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Cannabis And Advertising

Cannabis And Advertising

Should cannabis companies be allowed to advertise their products? We talk about the current advertising restrictions for medical cannabis and whether or not they should apply to the recreational industry.


Ian Chamandy, Founding Partner of Blueprint Business Architecture; John Fowler, CEO of Supreme Pharmaceuticals; Rebecca Jesseman, Senior Policy Advisor at the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse; Deepak Anand, Executive Director of the Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association; Will Stewart, Managing Principal at Navigator Ltd.

It’s Madness

It’s March, which may seem consequential for things like daylight savings time (unless you live in Saskatchewan), something or other about an equinox, or even, perhaps, the fact that March is the best month to have a birthday (I may be biased). But, my birthday notwithstanding, these are all wrong. March is March because March is March Madness.

What is March Madness? You might ask, as you realize something incredibly important has passed you by every spring and lean in closer to learn what could possibly be better than the celestial alignment of the Earth with the sun returning daylight, and therefore, meaning, to your life. Well, dear neophyte, March Madness is the drama, the pathos, the excitement you didn’t know you were desperately missing. If you ever wondered if you were lacking in unhealthy attachments, the answer is a definitive yes.

Let me explain: every year the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) holds a Division I basketball tournament for men and women’s basketball. I say women’s basketball, but unfortunately, I’m really just referring to the men’s side. Like in most things, the women’s side is largely shunted into obscurity, relegated to secondary network channels. But the gendered politics of sport are for another time. Anyway, this tournament is called March Madness. To win March Madness, your team must be perfect. Sixty-eight teams are invited to play, then seeded (ranked) to determine who they play in the first round in their respective conferences (East, West, Midwest and South). Top-seeded teams play lower-seeded teams in early rounds to make sure better teams make it to the finals. It’s a single elimination tournament. You lose once and you’re out. Naturally this leads to enjoyable upsets and Cinderella stories when lower-seeded teams go on a hot streak and knock out tournament favourites — here’s looking at you Wisconsin. You don’t need to know anything about college basketball to get unhealthily invested in this tournament , although it helps. But, you can get caught up on long-standing grudges, the teams everyone hates (everyone hates Duke, if Duke wins, everyone loses. Thankfully, Duke has already been eliminated) and players to watch, pretty quickly.

And now you’re asking why — why does this matter at all, you’re reading stuff from Navigator not TSN or ESPN. Here’s why: the other fun part of March Madness — I would argue it’s as fun as actually watching the games themselves — is reading the coverage. Because this tournament is elimination, because the players are incredibly young (I mean kids, I mean born in the late 90s, I mean really young, okay), because they still have to go to CLASS the day after a devastating loss (again, Duke), March Madness is as much about the storylines, the narratives that get developed, as it is about the basketball. Let’s all bask in the glory of exciting long-form sports journalism. And also, because the NCAA is actually pretty evil and all of these kids are exploited under the guise of amateur sports. See? Drama.

The entire NCAA hinges on the fact that athletes are ‘student-athletes’. The hyphen is very important because it lets the NCAA determine that intercollegiate sports are ‘avocational’, aka not a job, aka, you shouldn’t get paid. Which would be fine if we were operating in a world where the righteousness of sport and opportunity was what this was all about and not the fact that the commercialization of college sport has led to a billion-dollar industry. March Madness alone is expected to rake in $900 million for 2017 in revenue. Conferences get some of this payout, and the conferences are supposed to divide the money amongst their schools, but they have to cover the expenses of the tournament as well. There’s a lot of accounting and explaining away that happens with the NCAA and its profits (also the fact that it’s considered a nonprofit), but none of it goes to the players. There’s also a lot of criticism about a model that relies on players whose scholarships (which only account for about 5-7% of the revenue) can be revoked if they’re injured and includes players complaining about being unable to afford food when the NCAA is raking in the dollars. Coaches also make an obscene amount of money, bringing in between $2-$6 million a year. On top of that, according to the NCCA’s own stats, the likelihood of playing pro basketball is 1.1%, leading many to question the ‘student’ part of ‘student-athlete’, saying NCAA players receive inflated grades to ensure eligibility, and because quite frankly, many don’t have time to compete in both an incredibly demanding athletic program and academics.

Now let’s go back to the coverage. Besides diving into the actual games, each March, you can delve into the intricacies of the funding models and see how the NCAA keeps trying to spin itself out of the annual exploitation muck. The NCAA reflects the world we live in, and there is a racialized element to this whole thing, that is pointed out more and more frequently. The vast majority of the top brass of the NCAA are old white men and NCAA players are predominantly young black men, and that’s not just an optics thing, it can also play out in people’s attitudes on paying these players.

