February 6, 2023

Ontario cannabis retailer group calls out “kickbacks”

A group of Ontario cannabis stores are calling for an end to “kickbacks” that they say are used to incentivize shelf space for some producers. 

Highland Cannabis Inc., an independent retailer based in Kitchener, Ontario, is leading the Cancel Kickbacks campaign in an attempt to pressure the provincial government to look closer at the issue and enforce its own rules against inducements between licensed cannabis producers and licensed cannabis dealers.

“The Cancel Kickbacks campaign is demanding that the Ontario government properly enforce its own anti-incentive regulations, which are being circumvented by retailers and manufacturers who falsely and unlawfully characterize incentive transactions as payments for the sale of ‘data for business intelligence purposes’,” argues the organization in a press release.

“These payments favour larger, well-funded, licensed cannabis producers who have the means to pay sales incentive kickbacks to gain market share, and larger retail chains who have the leverage to collect the kickbacks and then use them to fund such low competitive prices that independent retailers can’t possibly keep up,” it continues.

Ontario, like many other provinces, does not allow inducements, such as producers offering payment for preferential shelf space—or to even carry their product at all. However, it’s become a well-known and controversial practice that some retailers, especially larger retail chains, sell “data plans” to producers that, some argue, are simply a workaround that allows for these kinds of inducements. 

AGCO defines gratuities as payments “made with the purpose of promoting or increasing the sale of a particular brand or product by the licensee or its employees.”

The Cancel Kickbacks campaign is demanding that the Ontario government enforce its own anti-incentive regulations, which the campaign says are being circumvented by retailers and manufacturers who falsely and unlawfully characterize incentive transactions as payments for the sale of “data for business intelligence purposes.” 

Jennawae Cavion, co-owner of Calyx + Trichomes Cannabis, an independent cannabis retailer in Kingston, Ontario says she has been approached by several producers who want to pay such “kickbacks” for shelf space. Although she notes such practices are not uncommon in the retail world, they are not supposed to be allowed in the cannabis space. 

“In our industry it’s specifically not allowed,” explains Cavion. “In my opinion, the AGCO changing the rules to allow for data sales has just opened up this opportunity for retailers to benefit from kickbacks. It’s not even a very thin veil in some places, some are very blatant in it being a kickback.”

Ultimately, she says she thinks producers and retailers participating in such programs will only harm themselves in consumers’ eyes. But this might take years, she says, meaning smaller retailers will have to tighten their belts to make it through this period. 

“It’s really to their detriment because now I won’t carry their products at all. There’s no longevity in these deals. They’re going to dry up. It’s a dead end. But for those of us who are independent, the question is can we outlast this program.”

Owen Allerton, owner of Highland Cannabis Inc, says he thinks these plans will be the end of independent retailers. 

“By not enforcing the inducement ban, AGCO tacitly allows cannabis producers to pay prohibited kickbacks to cannabis retail chains,” says Allerton.

“Several of the big retail chains are using the banned stimulus money to fund predatory pricing, to control the market and thereby drive the small independent retailers out of business. People are talking about the price wars in the cannabis retail market. There are no price wars. There are only big chains, and their ultra-discount models are subsidized by illicit kickbacks. 

“Producers pay these illicit kickbacks for shelf space at major chains while undermining the 1,000+ independent retailers—putting them out of business,” he continues. “In the end, only the chains will remain.”

As of June 30, 2022, the AGCO revised the Registrar’s Standards for Cannabis Retail Stores to allow retailers to sell this “sales data” to producers “for business intelligence purposes.” One retail chain that recently posted its public earnings report noted its “data sales” were $21.7 million for the fiscal year that ended October 31, 2022. Such data sales are not necessarily connected to such ‘kickbacks, making it difficult for the provincial regulator to investigate.

The Cancel Kickbacks campaign argues that this rule change made it possible for some larger industry players to get around this ban by characterizing such payments as being for ‘sales data’, which the organization says threatens to undermine Ontario’s cannabis industry.

“Of Ontario’s 1,573 licensed retailers, about 300 are affiliated with large retail chains and over 1,000 are smaller, independent stores (fewer than 10 stores),” notes the press release. “Independent cannabis retailers are predominantly run by individuals or families who have invested personal finances and savings in their retail startups. These independent businesses make up the bulk of the industry and are most at risk from predatory pricing funded by illicit incentives.”


BC has brought in more than $157 million in cannabis excise tax since legalization

The BC government has brought in more than $157 million dollars from their share of federal cannabis excise taxes since the beginning of legalization, but municipalities are still asking for what they say is their share. 

The figures, which span the first day of legalization up until August 2022, do not include additional revenue from provincial taxes or other related industry fees. 

