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Future of cannabis not in Canada, Canadian cannabis expert claims




For Canada’s cannabis expert, the future of the drug in Canada isn’t in northern commercial greenhouses, but in the fields of Central and South America. 

Ernie Small is a principal research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa. He’s grown and studied the drug for decades, and has written several books on the subject — though he swears he’s never had so much as a toke.

Small says many of today’s commercial grow operations aren’t run efficiently, which is driving up the cost of the drug. They’re often run by self-taught growers who’ve relied on the advice of people growing cannabis illegally.

“There is a lot to learn, and their methodology is inefficient and is contributing to the high cost of marijuana,” says Small, who has toured some of them. “There is no question that this is an industry with huge profit potential, but it also has bankruptcy potential.”

In Central and South America, cannabis crops can be grown a lot cheaper than in Canada.  

He points to several large domestic cannabis growers that have invested in companies in South American countries to produce cannabis oils.

An interesting beginning

Small got his start in the cannabis game for the federal government back in the early 1970s, when he was tasked with studying the difference between illegal cannabis and legal hemp on a near-hectare of land in Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm, a wide swath of federal fields smack dab in the middle of the capital.

Police departments around the world sent him 350 cannabis seeds through the mail. They needed to be sure if the joints they seized from smokers were from illegal plants containing a lot of the psychoactive element THC, or hemp, which has a lot less THC.

He grew hundreds of plants on the farm, spawning a career that earned him the Order of Canada in December 2017 for his contribution to botanical knowledge and public policy.

Ernie Small stands next to his federally owned crop of cannabis hidden among corn in Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm in 1971. (Supplied, 1971)

“It grew fantastically well,” says the now-78-year-old scientist. “We had plants that were 18 feet high.”

But eventually the grow-op soured. Word about the hidden cannabis surrounded by corn leaked out, and trespassers were getting high on government bud.

A barbed-wire fence, guards and “some rather vicious guard dogs” couldn’t keep them out, Small recalls. In all, about 50 plants were stolen from the plot near Ash Lane, which earned the nickname Hash Lane.

“The blame came down ultimately to me and I almost lost my job,” Small says in his office inside the farm’s William Saunders Building.

A wagon full of harvested cannabis grown on the Central Experimental Farm in 1971. (Supplied, 1971)

The outdoor cannabis was eventually moved into a secure greenhouse and remained there until the early 1980s. 

But back in 1976, Small had acquired enough data to publish his botanical classification system separating legal hemp from illegal cannabis by using a benchmark of 0.3 per cent THC.

Anything above that was classified as illegal. The policy was adopted around the world and is still used today.

“It turned out to be the most significant contribution I have ever made,” Small says.

Ernie Small poses with a male cannabis plant in 1980. (Supplied, 1980)

Years later, when the Liberal government decided to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes, Small says he was taken aback.

“I never thought marijuana would ever become legalized — period,” he says. “It’s a surprise that the counter-culture movement has been able to consolidate and become the majority of society.”

But he supports the move, and even helped write the new federal law.

“In this case I entirely support it because it just makes perfect sense,” he says. “The war on drugs has been substantially a failure, and how many people can you put in jail?”

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada with Ernie Small who was awarded as a member in the Order of Canada in September, 2018. (Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall, )

Despite all the cannabis research he’s done, Small says without hesitation that he’s never sampled the drug and “never will.”

“The government put tremendous trust in me, and the whole idea of betraying that trust just seemed to me to go against who I am as a scientist,” he says.

And even now that recreational cannabis is legal, Small insists he’s not even a little curious about what it’s like. “I’m really conservative about what I put in the body,” he says.

But he will grow the permissible four cannabis plants in his greenhouse at home. After all this time studying them, it appears he’s grown used to having them nearby.

“It will just make me feel comfortable to have the plants around,” he says.


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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa




With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV




A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence




Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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