Plus, there’s the fact that many of these kids are living their glory days right in front of you, in front of an audience. Although we all know meritocracies don’t exist anymore, sometimes it really feels like they do when some freshman showcases undeniable and promising talent and is instrumental in taking his team to the Sweet Sixteen. So all things considered, dreams are actually being made and broken here, and March 19, the first Sunday of the tournament, was the most-watched first Sunday in 24 years. The stakes on this thing are ratcheted up to 12, and I haven’t even talked about the gambling. Fans create tournament brackets predicting winners for each round, and bet on the outcome. For 2017, The American Gaming Association expects Americans to bet $10.4 billion on March Madness.

Those of us who are fans are complicit in this whole exploitation factor, and to be clear, I’m not advocating for the exploitation even if I can’t seem to remove myself. My point is that the NCAA makes you care and it makes you care a lot. My point is that the more I know about the sketchy structure of this whole thing, the more I care about these players. My point is that I have a hard time watching a 6’11 ambidextrous German teen single-handedly dismantle the defence of one my final four picks and not read everything about him.

My point is that if you want to see seven different layers of how a story can get told and how far it can go, and how quickly the tides can change for or against you in the span of three weeks, how unlikely teams and players rise to the top and how old storylines (Tom! Izzo! In! March!) get rehashed whenever it’s appropriate to rehash them, then follow the tournament. My point is this is both terrible and great, it’s sometimes serious and sometimes incredibly ridiculous and funny. My point is that this is every kind of coverage all rolled into one month.

Look, I’m not saying this is going to revolutionize your communications or reinvent the way you do business, but this is a real-life sports movie that plays out every year. Let it wash over you and accept that yes, you can in fact care this much about a nineteen-year-old from Bentonville Arkansas (where??) for reasons as arbitrary as the fact that he wears your old jersey number to ones as concrete as the fact that 95 per cent of the time he wants to win more than anyone else on the floor. I’m saying accept that it’s March, and accept that it’s Madness, and read all about it.

Why so many candidates are still in race to lead Tories

There will be only one winner with the dream of leading the Conservatives to power. The other 13 would-be leaders will face the harsh reality of the May 27 leadership vote — and for some it will not be pretty.

Early last year, I joked that the Conservative leadership race was more like the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs than a contest for head of a national party. Today, as more and more would-be leaders jump into the pool, I’ve come to think of it as the story of 101 Dalmatians.

The number of entrants is eye-popping; especially for a party that many pundits have assigned a snowball’s shot in hell of winning the next election.

Watching the leadership debates — with 14 participants strolling onto the stage one by one — is like watching a seemingly impossible number of clowns pop out of a Volkswagen Beetle. And the debates themselves don’t seem to be debates so much as hours-long question-and-answer snore fests with as little chance of risk, spontaneity and mistakes as possible.

Indeed, more than once, a few of the leadership contestants have looked perilously close to dozing off during what should be a career-defining event.

The decision to enter a leadership campaign is not one made lightly. It involves raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign non-stop across the country for months.

It’s a strain on health, personal finances and family.

And to top it all off, candidates are competing for a sometimes dubious prize — one that comes with an even more punishing life. A party leader must renew their commitment to non-stop campaigning. In public, that means everything from a strawberry social in Charlottetown to meeting in a church basement in Kelowna.

And within the backrooms of their own party, the new leader has to survive dark rumblings from a caucus desperate to return to power, not all that confident it now has the right leader for the job.

So why have so many Conservatives taken the plunge? It is, after all, a contest that will end in disappointment for 13, and an impossibly daunting task for the ‘lucky’ winner.

An observer of U.S. politics once remarked that every morning, 535 members of Congress look at themselves in the mirror and see a future president staring back at them.

The same is true in Canada.

The prospect of leading a party that is but one election cycle away from winning government and launching a new chapter in political history is very tempting for many who have, for years, looked at and listened to Stephen Harper and thought, ‘I could do better.’

That’s why, when there’s an opening for the leadership of one of the two federal parties in Canada that have formed government, the work begins in earnest.

With major candidates such as John Baird, Peter MacKay and Jason Kenney absent from the current federal Conservative party contest, the race becomes even more attractive to other contestants.

The simple fact there is no clear front-runner with a run away band wagon of support means that not one candidate’s chances are as good as an other.

The fee to get into the race was $100,000 — an amount most members of Parliament and business people who want to enter politics could easily raise. And, many will feel that, with so many candidates to split the vote, they have a hope of winning.