BC, like all other provinces and territories, has an agreement with the federal government to take 75 cents from every dollar of the federal government’s cannabis excise tax. 

Under the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Agreement on Cannabis Taxation, which was signed prior to legalization, it was mandated that the combined rate of all federal, provincial and territorial cannabis-specific taxes would not exceed either $1 per gram or 10 percent of a producer’s selling price. 

This tax revenue was to be shared, with 75 percent going to provincial and territorial governments, and the other 25 percent going to the federal government, with the federal portion of cannabis excise tax revenue to be capped at $100 million a year. 

As per the agreement, provinces and territories were expected to work with municipalities to allocate these funds. Most provincial governments, including BC, never made an official commitment to share cannabis taxation revenue with their municipal governments.

Municipalities in BC have been asking the province for years to provide them with a portion of those tax revenues. In 2020, the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) said a survey of their membership showed $11.5 million per year in local government incremental costs for the three years following cannabis legalization.

A representative with BC’s Ministry of Finance says they have not provided any of this tax revenue, but are in talks on the subject with the UBCM as part of a long term plan. 

“In general, provincial taxes–including PST revenue–flows into the Province’s consolidated revenue fund to provide the programs and services people rely on, such as health care and education,” notes the Ministry representative. “To date, the B.C. government has not provided any excise tax revenue to local governments. 

“We’re currently working with the Union of BC Municipalities on a review of local government finance systems in B.C., including signing an MOU in 2022 laying out that we’ll work together over the next few years. Cannabis revenue sharing is one of the items we will be looking at over the longer-term. As the cannabis market continues to mature, we are working cooperatively with UBCM through this process to promote local governments’ financial resiliency.”

Paul Taylor, the director of communications for UBCM affirms that the province remains unwilling to sign such an agreement.

“The province has been non-committal on the question of sharing a portion of federal excise tax with local governments,” explains Taylor. “They have met with UBCM and considered appeals from our membership, but as of yet have not stated a long term approach, adding that “Cannabis tax revenue sharing is part of a much larger ongoing set of discussions with the province on strengthening the finance system for local government.”

In 2019, UBCM developed a survey for local governments to estimate the expected costs to municipalities associated with legalization. 

Cities were asked to provide information covering their expectations for the first three years of legalization, which was estimated at more than $15 million due to projected enforcement costs, the cost of the licensing and oversight of retail stores, and costs to public health. No figures are yet available outlining how these projections have borne out. 

Meanwhile, the cannabis industry has been calling for a lessening of this tax burden on the industry, arguing that $1 per gram tax rate hamstrings producers who are often only selling cannabis for a few dollars a gram. In 2022, the BC Chamber of Commerce called for major changes to BC cannabis laws, including an elimination of the 20 percent provincial tax on cannabis vape products, and  a national excise tax based on a calculation of the percentage of sales rather than price/gram.


New Brunswick cannabis producer Eco Canadian Organic teams up with Green House Seed Co

Eco Canadian Organic Inc, a New Brunswick cannabis producer, has teamed up with Green House Seed Co to offer exclusive seeds through Canada’s medical cannabis program.

The winner of dozens of High Times Cannabis Cups, Green House Seeds Co (GHSC) is a well-known name in the world of cannabis genetics and has operated Cannabis and Coffee Shops in Barcelona, Spain and in Amsterdam, Netherlands, since 1985.

The company is also well-known for its Strain Hunters series and the VICE documentary movie Kings of Cannabis.

The collaboration with Eco Canadian Organic (ECO) is on brand for the New Brunswick cannabis producer, explains Kevin Clark, director of operations and QAP at ECO.

“ECO has separated itself from the competition by focusing on being corporately responsible by becoming Certified Clean Green Organic,” says Clark. “Our unique cultivation and vision dedicated to our ‘One Strain at a Time’ approach with emphasis on quality control produces premium organic non-irradiated cannabis for the Canadian market.”

Brent Hannay, the VP of ECO, agrees. 

“ECO’s philosophy on how we cultivate resonates with consumers, but also because we have found creative ways to collaborate with like-minded businesses to increase our product offerings.”

“With world-class breeders such as GHSC, ECO will be working with the best, in order to bring the best possible cannabis products for our customers in Canada.” 

Eco Canadian Organics Inc. notes it is one of a few Certified Clean Green Organic facilities in Canada, putting a high emphasis on sanitization practices and protocols. 

Located in Rexton, New Brunswick, ECO is privately owned and operated under a Health Canada standard license.  ECO is also one of three cannabis farmgate stores in New Brunswick.

Other Canadian cannabis companies have partnered with cannabis breeders and seed sellers from abroad, as well. Dutch Passion, an Amsterdam-based seed company, has seeds for sale in Canada, and BC-based Nymera partnered with California’s Humboldt Seeds in 2021.  

