The Week in Weed – December 17, 2022

| Kieran Delamont

We’re approaching the end of the season, and things are buzzing right along in the cannabis world. December is traditionally a good month for pot sales as everyone stocks up for the holidays (and many looking at their holiday party calendars will be thanking Health Canada for the increased cannabis beverage allowance!)

On Stratcann this week, we covered moves made by Ontario and BC regulators to delist delta-8 THC products, discussed the significance of new testing standards that came into force last week, explored banking challenges in the Canadian market, and looked at a new BC Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund launched. And, there was a lot going on elsewhere too.

The big story out of Ontario this week was the sudden and dramatic end of the CannTrust securities trial. Last week, the trial saw damning testimony from former compliance officers, but on Wednesday, prosecutors abruptly sought to withdraw all charges against CEO Peter Aceto and officials Eric Paul and Mark Litwin; by Thursday, all three had been acquitted

As it turns out, the famed “unlicensed” growing rooms were, in fact, licensed all along. They just weren’t compliant, as the specific rooms hadn’t been signed off on by Health Canadaa semantic distinction that makes a world of difference, as it turns out. 

Last week we highlighted the story of Spirit River Cannabis, a new unlicensed, Indigenous-run cannabis shop in London, ON, noting that police and officials were staying quiet on the whole thing. This week, though, the potential conflict appears to be ramping up: the London Free Press spoke to licensed retail operator Marie Ross, who is bringing her complaints to the city. The local CBC outlet later reported that the Ontario Provincial Police are looking into the matter, and it looks like Spirit River Cannabis’ days may be numberedthough Chief Del Riley, whose nephew Maurice French is the shop’s operator, says they are prepared to fight this out in court. 

Is the retail cannabis market oversaturated in Manitoba? Not according to Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, who defended the province’s 170 stores against complaints that it was becoming oversaturated. “I don’t think it’s based on any science or data at this point,” said MLL president Manny Atwal, speaking at a legislative committee hearing this week. 

Kamloops, BC, has voted to significantly lower annual business licence fees from $5,000 to $196.40, matching licensing fees for liquor stores. At least one retailer says they also want to see distances between stores increased

Retail chain Fire & Flower posted more losses this week, reporting a net $28.1 million loss for the third quarter this year. That’s troubling news for the company, which also posted a $21.6 million loss in the previous quarter. A year prior, in 2021 Q3, the company posted just a $2 million loss. 

Elsewhere in the financial losses department is Hexo, which this week posted a $52.1 million loss for the third quarter of this year, as the company continues to struggle. Revenues were down 16 percent, which the company blamed on “​certain shipments (failing) to reach their destination due to severe weather towards the period end.” 

COP15, a major international biodiversity conference in Montreal, wraps up on Monday, with plastic pollution being one of many issues discussed. Plastic waste has been a constant issue for the cannabis industry here in Canada, and this week the issue was featured on CBC Radio’s flagship environmental program What on Earth. Movement on the plastics problem has been slow, but there’s definitely a lot of interest within the sector in making improvements, as comments from the Cannabis Council of Canada’s George Smitherman and Aqualitas’ Myrna Gillas attest to. 

And finally, employees of 26 SQDC locations represented by CUPE in Quebec continue to strike, after 94 percent of employees rejected the latest offer tabled by the government on December 6, the Montreal Gazette reports. Not all the unionized SQDC employees (about half the stores are union shops) are includedthose represented by the Fédération des employés de services public voted to accept the deal.