering that notion? Why are we not giving cannabis a DIN? I get it. You can't give flower a DIN. Great. I get it. You can do capsules, oils, vape pens. All these other things can be given a DIN because you can control dosage. You can control strains. You can do all that stuff. So, we're taking that functionality out of it. So, why don't we give cannabis a DIN? Why isn't more insurers covering it? Why can't I go into a brick and mortar store and buy medical cannabis? Why is medical cannabis more money and taxed? I could buy an ounce from the local store for 120 bucks. I go to Shoppers Drug Mart online and use my medical information. It's one hundred and fifty. How does that make any sense?
Kirk: Good point. And you know what? That's a podcast in itself. The whole medical side as we stumbled into that a lot. The whole tax issue. Insurance companies. I mean, Trevor's rant. Trevor's rant is why, as a pharmacist, can't he be dispensing cannabis and offering advice, right?
Steven Stairs: 100 percent. Why? Why not?
Kirk: Yeah. And it should be that way. So. So, Steven, I need to ask you because I mean, this is my first meeting you. And of course, I googled you and your name came across my desk about, I guess, six, seven, eight months ago. I saw you in the news I've been following you. So, let's speak to some of the controversy, sir. I. Yeah. Well, I mean, I there's some, some web site saying, accuse you of expropriating some monies. Another one was, Yeah, So, you know, the ones I'm talking about. So, let's speak to those.
Steven Stairs: OK, So, where do you wanna start? Do you want to start?
Kirk: Let's start with the 420 controversy. Like somebody accused you of stealing money?
Steven Stairs: Yeah, so. So, just a little touch on that next question you're going to ask me. So, I was involved in a quite messy break up and divorce and during that time I was asked about 420 in the news. And in that time, the assumption was that basically that, to put it mildly, that my career was over. Let's just put it that way. And the news media reached out to me regarding 420, and I basically told them, you know, the city won't give us permits for this year because it was right after legalization, there was a whole story and that didn't go over well with the group of people who were in unison with my wife kind of trying to publicly attack me. So, I basically had like a good old-fashioned social media attack, which is nice. Know everybody's going to have one once in a while, I guess. Yeah, that basically just tried to oust me as some sort of like thief among 420, and that all this money was stolen and we were having drug parties and all these other kinds of things. And I'm not only to lie, there was there's an element of truth behind that is that my wife and I really partied hard and I, yeah, I ran 420. But to somehow combine the two was inaccurate, false and just a way to smear my reputation. I'm very like, I mean, granted, I was very willing to talk about this media. I'm willing to talk about it now because my wife was the financial agent of 420. So, she was in charge of all the money. So, even if this was true, she would have proof of it. There was no proof this was all accusations. This was all just trying a way to smear me because I was contacted for 420 and then the next day the news media got all these phone calls from like two people about how awful I am. I've already kind of ousted this group in public, and there's a lot of back story. If you check my social media on Facebook and stuff, I really encourage everybody to go do that because you will see what I'm talking about. I'm not just trying to over cite some information, it's all documented. I'm a very public person. Go for it. I would answer any questions in the future. My point, though, is that this little I would call it group, right? Am I going to disparage them as people individually? They just a group who, you know, thought they were somehow one upping me and their little group ended up devolving quite publicly. In other dramatic situations of thief and, you know, backstabbing and all these other kinds of things. So, any credibility from their perspective was lost by their own actions. So, I wasn't worried about it because when you see something that's not true, you basically just go, OK, you're going to get found out sooner or later. And that's what happened. And that's cool. I I have been transparent with 420 years from the beginning. I've got documents and all that kind of stuff that I have that, you know, would dispel any of these rumors. I'm willing to share them with anybody I always have been. I gave it to the media back then. And that's that's really about it. I mean, since then, I've continued to plan 420 I continue to have corporate sponsors. I continue to spend the money appropriately. There's been documentation for that. So, I'm not worried about my reputation 420 because I've proved myself to be the person that I am, not the person I was tried to be labeled as.
Kirk: So, OK, that's good. Let's circle back just real quick, circle back to the UofM. So, you did your student at UofM you started your advocacy there? Did you? Did you finish? What did you finish your degree?
Steven Stairs: Political studies? No, I got three or four years from political science.
Kirk: OK, So, what is it? Do you do now? How do you when you're not advocacy for cannabis, what do you do now?