There are currently more than a dozen cannabis companies offering cannabis seeds for those authorized to grow medical cannabis, and nearly two dozen offering clones/starts.


Cannabis company tried to intimidate employees interested in union

Alberta’s labour relations board has found that Calgary-based Sundial Growers attempted to intimidate employees attending a union information session.

Teamsters Local Union 987 brought the complaint after two managers with the cannabis producer attended an information session at a public library in Olds, Alberta, in July 2022. 

The union was providing information to employees. The board agreed with the union’s complaint that Alan Corrales, Scheduling Manager at the Sundial facility in Olds, and Latifa Dewji, Operations Manager for Extraction, Label & Excise, and Packaging & Processing at the Olds facility, visited the meeting for the purpose of interference or intimidation. 

“The actions of Mr Corrales and Ms Dewji have the natural impact of making employees reticent to engage with the Union given the Employer’s apparent interest in who might do so,” writes Jeremy D. Schick, Vice-Chair in the board’s ruling. Indeed, the Board received evidence, which it accepts, of the actual chilling effect this event had on the Union’s organizing effort.” 

However, the board also ruled that the actions of the two managers were not at the direction of company ownership, but instead of their own volition. 

Preston Quintin, an organizer for the union, told the board that he had conversations with Sundial employees, leading him to set up the meeting at the Olds Public Library on July 13, 2022. A handful of employees attended. 

Quintin says one of the managers appeared outside the meeting, where they were recognized by one of the attending employees. As the manager in question attempted to enter the room, Quintin closed the door to prevent their entry and asked employees present to warn any other employees not to attend. 

Quintin then explained to the board that he had gone outside to see if the person was still in the parking lot. He testified that he noticed some people sitting in a vehicle right outside the door, and was confronted by one of the people in the vehicle after he took a picture of their licence plate.  

Corrales, the scheduling manager at the Sundial facility in Olds, admitted to trying to attend the meeting and to confronting Quintin when he took a picture of the car he was in. While Quintin characterized this as yelling, both Corrales and Dewji characterized the exchange of words as conversational. 

Although Sundial argued that the union was not yet representing its employees and that the two managers were free to attend the meeting, the board ruled that interrupting a meeting “intended for the purpose of organizing before it formally begins is as disruptive to organizing” and was in violation of the protections intended by the Labour Relations Code.

In their submission, the union asked the board to allow them access to Sundial employees for a mandatory meeting to address the managers’ previous intimidation tactics. 

Although Sundial opposed this request, the board ruled the company must provide the union access to its employees “for the purpose of engaging in a paid mandatory meeting of one hour’s length, with one meeting for each of the two shifts of the Employer,” and also required Sundial to post a copy of the board’s decision “on a bulletin board or bulletin boards to which employees have regular access sufficient to ensure that all employees will have access to the decision,” to remain posted for 14 days. 

Unions and cannabis in Canada

This is not the first interaction between unions and cannabis companies in Canada.

The union representing BC cannabis retail employees has slowly been gathering members since it became the first union to represent budtenders in Canada in 2020.

In April 2021, employees at the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, an unlicensed medical dispensary, joined the union, and in June 2021, employees at two Trees Cannabis locations joined as well, as did employees at B Buds

The same year, workers at BC cannabis producer Potanicals Green Growers also voted to join the union. This was the first cannabis production facility to unionize in Canada. 

Employees at an Eggs Canna location in Vancouver voted to join the union in early 2022.

At the time, UFCW 1518 Secretary-Treasurer Johnson described cannabis store owners like Oana Cappellano, owner of Eggs, with three locations in BC,  as “profiteers.” Cappellano, who opened the first Eggs Canna as a “legacy” retailer in Vancouver in 2014, took offence at the accusation at the time. 

“We were very disheartened and concerned to see the union make statements such as ‘The workers want their pay, benefits, respect, and overall working conditions to reflect this high-level training,’ and ‘ultimately, they [the staff] want fairness,” wrote Cappellano in a press release.

She said she felt the union’s statements did not reflect the sentiments held by the majority of their staff.

“Further,” she added, “characterizing hard-working entrepreneurs as simply ‘profiteers’ creates a further division between unions and employers, with the employees being caught in the middle.”

The BC Budtender Union also says it is welcoming workers at Yaletown Cannabis Store in Vancouver to its ranks.

In August 2022, the BC General Employees Union launched a strike that shut down the province’s cannabis and alcohol distribution system, leaving cannabis stores with no access to new deliveries for weeks.

The SQDC, which manages cannabis sales in Quebec, has been dealing with an ongoing strike, which continues in 22 of their 90 branches. Although these branches are still open, they are operating at reduced hours and face picket line pressures. 

