The Week in Weed – December 10, 2022

| Kieran Delamont

Along with news of Saskatchewan’s establishment of a First Nations cannabis framework, sales growth in edibles out in BC, and a piece about the pros and cons of irradiation, Stratcann readers this week might’ve got the latest updates to the medical cannabis registration numbers, which recorded a 4 percent decline between December 2021 and March 2022, as they continue their downward trend from their early 2020 peak. 

A report at MjBizDaily looked at some of the producers who are beginning to more specifically target benefits-plan-covered medical cannabis patients as a potential growth business. Benefits coverage has never been a huge market for LPs—the piece quotes a few folks in the insurance community who complained that cannabis companies lacked “preparedness” in the industry’s early lobbying, and many insurance plans still don’t cover cannabis. But companies like Aqualitas and Entourage are quietly working with unions and cannabis-covering plans to expand that area of business. (The nice margins help, too.)

Brock professor Michael J Armstrong published research this week that found each dollar spent on medical cannabis in Canada correlates with a 74-cent drop in sales for alcohol, and lowered these sales overall by 1.8 percent. He’s careful to call this a correlation, not a causation, but it’s an important question nonetheless—as Armstrong points out, whether legalized cannabis is a substitute for alcohol or amplifies booze sales has ramifications for health and economic policies. 

Testimony continued at the ongoing CannTrust trial in Toronto, with a compliance officer testifying that the unlicensed growing that first landed the company in hot water was “very openly discussed” at the company. The details of the allegations and circumstances spilling out of this trial have generally not been kind to CannTrust, painting a picture of open rule-breaking in the industry’s earliest days. 

While cannabis prices themselves are dropping, the inflationary cycle is still taking a bite out of the cannabis industry. On Friday, HEXO CEO Charlie Bowman appeared on BNN Bloomberg, speaking with David George-Cosh, to discuss the impact inflation is having on his company and other cannabis producers. In his case, it means trimming staff and concentrating their business on “a few core brands.” 

While Saskatchewan is moving forward with a First Nations cannabis framework meant to cede some jurisdiction, in Ontario the question continues to go unresolved, as this story from CBC London highlights. There, Maurice French of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation has opened Spirit River Cannabis.

The shop is similar, in many respects, to the kind of on-reserve cannabis shops that have flourished of late, but for one difference: this one is right downtown. French is the nephew of Indigenous civil rights activists Chief Del Riley, who also appeared in a recent Stratcann piece on dispensary raids in Nova Scotia. City officials, the province, police, and the AGCO aren’t saying much about how they plan to respond just yet. 

In Newfoundland, as in British Columbia, Q2 cannabis sales were up more than 10 per cent over last year, the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation reported this week. Cannabis sales still lag behind alcohol sales but are growing at nearly triple the rate, which NLC CEO Bruce Keating attributed to a “normalization” of sales trends coming out of the pandemic.

And finally, in the Globe and Mail, Greg Thomas penned a lively and heartfelt obituary to long-time cannabis activist Rosie Rowbotham, who died in early December after a long battle with cancer. Rowbotham led a long and colourful life in the cannabis and prisoner justice movements, perhaps the only long-time pot-smoker and self-proclaimed “hash man” to go from a stint in prison to a brief career at the CBC. Famed American author Norman Mailer was a friend of his and once testified in court that jailing Rowbotham would be “bad for the cosmos.” (Also worth revisiting is this interview he gave to the Globe a couple of months ago, looking back over his life in the cannabis community.)