Steven Stairs: Right now I'm disabled, man. OK, visually impaired. So, I collect provincial disability. That's what I do. It's a really shitty situation. But the fact that I have a criminal record for many years ago as a young man is still something that that's a whole podcast in itself. Criminal records?
Kirk: Yeah. Yeah, well, actually, I'm looking. I'm actually I actually have a word for that interview. Canadian amnesty.
Steven Stairs: We'll talk about that. But yeah, no criminal records and having a disability are two things that you don't really factor in to each other. But in today's current tech environment and privacy focused environment, it's very hard to find work.
Kirk: Is your criminal record, it's your criminal record in cannabis related? Or is it
Steven Stairs: its in everything related? I was 16 and stole cars and then that precluded into like me having an adult juvie record or all that kind of stuff. And then when I was
Kirk: you're blind man, how did you be stealing cars when you're blind?
Steven Stairs: Ok that the whole fine point about this is that... Oh, it's a great story. It's in my book. I'm writing a book and it's a great two chapters. And there's I was told like a 16 that I could never drive. Like I had to go through like this whole testing when they tested my eyes and my functionality and dexterity and all these things. And I basically got like that whole, you know, sit down with my dad on one side and a doctor on the other. And you know, you'll never drive and it's like a, you know, very. You know, I was a typical male. I was, you know, 16-year-old kid full of hormones, full of testosterone. And I was heartbroken. You know, I was I was the one guy who couldn't do the guy stuff. You know, I couldn't catch a football. Couldn't drive, right? Couldn't do all these things. And that was kind of a breaking point for me. And, you know, I mean, looking back on it now, I mean, I'm almost crying talking about it. But I mean, I rebelled pretty hard and I basically told the, you know, the world, fuck off. And you know, I said, You're not going to let me drive, I'm going to drive anyway. And I stole some cars from some dealerships.
Kirk: And you got caught.
Steven Stairs: Oh, I got caught much later after I stole many cars. I did not learned my lesson until I was over. Yeah, OK. Oh yeah, it was. It was a good six months of me stealing dealership cars. Yeah.
Kirk: OK, well, is there anything this has been forty-five minutes. I appreciate your time. Is there anything I haven't asked you about your advocacy towards cannabis?
Steven Stairs: Not really. I mean, I think that there's for anybody who's listening to this and who doesn't know we. And for anybody who's listening to this and does know me, my message is still the same. I eat, sleep and breathe this industry. Not from a legalization perspective, not from an even making money perspective. That's one of the main things I like to tout about myself is that, I don't get paid, but like I got a Tweed Hat on. I have a Highway 59 sweater. But all this stuff is just for the hard work I do. I don't get paid by these guys. They hand me a swag bag because I'm on TV and I'm like, sweet sweater. I'm a poor guy with fucking new hoodie, but I don't. I don't bow down to any of these companies. When Tweed does something stupid, I yell at them on social media. You know, if if one of the local companies does something, I'm there. Calling them out on it because that's how I operate. And I've done that for So, long that I think sometimes people forget that if I say something controversial, it's because I've probably said the opposite of that in the past. And I don't mean that as a hypocrisy. I mean that sometimes you have to, like I said at the beginning, sometimes I'm up there promoting the legal industry. I got my tweed hat on and I'm you go retail. And sometimes when a local cannabis, you know, black market company gets busted and I know that they had some pretty good product and I know that there were really good staff. I'm on the news talking about how it's shitty that they got busted. So, it's not that I'm somehow picking sides. I only have one side and that's cannabis. When I talk about it, it's not from a perspective of somehow I have vested interests in whatever company I'm talking about or whatever political issue. I'm doing it because it needs to be said and a lot of things don't get said that need to be. And sometimes it just falls on me to be the one who says it.
Kirk: So, I think, Trevor, one thing I picked up on this and I think I think people like. Steven Stairs: is a character. He's an advocate. He is it is known in Winnipeg. And I think like all advocates, they set themselves up as a target. I want to thank him because, you know, going into an interview with somebody that is an advocate, we're taking a risk in the sense that who is this guy, what's he going to say? And how is he being perceived? When I researched him, I found some perceptions of him that aren't good, and I appreciated the fact that he allowed me to ask, those questions. And I like the way he addressed them. You know, he's got a target. So, he's obviously outspoken, So, it's easy for him for people to criticize him. I like the way and I'd like the way. What's the word I'm looking for, you know, as a 16-year-old guy? God, you know, if I was told at 16 that I wasn't allowed to drive, I mean, driving was my identity.
Trevor: It was everything, right?