In June, members of a different union, the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), voted to accept an agreement with the SQDC for increased wages, hours, and better working conditions.

The provincial organization is still negotiating with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 28 of its 90 branches. In September, the Superior Court of Quebec issued an injunction to limit union “pressure tactics” against SQDC.

In 2020, a court ruled a BC cannabis company had unfairly penalized workers for trying to unionize. In September 2020, the union began organizing and soon applied to be certified for 17 employees at a Peachland, BC, operation. 

Then, on October 5, the company laid off nine employees at the same Peachland operation, citing “the Company’s financial circumstances.”  The union argued these employees were laid off for seeking to unionize. The court agreed. 

In 2016, UFCW tried to organize workers at a MedReleaf facility in Ontario, but the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled the workers did not have the right to unionize. The union has appealed that ruling.

Community college in New Brunswick cancels cultivation course

A Community College in New Brunswick had to cancel a cannabis cultivation course this winter due to a lack of enrollment.

The program was first launched in December 2017 in partnership with cannabis producer Zenabis and the Government of New Brunswick, and with the assistance of Moncton-based Organigram. It was initially well received, with the provincial government even paying full tuition for the first 25 students.

Le Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB) was the first post-secondary institution in Canada to offer training for cannabis grow technicians

However, as the cannabis industry enters a contraction period following several initial years of rapid expansion, interest in the cannabis cultivation program at CCNB has been declining, Radio Canada reported recently.

Gérald Losier, the dean and director of CCNB, told Radio Canada that they are now considering offering more short-term “micro-credential” training to more efficiently address current industry demands.  

“The industry’s needs seem minimal or, for all intents and purposes, ad hoc needs. So we can easily respond with micro-certification,” he said [translated].

According to a media report in January 2021, more than 50 students had already completed the program. The community college was also designated as a cannabis research establishment by Health Canada in 2021.

New Brunswick has seen several large cutbacks in its cannabis industry since the heady days leading into legalization. In June 2022, Hexo, the new owner of the former Zenabis facility in Atholville, laid off 142 employees—over half of its workforce. Hexo inherited the facility when it purchased Zenabis in 2021.

In December 2021, Canopy Growth closed a $40 million facility in Fredericton, New Brunswick, shedding 63 jobs. The facility was purchased by another cannabis producer, Purple Farm Genetics

In January 2019, Cannabis NB laid off about 60 retail employees.

Despite some setbacks, other aspects of the province’s cannabis industry continue to grow. 

Kent County cannabis producer Greenherb Farms recently launched their own rosin into the New Brunswick market, and Moncton’s Organigram is one of the few public companies in Canada actually reporting profits.

There are currently 25 licensed cannabis producers in New Brunswick and 25 Cannabis NB stores managed by the province. An additional ten privately-run stores are also in the works.

Cannabis NB will be taking part in Cannabis East in February, a consumer-focused industry event offering cannabis education and non-infused product sampling.

Featured image via radio-canada.ca

What’s the big stink? Rural Okanagan LP addresses odour concerns

A Vernon cannabis grower says they have addressed some neighbours’ odour concerns with the installation of new air filtration equipment. 

Avant Brands, a parent company behind cannabis brands like BLK MKT and Tenzo, tells StratCann that it has faced some odour-related complaints following an increase in production at their facility in 2022. 

In response to these community concerns, David Lynn, COO of Avant Brands, says 3PL Ventures Inc. (the company that operates the facility, a subsidiary of GreenTec Holdings Ltd., which in turn is owned by Avant Brands Inc.) purchased 19 additional HVAC air filtration systems and that the company has “been able to satisfactorily address all inquiries from the City of Vernon and Health Canada with respect to odour at the facility.” 

“Accordingly, we don’t believe that there are any ongoing issues with respect to odour,” continues Lynn. “We would also highlight that 3PL operates in an industrial area on the outskirts of Vernon; thus, it is mostly surrounded by commercial and industrial operations—not residences.”

In June 2022, a representative with the city of Vernon told media that they had received 23 complaints about “intermittent cannabis odour” from the company’s new cannabis production facility since January.

“Bylaw Compliance continues to monitor the situation, and should the filtration system not be effectively upgraded to address cannabis odour concerns, Bylaw Compliance will proceed with progressive enforcement of Zoning Bylaw regulations,” reported the oz at the time. 

Any licensed facility must satisfy Health Canada’s requirements for adequate air filtration systems to prevent any odour. However, complaints of odour at licensed facilities are not uncommon and are often difficult to prove, one way or the other. Other cannabis production facilities in BC have, at times, been the target of similar community complaints, as have locations in other parts of Canada

Such air filtration systems can be costly for producers, as Lynn explains. 

