Craft Cannabis Growers Say Better Bud Will Be Key to Thriving in the Legal Market

Article by Sarah Efron, Globe and Mail

Craft cannabis growers say better bud will be key to thriving in the legal market SARAH EFRON. A store assistant holds marijuana buds at a marijuana dispensary in Toronto. CHRIS YOUNG

While Canada’s licensed cannabis producers are in a frenzy of deal-making, jockeying to take control of rivals and massive greenhouses ahead of legalization, cannabis entrepreneurs like Kelly Coulter are operating at a different pace. This spring, she leased two acres of farmland in Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley with several other women and intends to launch an environmentally sustainable market garden and cannabis operation called Slo Farms.

“We will be applying for a micro licence and our intention is to be a small and slow cannabis farm,” says Ms. Coulter. “I think there is a real opportunity there for small independents.”

Last November, Health Canada said the upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana would include a category of licence aimed at allowing small producers into the legal market. Under proposed regulations, a micro-cultivation licence would permit a company to have a plant canopy of 200 square metres. Security regulations are expected to be lighter than those faced by the licensed producers (LPs) currently authorized to grow for medical users, as well as future standard recreational licence holders. (Current LPs are expected to be automatically licensed to produce and sell to the recreational market in the new system.)

Many of the details around the licensing won’t be known until the Cannabis Act regulations are revealed, although it looks like outdoor growing will be permitted. Optimistic entrepreneurs like Ms. Coulter anticipate that the rules will allow bigger canopies for outdoor growers, though lawyer Andrea Hill from boutique firm Skylaw says she thinks this is unlikely.

Both standard and micro-cultivators won’t be allowed to be able to sell directly to the public for recreational use, says Daniel Everall, a lawyer with Aird & Berlis LLP. The supply chain isn’t entirely clear, but one likely route would be for cultivators to sell to firms with standard processing or micro-processing licences, which would then sell the finished product to provincial distribution boards. These boards would distribute the cannabis to government retail outlets and to private retail stores in provinces that allow them.

Another route would be for a micro-cultivator to apply for its own micro-processing licence. This would allow them to process up to 600 kilograms of dried cannabis per year by packaging it or making it into other products such as cannabis oil.

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