Former top cops Fantino, Souccar launch marijuana-services business

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Courtesy of Globe and Mail

Two of Canada’s former top cops – one of them recently a Conservative cabinet minister – are helping launch a new prescription-marijuana business.

Julian Fantino and Raf Souccar are executives with a business that will open a storefront clinic in a strip mall north of Toronto in the coming weeks.

Vaughan-based Aleafia Inc. is not a marijuana dispensary. It aims to be be among a new breed of corporate go-betweens, a “total health” provider that creates treatment plans for prospective medicinal-marijuana users and connects them with cannabis products from licensed growers.

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The fact that the business will not grow, sell or handle marijuana itself should not detract from the obvious irony of two former chief cops becoming cannabis middlemen. Both readily admit they were once outspoken about the dangers of the drug – and the politicians who would relax its prohibition.

“In my mind, having grown up in policing and so on, medical users were – for lack of a better term – dopeheads,” Mr. Souccar, a former undercover drug officer and RCMP deputy commissioner, said on Friday sitting with Mr. Fantino in a boardroom at the company’s office on Jane Street. Mr. Souccar is Aleafia’s president and chief executive officer.

Mr. Fantino, who headed the Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto Police Service before becoming a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government, is the company’s executive chairman.

“What I said then was then, what I say today is my value system today,” Mr. Fantino said.

In his unsuccessful 2015 re-election bid, Mr. Fantino circulated flyers suggesting Justin Trudeau’s decriminalization plans would put marijuana into school children’s hands. “But I can tell you right now that times change, people’s thinking changes – I became more aware,” he said.

Mr. Fantino explained: “We’re talking about the medical benefits that have evolved and been tried and proven … it’s been a matter of informing myself, educating myself.”

On a tour of their company’s nearby clinic, they said the company will bring osteopaths, chiropractors, doctors and nurses to cater to patients there soon.

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Aleafia is clearly in the early stages – a bank of workout machines, computer monitors, and medical-examination tables are slowly emerging from cardboard and bubble wrap. The hope is to be operational later this fall.

What makes a career cop change his mind about a drug? Mr. Fantino said it was his time as Veterans Affairs minister, seeing how Afghan war veterans were turning to prescription marijuana to deal with anxiety, sleep disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Statistics show that when Mr. Fantino took over Veteran’s Affairs in 2013, it was spending about $400,000 a year to help just over 100 veterans fill their prescriptions. When he left two years later, it was spending $20-million for more than 1,700 veterans.

Since then, under both Liberal and Conservative governments, the numbers have exploded. On Friday, the department told The Globe it expects to spend $90-million reimbursing veterans in the coming fiscal year.

That growth curve helps explain the potential business case for go-between companies such as Aleafia, which plans to sell client-treatment plans and get percentages of profit from product sold by growers it recommends. The niche fills a void – the federal government may license growers, and allow prescriptions, but does not put marijuana in people’s hands, or monitor how they use it.

Should marijuana be smoked or ingested? Should it be heavy or light on psychoactive elements like THC? How does it affect pre-existing medical conditions? These are the sorts of questions Aleafia hopes to address for each client.

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Demand for such services could grow, especially if police, firefighters and emergency workers are allowed to use medical marijuana for work-related ailments, and workplace insurance plans begin covering it. In February, an Aleafia vice-president – Marisa Cornacchia, a registered nurse at Sick Kids – addressed police chiefs about trends in mental health care for officers. Corporate records show the company was founded early this year by William Car, a Vaughan-based entrepreneur.

Mr. Souccar was a member of the Liberal government’s task force on decriminalizing marijuana. He said that work allowed him to meet people on prescriptions.

“They were people no different than me,” he said. “People with careers, and jobs and well educated, and all they wanted was some sort of normalcy back in their life. To be able to live a pain-free life, to be able to sleep at night, to be able to be productive like they once were.”

Mr. Souccar even said he now believes medical marijuana could help address Canada’s opioid crisis.

“Cannabis can be used to get people off of opioids,” he said, adding that he regrets seeing medicinal marijuana users as “dopeheads.”

As for Mr. Fantino, he simply says the new business shows how people can change.

“We have evolved. In our drug squad days we kept locking people up. Did we care about this other stuff? Not really,” he says. “This was our job right? But eventually in your life and your career you become more aware.”

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13 comments on “Former top cops Fantino, Souccar launch marijuana-services business
  1. This ol’ hippie is not surprised. The cops and all the crooked politicians only care about money, not people as they claim. The way things look, the so-called black market will thrive.

  2. These two idiots are exactly what’s wrong with the legalization, these two profited by putting people in jail now they want to profit from being middlemen , boycott these idiots and ruin their business and hopefully their lives

  3. Pingback: Former top cops Fantino, Souccar launch marijuana-services business | Sassy Wire

  4. These men are and were always looking for the next career step up. They’re both opportunists but with their tremendous pensions for life, you wonder the motivation. Neither demonstrated an awareness and personal ethic that would “assist”or help others in a struggle needing support and care. Purely a business opportunity by 2 expersts at blind careerism, with one failing desparetly as a Minister. Note how Fantino brushes away his “values” simply for a an opportunity to make some money. An incredible statement to make. We all recall his confrontation with the elderly vets that was widely broadcast on the news. The lasck of compassion then causes me to wonder what the motivation could be. Souccar was a soldier of the disgraced Commissioner Zackardelli of the RCMP Pensions scam where trips to Florida and other fine destinations were paid out of the RCMP members pension funds when the expenses were not available in approved funding to do so. Souccar was a beneficiary of those trips abroad paid for by RCMP MEMBERS PENSIONS. Despicable behaviour and poor judgement. As is this latest escapade. It will fail with these men as pricncipals.

  5. Fantino you are the biggest hypocrit going and a self serving obnoxiois prick. You no more care about military veterans and their post traumatic stress relatred problems than you do about OPP veterans who once stood for the very dogma of the Criminal code and what we told to do about drug enforcement. You’ve changed alright and I can tell you times changef away ahead of you. I hope you choke on the very words you now expound to the public and realize you never were worthy to lead the troops that stuck to the enforcement preached while you proved to be the leader monger that everyone now sees. I hope you choke on all the money you make on this venture which is nothing less than criminal in my mind. What about all the adventurous souls serving time in prison for doing the very thing that Ontario’s top cop is now doing. Your fat ass should have been fired a long time ago. Your agenda sickens me!

  6. what a bunch of crap, they are still the same as when they were in the police forces, just a waste of skin…that occupied positions

  7. I think cops were just doing their jobs when making busts. Most cops know that ETOH is way worse when it comes to the causes of crime. I see no problem if these retired cops want to get in the pot business.

  8. Absolutely sad. It shows zero compassion and greed at its finest. He has absolutely no balls to stand up for what’s right..

    Money money money

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