“The exhaust system keeps the facility at a slightly negative air pressure compared to the outside. All air that leaves the facility passes through multiple carbon filtration filter banks. Air is exhausted out of each individual cultivation room through either air return ducts in the lower section of the wall or through a purge exhaust fan. All purged air is filtered through filter banks that hold six charcoal filters per bank.”

Cannabis in flower inside the 3PL facility. Image courtesy of Avant Brands

Concerns with cannabis in the air go beyond just odours. In 2021, Metro Vancouver began exploring regulations for even greater control of emissions from cannabis growers and processors, focussing on concerns of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. 

Metro Vancouver’s concern is the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by cannabis itself, as well as nitrogen oxides produced from heating and lighting associated with indoor cannabis facilities. Their intention is to create a set of regulations for more than a dozen cannabis production companies operating in the region (cultivation, processing, etc). ​​Volatile organic compounds are emitted from all plants.

Health Canada, which licences such production facilities, says it encourages provinces, territories, and local governments “to use the tools at their disposal to ensure cannabis production meets all requirements,” including zoning bylaws, building codes, laws and policies on agricultural and industrial land use, and laws and bylaws about noise, odours and other nuisance related issues.

The federal regulator notes that local governments can also put in place laws and bylaws for cannabis odours and can issue a notice of violation to a legal cannabis production site because it doesn’t comply with these laws or bylaws. A guidance document from the regulator also points out that cannabis odours that may be attributed to a cannabis facility could in fact be coming from a different source. It encourages individuals to reach out directly to the business in question to discuss their concerns.

Feature image of 3PL’s Vernon Facility. Image courtesy of Avant Brands.

OCS bug gives some retailers early access

An error in Ontario’s new ordering system for cannabis retailers experienced a glitch in recent weeks that led to 115 retailers getting access to 94 different SKUs weeks in advance of the official release date. 

The orders were inadvertently shipped to retailers due to an error in the OCS’ new online B2B portal, launched late last year. The portal allows retailers to review available products and place orders, and also allows retailers to download a spreadsheet with similar information. 

While several new products were listed as “coming soon” until January 18, the OCS says an error in their system allowed any retailers who ordered via spreadsheet to successfully place an immediate order. The error was addressed last week after the OCS was made aware by some retailers, and the remainder of these products were not available until January 18. 

“For a window of time, some products with the “Coming Soon” status had an available quantity associated with them, allowing retailers to add these products to the cart using the “import order function,” the OCS said in an email sent to retailers on January 16.

Although the import order function is available to all retailers, it’s more commonly used by retailers with more than one location. Orders were inadvertently sent to both “independent and corporate stores,” adds the OCS. 

Because of this, some smaller retailers who didn’t utilize the import order function say they are frustrated that some larger chain stores were able to get an advantage by being able to sell products a week or more before they were. 

Sasha Soeterik, the owner of Flower Pot on Dundas in Toronto, says she became aware of the issue when she found at least two new high-THC 28-gram offerings listed on two chain-store competitors’ websites and shelves.

To Soeterik, this gives another advantage to these large, well-funded chain stores, given the demand for low-cost, high-THC ounces like those she identified (a Spinach Sonic Lemon Fuel 28g Flower SKU and the 3Saints Kush Cookies 28g flower SKU). StratCann also confirmed the availability of these two SKUs.

Soeterik says her biggest question is why the order was allowed to go through once identified, and that she is concerned the apparent error gives an unfair advantage to those stores who purchased it early.

“Everyone is looking for high THC ounces, and they have to be cheap,” she says. “And that’s the two SKUs I could identify that they got an advanced receipt of.” 

“I know I’ve placed orders on Monday morning, and by Monday afternoon they’ve told me things I couldn’t have. So why they couldn’t do that in this instance is beyond me. There’s like five or six points in the supply chain where they could have caught that order, and they didn’t.”

A representative of the OCS says the products were sent out before they realized the error, noting that they are currently launching 600–800 SKUs every quarter. 

“We are currently piloting enhancements to our ordering process, and these products were able to be ordered and shipped to retailers before we were made aware of the error,” says Daffyd Roderick, Senior Director, Communications and Social Responsibility at the OCS. “The error has been fixed, and we are working diligently to improve our internal operations and processes so that the right safeguards are put in place to ensure errors like this don’t occur again.”

Omar Khan, the Senior Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at High Tide Inc., the parent company of Canna Cabana, shared this statement with StratCann. 

“Some weeks ago, we noticed that the OCS errantly made some products available for the January release early on the order form. We were one of several retailers that alerted the OCS to the error they made, which they subsequently corrected. It is our understanding from the OCS that this error allowed for the early purchase of SKUs by all retailers. We look forward to more communication from the OCS on how they plan to prevent this from happening in the future once they have completed their internal review.”

