Cannabis harvested at the CannTrust Niagara Greenhouse Facility in Fenwick, Ont., is photographed on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. An internal government memo says federal officials see no “strong pull factors” for organized crime groups to invest in the legal cannabis sector over any other industry, despite allegations shady money is already tainting the business. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Legal cannabis holds no special attraction for organized crime: memos

Public-safety and health officials do not see strong pull factors for criminal infiltration of the legal business

Federal officials see no reason why organized crime would invest in legal cannabis over any other industry, despite allegations shady money is already tainting the business, an internal government memo says.

Organized crime has dominated the illegal cannabis industry for decades but public-safety and health officials do not see “strong pull factors” for criminal infiltration of the legal business, the memo says. And they appear confident that existing and planned efforts to ensure corporate transparency will reveal any trouble.

The documents, disclosed through the Access to Information Act, show officials from nine federal agencies became seized with the issue early this year after media reports said questionable foreign money was supporting legal marijuana enterprises.

RELATED: B.C. privacy watchdog issues guidelines for legal cannabis sales

Using offshore bank accounts for investing is not illegal, nor was there evidence such sources were being used by organized crime to profit from the legal cannabis sector, the internal notes say.

The Trudeau government recently legalized recreational cannabis use with the aim of denying criminals hefty profits from the illicit pot trade. The government has overseen licensing of medicinal marijuana suppliers for years.

The February memos say the legal industry’s ability to raise capital should be seen as a positive sign, as long as the money comes from legitimate sources.

“The potential for organized crime to invest in the legal cannabis market through offshore tax havens exists, but does not appear fundamentally different from the potential for such investments in any and all sectors of the economy,” says a memo to the Public Safety Canada deputy minister, the ministry’s senior bureaucrat. “Given the government’s stated objective to strictly regulate the cannabis industry, there does not appear on the surface to be any strong pull factors for organized crime to invest in this sector, as compared to any other sectors.”

The RCMP had no active high-priority investigation related to organized crime’s suspected financial involvement with licensed pot producers, though the police force continued to monitor the situation, the Feb. 27 memo adds.

RELATED: B.C. pot shop handed first recreational licence

The French-language CBC’s flagship investigative program, Enquete, reported this month that the government had granted marijuana licences to companies and people with links to the criminal underworld.

Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said Tuesday he has not seen evidence of any criminal enterprise infiltrating a licensed producer. “And should I see any evidence of that I am very confident that the RCMP and Health Canada would take all the steps necessary to protect Canadians,” he said during an appearance at the Senate’s question period.

The government is being “a little bit naive on the issue” of criminal involvement, Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan said in an interview.

Earlier this year, the Liberals cited privacy concerns and other challenges in rejecting a legislative amendment backed by Carignan that would have created a public registry of marijuana-company investors.

Blair said Tuesday the cannabis regulations that did come into effect “provide for significant financial transparency.”

The internal memos also note various federal efforts to screen foreign investments, fight international tax evasion and make it clearer who owns stakes in Canadian corporations. In addition, federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers have agreed to work together on making ownership data more accessible.

“This will help law enforcement and other authorities know who owns which companies in Canada, including companies who invest in cannabis production,” say the internal government notes.

Carignan said he is skeptical the government is actually peeling back the layers of secrecy. “This government is talking about transparency but it is one of the most opaque that we have seen.”

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘More animals could have a chance:’ Victoria Humane Society in desperate need of a home

Animal rescue currently has 163 animals in foster and volunteer homes

Free-B Film Festival celebrates 20th anniversary

Head to Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park to see some family favourites on the big screen

Central Saanich accused of not following Climate Emergency declaration with urgent action

Motion to research climate response options and costs rejected then rescheduled in tense meeting

Join North Saanich invasives removal and experience three key benefits

Friends of North Saanich Parks says July 27 clear-up will be rewarding as well as green

Esquimalt gives six-storey rental complex the green light

A new apartment building is set to go up on Admirals Road

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read