But it is an unpleasant fact that 13 of the contenders will lose. An even more unpleasant fact is that a significant number will lose quite badly, ending with as little as 2 per cent of the vote.

Why, then, are they all still in the race? Why haven’t some of them dropped out, and spared themselves the embarrassment?

There are a number of reasons.

For many of the 14, it is like the first round of a poker game. The have anted up, their money is in, so why not wait and see what happens?

For some, they are running not so much to win this time, but more to raise their profile and build their network for a second run against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Others are on a mission to raise the profile of an issue they care deeply about; a good example is Rick Peterson’s one-man mission to rid Canada of corporate income tax

And then, of course, there is yet another reason — vanity.

Many candidates didn’t receive this much attention when they were elected to Parliament 10 years ago with visions of stars in their eyes. They are flattered by the sustained media and Internet attention.

Many of the 14 candidates are deluding themselves that they have a chance at winning. Perhaps it’s a delusion that can be forgiven, but on May 27 they will face the harsh reality of the results of the leadership vote.

I would wager, however, that several people will wake up the morning of May 28 kicking themselves for having let the glare of attention blind them to the reality of the result.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist.

CAPTCHA Transcends and Everybody Wins

The internet is going to be a lot less annoying soon. Headlines like ‘Google has finally killed the CAPTCHA‘ give us a hint as to why. But these headlines don’t tell the full story — which is a shame, because the full story is kind of cool.

Yes, there is reason to celebrate. CAPTCHAs those boxes that force you to prove you’re human by clicking three pictures of an umbrella or typing out grainy text — are going away. But CAPTCHA is not dead — it just evolved. The latest version is completely invisible, but very much still there.

CAPTCHA, an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart will finally realize its original design, automating a test that determines if we’re human beings. CAPTCHA has learned from human behaviour so well, it no longer needs us to confirm our humanity, it assumes it. The latest version only serves the annoying quizzes to suspected bots.

Now that CAPTCHA automatically detects human interaction, the bot intended to protect against simulated human behavior is, in a way, closer to that perfect human simulation than the bots it was originally created to protect against, who are themselves trying to achieve an undetectable human simulation.

See? Kind of cool.

But why does this matter? And how does it work?

Unfortunately we can’t really know the how the new CAPTCHA works.. It doesn’t make sense for Google or any company making widely-used security programs to publicize how those programs work. Captcha exists because spam, virus, and all the ugly parts of the internet exist. Whether its preventing fake accounts from voting in online polls or blocking malware, there has been incentive to filter out unnatural website behaviour from genuine interactions, as long as the internet has been around.

All we know about this new phase of CAPTCHA is in this video. The latest version of rechaptcha, aptly named ‘Invisible Recaptcha’ uses ‘a combination of machine learning and advanced risk analysis that adapt to new and emerging threats’. My personal theory is that this has something to do with a recent search-engine algorithm update, nicknamed Fred. It’s too coincidental that the same week Google adjusts its criteria to penalize or reduce the search authority of blog-style sites with ‘low content value‘, it also unveils a breakthrough in separating genuine human interest from robotic simulation. Fred hit content farms, the places where black hat or unnatural linking techniques live. Basically, until a few days ago, it was possible to manufacture conditions that search search engines would mistake for actual user interest in a site, so that the site could eventually improve its position on results pages. Like with the new CAPTCHA, end-users never see search-engine algorithm updates when they happen, the search engine results just change. If Google can distinguish between human and bot behavior in links or searches, it is a small leap for the company to extend the technology to cover general browsing.

Many have also speculated that this would not be possible without the piles of data Google has been mining through its other projects. That’s also probably true. The company needs some kind of a baseline for how people really act online to pull something like this off. Of course this development probably brings us closer to that inevitable robot uprising, but why not give Google the benefit of the doubt for once? Sure, it’s a little bit suspicious that it blatantly repurposed the scanning technology it originally acquired to help digitize books for security or consumer research that borders on surveillance. But, CAPTCHAs were also really irritating; now they’re going away. Google keeps repeating ‘what’s good for the internet is good for Google’. This time, I’m inclined to agree with them. Not having to enter CAPTCHAs will make browsing better, which will indirectly encourage people to use Google services more often. Internet security supposedly improved. Everybody wins.

The Genetics Bottleneck

The Genetics Bottleneck

What does legalizing cannabis at the federal level really mean? We use the genetics bottleneck to look at federal regulation for recreational consumption in Canada.


David Brown, Communications Director and Editor-in-Chief at Lift; Will Stewart, Managing Principal at Navigator Ltd.; Deepak Anand, Executive Director of the Canadian National Medical Marijuana Association.