Amber McGuire, the CEO of Hippies Next Door, an independent retailer in Wiarton, says she understands why some in the industry might suspect foul play, but that she suspects the reason was more benign. 

“There’s going to be a lot of paranoia surrounding corporate stores getting favoured until these unfair kickbacks get cancelled,” explains McGuire. “The fact that corporate stores are receiving kickbacks from licensed producers for “data sales” has created an atmosphere that lacks trust. Kickbacks have nothing to do with the Ontario Cannabis Store, so it really isn’t their fault, but that is the climate we are existing in right now,” adding that “because they explained the distribution of these sales that were made in error it leads me to believe they are very aware of the lack of trust.”

Ontario, Alberta launch new cannabis education programs

Alberta’s cannabis regulator and the OCS have both launched new campaigns to encourage responsible cannabis use. 

Alberta

Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis (AGLC) recently launched the Find Your Moderation program as part of their ongoing CannabisSense campaign, with two videos intended to highlight that cannabis can affect consumers differently. 

In a post titled “Same cannabis product, different user experiences,” the two videos briefly show a group of individuals after they consume either edible cannabis or cannabis beverages, with each person displaying different effects such as laughter, sleepiness, ‘munchies’, and anxiety. 

“The scenario emphasizes the importance of finding your own moderation and invites Albertans to consider how personal factors like age or how much they have eaten interact with factors related to cannabis use, products, and potency,” notes an AGLC press release. 

The new campaign comes as the market for edibles and cannabis beverages continues to increase following their legalization in 2019. Although still a much smaller market share than dried flower or extracts, edibles and beverage sales have been steadily increasing as producers offer a growing array of options. 

“The Find Your Moderation campaign is sparking a conversation with Albertans about the differing effects of cannabis for different people,” says Kandice Machado, CEO of the AGLC. “As part of that conversation, we’re also providing a resource for how adults can use cannabis in a lower-risk way, which is an important part of AGLC’s commitment to social responsibility and consumer education.” 

The AGLC’s CannabisSense launched in January 2022 with the goal of providing Albertans with information and resources related to non-medical cannabis.

Ontario

Ontario’s OCS also recently launched their own cannabis education program, Cannabis Made Clear. The campaign will direct users to the OCS’ Cannabis Made Clear website, which hosts “expert-reviewed articles about responsible consumption, legal usage, potential health effects, cannabis and youth, as well as access insightful resources to advance their cannabis knowledge.”

The OCS says the goal is to create an unbiased, evidence-based education model for cannabis consumers. 

“As an enabler of the legal cannabis marketplace in Ontario, the OCS is prioritizing educating consumers on socially responsible consumption,” said David Lobo, President and Chief Executive Officer at OCS. “Cannabis Made Clear demonstrates our commitment to supporting consumers and the industry by advancing cannabis knowledge across the province. This education hub exists to serve as a trustworthy source of unbiased information.”

Cannabis Made Clear is expected to be updated over time as new research emerges.


Community group enables access to legal cannabis for residents of Vancouver’s DTES

Efforts to bring more affordable cannabis options to people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside are so far proving successful, says one of Vancouver’s longtime community activists. 

Sarah Blyth is the founder of the High Hopes Foundation, a community group that helps provide people in the Downtown Eastside with cannabis for medical purposes. 

High Hopes received their medical sales licence in the first half of 2022 and, after a long search, Blyth says they were recently able to secure their first supply partnership with Canna Farms, a cannabis grower located just a few hours outside Vancouver in Hope, BC.

The cannabis producer has been supplying two varieties, a Pink Kush and a Wappa, to those registered through High Hopes, which are then distributed to patients within the community. 

High Hopes uses a community liaison to both get feedback on patients’ specific needs in terms of cannabis strain/varietal and distribute patients’ orders. 

Once registered with High Hopes, orders are available within no more than a few days, and they work with the community to provide access to any additional programs that can assist with payment. 

Orders can be placed online or, for those without access to the internet, High Hopes can order for them. As their licence is for medical sales only, they cannot store large quantities of product on hand, but instead, receive individual orders. Those orders are then available for pickup at different locations set up each day in the neighbourhood. 

Their cannabis is currently around $3-4 a gram and comes in ounce and half-ounce offerings. Pink Kush is currently their main seller, with Wappa serving as a second option. 

“This is the beginning,” says Blyth. “We’re not only going to have just one product. Eventually, we’re going to expand to different things, but we want to make sure that we have the same mandate as the people we’re working with and there’s some understanding of the unique population (we serve). The most important thing is to get affordable cannabis to people that otherwise can’t afford cannabis.”

Although there are many others in the community who have been providing access to cannabis through more extra-legal avenues, Blyth says she chose to work within the federal regulations because she sees this as representing the best option for those she serves. 