Kirk: I mean, I yeah, I was the guy who had a car that that people came to because I, you know, I had tire biters because I had the car. So, not being able to drive would have made me angry. I think back of the type of lad I was at 16, I would have been very angry too.
Trevor: So, I have a newly minted 16-year-old behind that wall there and he gets it to get it sort of final, well, its graduated in Manitoba now, but to not be a learner anymore in February, and he's counting down the days to when he can take that test. It's a it's a big deal.
Kirk: Mm hmm. It's and it's part of our identity as adolescents, right? I mean, the car I got, I got So, many memories of being a kid driving around with a car full of other kids being stupid. Right? So, So, I get that. I like the way he explained that, and I and I and I appreciate his honesty. I like the fact that, you know, the Cannabis Business Association of Manitoba. I think that is an advocacy group that we need because we are learning that they need a voice. And, you know, So, Steven's moving into that area.
Trevor: I liked a couple of his origin stories things like So, you know, the origin of advocacy not necessarily being involved with cannabis, but you know, he's involved in student politics in 2011. And you know, what are you going to run on? Let us legalize pot. And then from there he goes to a 420 thing at the ledge and goes, This is terrible. This is So, badly done we could do it better and then managed just the next year to come back with a small grant to get a bus to move people from Ledge to City Hall So, they could march back. Like, Yeah, if you had something like that, you know, he had the drive and the forethought to do that. And then it worked out, OK. And then, you know, it just kind of went from there. And another one of his quotes I really liked is I don't have a problem with the black market because the black market is how we got here. Like, that's shouts advocacy, right? You know, that's a controversial statement, but it definitely gets your attention. But then he went on to talk about the nuances of he didn't, at that point, you and him were talking about the we'll call them grow ops in houses in Winnipeg and how he didn't like people using the medicinal end of things to sort of get into the black market like he was against that. So, he's he makes the big statements that grab your attention, but then he definitely knows what the nuance along the way.
Kirk: Yeah. And I think he what this story does for me, it reminds me that although we have legalized recreational cannabis and the government may think that they've done something magical here by doing that, I think what he reminds us is that some place we have forgotten about the medicinal user of cannabis. You know, and I go back to that whole question, has the government asked the right question when they legalized cannabis. In answering their question about, you know, keeping us safe from cannabis, I think they forgot about those people who are using cannabis as a benefit to their quality of life. And because we have all these new laws governing recreational cannabis, it has a direct effect on those that are using cannabis medicinally, such as where can a medicinal cannabis user consume cannabis? Right? If you live in an apartment, you can't consume your medicine, you know, well, consume it through inhaling, I guess, in your apartment, you. You can't do it in your condo. And if you go down to the street to do it like smokers do. Well, you can as a medicinal user consumer cannabis on the street, but you got to have your green card with you, and they don't even issue green cards anymore. So, there's lots of there's a lot of barriers created through the legalization of recreational cannabis that affect medicinal users. And I think, you know, where does an old advocate go? Where do they go? They start going back to the basics, you know, of being a medicinal user.
Trevor: Well, and that actually segways nicely into My Cannabis Story that we have this time? Back when we were back, when we were in Calgary, I got to talk to the Calgary Cannabis Club and they've got several issues there, another advocacy group. But one of their big issues is exactly like you said, Where can I go? You know, it's legal, but where can I go consume my cannabis? Yeah, yeah. So, if you listen here to Neil here, he'll give you his pitch about what the Calgary Cannabis Club is up to.
Kirk: Yeah, that's a that's a that's a good My Cannabis Story to add to this, it blends well, it alSo, blends well to the My Cannabis Story we had in our Episode 80 with the Vancouver apartment dweller who spoke to us about his dilemma also. So, there is an issue right now for medical cannabis people and where can they consume the medicine? So, yeah, it's just spill right into that store.
Trevor: So, we're back here at Hempfest and next up, we have somebody from the Calgary Cannabis Club.