“People are really happy to be able to get something legal in the Downtown Eastside. A lot of times people are going into the illegal market to get what they need, which is not always a great situation for people. This way they can get their prescriptions filled. It’s a legal process to get what they need. We’re hiring people from the Downtown Eastside to help each other so they know which community members need help.” 

Blyth says she sees value in both approaches: working within and outside of the law, but she feels that working within the legal system, while still pushing those boundaries, provides a more long-term, secure source for those who truly benefit from cannabis. 

“They’re both important, but I think right now what we’re trying to do is work within the best we can. With all the troubles that are going on with… more of a crackdown on even the Blue Door and all of the other sources of cannabis are really drying up. So…getting something legal up and running was really important. 

“It’s obvious that doing things legally is really the only way that is going to be sustainable at this point. (We’re) just trying to work within the legal realm to get people what they need. You don’t want to be shut down for a week. Then where are people going to go? So we’re just trying to come in and get people something that they know can help.”

High Hopes also expects to announce some new suppliers and varieties in the coming months, and Blyth says she looks forward to being able to provide more legal options for the community.  

“In a lot of ways we are trying to duplicate how they are already getting their medication, except doing it legally. So they know what they are getting. They know that it’s been tested. It’s something that’s reliable. We don’t run out, that kind of thing.” 


Artist and budtender makes sculptures from cannabis packaging

An Ontario-area artist and budtender is creating sculptures out of cannabis packaging in order to draw attention to the amount of waste generated in the industry

Spencer Charlton, who goes by Cratercrater online, says he was inspired to do something with a growing collection of cannabis packages he came across. Trained as an artist in sculpture and installation, Charlton got his first break when he was able to display his first sculpture of a raccoon at a cannabis expo in Ontario in the first half of 2022, giving him the motivation to pursue the idea further. 

StratCann recently caught up with Charlton to learn more about his work. 

What’s your background with art and cannabis?

“I currently work as a supervisor/budtender in downtown Toronto. I was born and raised in Scarborough, Ontario. I grew up as a creative kid who enjoyed building and making things. Art class was one of my favourite subjects in school. I was in the sculpture and installation program at OCADU (Ontario College of Art & Design University) from 2010 to 2015. I chose to go into sculpture because it gave me the opportunity to work in all of the fabrication studios and learn about the different tools and materials. 

“My artistic practice has gone through many different focuses like painting, lutherie, furniture making, ceramics, and more. Cannabis plays an integral role in my creative process. I come up with most of my project ideas when I smoke a couple of joints and go on a long walk. I also use it as a tool to help me focus and relax while I execute these project ideas.”

Two pieces shared on Cratercrater’s Instagram account

Tell us about showing your first piece, “Trash Panda”. 

“Showing my piece at the Lift Expo was a big milestone for me! I was putting the finishing touches on my project, “Trash Panda” when I saw the call for artists on The Budtenders Association Instagram page. 

“By this point, I had been creating art in private for at least 10 years but had never shown any of my work publicly because of low confidence. I got my sculpture in the show, and the reception of my piece was overwhelmingly positive. Even as I was leaving the expo with my sculpture, people would stop me to take a picture with it. The experience showed me that the cannabis community is very supportive and welcoming and that I should expand on this idea because it resonates with so many people.”  

What made you want to first take this on as an art project?

“I started collecting the packaging as a way to keep track of the products I’ve consumed. I had the unrealistic goal of trying all of the good dried flower and pre-roll releases. I was inspired to turn my packaging collection into sculptures when I came across a dope local artist on Instagram who goes by remixedbytal. She creates sustainable apparel and items by repurposing discarded materials. 

“The raccoon was chosen as the subject of the first sculpture because I felt it would express the negative environmental impact of excess packaging and the need for sustainability in a playful manner that is easily accessible for the viewer.”

How many pieces have you made so far?

“I started making these pieces in March of 2022 and have made about 7 so far.”

Charlton with his Trash Panda sculpture and Traffic Calming Zone digital media print at the Lift Expo in Toronto

Have you sold any?

“Not yet. I’m just working on creating pieces until I’ve made enough to display the collection.”

What do they run, price-wise? 

“It varies based on the time it took to make, the complexity of the design and the application of the piece.” 

How long do they take to make?

“So far, (they take) anywhere between 12 And 50 hours, including sourcing the labels. I plan on increasing the scale of these sculptures eventually and one would end up taking much longer to complete.”


F1NE Cannabis on micros, community, and their future farmgate

F1NE Cannabis Cultivation, located in St Catharines, Ontario, is working hard to bring unique, quality craft cannabis to the market through its own micro cannabis facility, as well as a team of local micro partners. 

The goal, explains Josh, the founder of F1NE Cannabis, is to bring his and his partners’ experience with growing and regulatory compliance to other growers who are looking to enter the legal market. (Josh asked that his last name not be used).