Neil Linton: Hi, yeah. Hi, everybody. My name is Neil Linton. I'm with the Calgary Cannabis Club, the events director here. A little bit about our club. We're a not for profit organization. We're down here at Hempfest. Um, we're big on activism. We like to educate our Calgarians and we try to get a lot of social networking going social network and community services. Calgary Cannabis Club is a non for profit based registered society here in Calgary, Alberta. We're a community-based focus focusing on furthering cannabis culture and helping patients and recreational users, providing knowledge-based resources for our ever-growing cannabis community. Big thing that we're working on here at the Cannabis Club is a petition to change the bylaws city of Calgary for cannabis consumption in a public place because we at the Calgary Cannabis Club strongly urge the City of Calgary council to review and revise Bylaw 24M2018 cannabis consumption in a public place. You know, please help stop the stigma that was started by Nancy Reagan in 1980 with her war on drugs classifying cannabis in the same family as cocaine and heroin. The consumption of alcohol is allowed in some Calgary public parks. The consumption and smoking and vaping of cannabis should be permitted, same as tobacco use in public places and many other Canadian provinces and cities currently allow. For example, the province in Ontario allows cannabis consumption in a public place in many outdoor spaces. Examples, sidewalks and parks the province of Nunivet of it will allow the consumption of cannabis in private homes and in some public spaces where tobacco is allowed. Cannabis use in Northwest Territories is limited to private properties, and where smoking tobacco is allowed on trails and roadways when not operating a motor vehicle and in parks were not in use for a public event. The province of British Columbia, the CCLC, prohibits cannabis, smoking and vaping everywhere tobacco smoking and vaping is prohibited, as well as in playgrounds, sporting fields, skate parks and other places where children may commonly gather. The City of Edmonton Public Spaces Bylaw regulates that smoking is prohibited in public spaces. This includes cannabis vaping, tobacco and cannabis, vaping and smoking. Whether you're smoking cannabis for recreational or medical purposes purpose everybody is expected to follow the same rules in the City of Edmonton. City Toronto Bill 36 also amended the governing consumption of cannabis. There are new rule prohibits the smoking of cannabis in the same places where tobacco smoke is prohibited and electrical cigarettes. Smoking in a motor vehicle is alSo, prohibited by City of Toronto. So, we feel it's just very unjust, unjust for electoral voters in the City of Calgary to have no public areas of consumption for cannabis.
Trevor: No, that's great. No. Have you had a lot of a lot of people interested in your petition? Like, how about the local cannabis shops and how's the how's the interest been on in your petition?
Neil Linton: Oh yeah, we have a lot of interest. We we've contacted news peoples. I've actually got the petition physically out at about 20 different shops right across all of Calgary. Everybody from little small mom and pop LP shops to hemp roots, you know, Quick Grow all the growth centers have it out for us. So, everybody's been real receptive as to we need to see a change because this is quite literally wrong. A medical user can go and smoke cannabis anywhere a cigarette is permitted to be smoked. But if you don't have your medical license, you're not prohibited. So, like, we're here at Hemp Fest right now and we're in a blacked-out area because it's our cannabis consumption area. That's not fair for anybody. It's a little ridiculous. But we got to do what we've got to do to see these changes happen, even though the Canada has made cannabis legal. It's really not legal in Calgary, at the very least because Edmonton can do what they want, but we can't do what we want here. So, it's it's a big change we need to see happen. And, you know, I really appreciate reefer meds, you know, helping us out and putting us on this podcast and, you know, coming out and making everybody aware of it. We've got a nice QR code that you'll bring us to your website. You can just sign that petition online as well. If you can't make it down in person to sign it, we can, we can accept an electrical signature, and that's a little bit more information. But the more people we can get help us out with this cause, the better. The City of Calgary actually mandates that I have to follow the provincial regulations in a petition, meaning I require 10 percent of the electoral voters for the City of Calgary So, that’s one hundred and twenty-nine thousand people that I need to gather the signatures between 60 and 90 days. It's a mission.
Trevor: And Neil, this is I'm really enjoying learning more about the Calgary had his club and your and your petition. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Trevor: So, Kirk: along a longish episode, but a good one on advocacy. Thank you very much for bringing us the Steven Stairs: story and reminding us because honestly, I think I'm one of those people that while than the medicinal side which I've whined about in the past. But you know, it's pretty easy to think that, you know, cannabis is legalized in Canada, that's all we need to do.
Kirk: But there's more work to be done.
Trevor: There, there is more work and advocates that are going to be busy for a while yet.
Kirk: Yep. Well, I'm Kirk Nyquist. I'm the registered nurse.
Trevor: I'm Trevor Shewfelt. I'm the pharmacist and we are Reefer Medness - The Podcast.
Kirk: We encourage people to go to our website, www.reefermed.ca. And you will find the transcripts. You'll find the research papers, you will find pictures, you will find our blog, you will find our Appreciation. People that we appreciate and relationships we've had and hoppy dreams. What, what,
Trevor: what are happy dreams here?