“There are so many good growers in this region, and the market wants high quality, local craft products,” says Josh. “We’re just doing our part to help show that there is a way to do this legally.”

A coordinated effort between micro cultivators, led by F1NE Cannabis, works to cultivate the high-quality cannabis demanded by the Ontario market. With Ontario Micro Growers as the processor, products are brought to market as a team—because after all, teamwork makes the dream work.

F1NE will also sell these products through their own medical platform online which was just launched in early December 2022. Part of the medical platform is a focus on health and wellness. F1NE Cannabis supports these pillars through the planned Spring/Summer opening of Mary Jane’s—the adult-friendly park located right on Lake Ontario. 

Josh & Ron inspect mother plants

The goal, says Josh, is to primarily sell F1NE and their partners’ products, rather than operating as a traditional retail store. 

“We really want to play off regional tourism and incorporate cannabis into the local landscape, especially wine tourism.

“We have barbecues. We’re on the lake. There’s a trail. There’s a place to play with the dogs. It’s a whole feeling and experience. It’s a fun spot.” 

Starting small

F1NE was first licensed for micro-cultivation in February 2021, and then received its micro-processing licence in December of the same year, along with its dried/fresh sales licence a few months later. In spring 2022, F1NE received its medical sales licence.

They initially partnered with Manitoba cannabis producer Delta 9 Bio-Tech, which has a program that assists micro producers with licensing and provides an avenue into the Manitoba market through their own network of Delta 9 stores and other retailers. 

While F1NE continues to work with Delta 9, Josh says they have also begun to supply products into the Ontario market through Ontario Micro Growers (OMG), a third-party processor.

“It’s really just about the size of the market,” Josh explains. “Working with Delta 9 is great, they helped us install several grow pods that provide product for Manitoba, but the Ontario market is just so much bigger, and it’s where we live, so we wanted to make sure we had a presence here too.”

From their experience working with Delta 9, Josh says he and F1NE COO, Eleanor Pineau Levman helped form U Cann Grow, a consulting firm that helps provide a path to market for other micros. U Cann Grow supports clients in property acquisition, municipal approvals, facility design and build, licensing, staffing, and consulting.

Devil Driver in flower

Expanding, while keeping it craft

Josh says that with the increased demand for their small-batch craft cannabis in Ontario, they realized they needed to expand their footprint. Rather than expanding to a standard cultivation facility, it made more sense to have a second micro facility. They partnered with another local grower who was ready to transition to the legal market.

That facility, Handicraft, located across town in St Catharines, received its cultivation licence in December 2021. It will sell under the Handicraft brand but will use F1NE Cannabis genetics that will be processed by OMG. 

They then began working with a legacy brand, Hidden Herbs, and will be bringing them to market in 2023. One of the owners of Hidden Herbs, Chris Ash, is working closely with F1NE to bring other legacy growers/breeders to market. One of these breeders available through F1NE Cannabis is Thug Pug Genetics—the infamous Michigan breeder of the Meatbreath cultivar.

One of the benefits of adding new micros rather than expanding to a standard facility was cost, explains Josh. Their first F1NE facility cost a little over $1 million to build out, while their second cost around $800,000. He estimates the third may run around $250,000, with cost-savings in part from experience and re-purposed equipment. 

A big part of the savings in their additional facilities was also the knowledge that they somewhat overbuilt for their first, following templates for SOPs or security requirements made for much larger producers that weren’t efficient for small-scale micros. 

“You’re definitely not getting in super cheap because there’s certain quality equipment that you just have to buy in order to be compliant with the regulations. If you’re putting sixty, eighty lights in, you’re going to end up putting in a couple-hundred-grand. You need to have that if you want a quality product. But you don’t need to be spending the outrageous amounts of money we all thought we did when we first got into this. 

“I think the biggest mistakes and costs are security systems and copying the standard LPs security or SOPs. As long as you follow the regulations, keep it sanitary, and set reasonable SOPs that you can actually follow, you don’t need all that. Keep it simple stupid.”

“Just remember that you’re a small mom-and-pop business, and you can adapt that way. That’s how we’re making it work, at least, and how we’re saving every dollar we can right now.”

F1NE is now accepting private clients through its medical platform where customers have access to products before they hit the retail stores! F1NE’s first Ontario recreational offering is dropping in January 2023 with OMG—Devil Driver—and expects an additional three products for Spring 2023 after approval from the OCS. 

Josh and Eleanor show off their first micro licence

Fund launched in BC to assist First Nations interested in cannabis industry

BC Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund launched, creating new opportunities for First Nations in the cannabis industry.

The federal government and BC government are investing up to $7.5 million in a new BC Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund to help increase representation in the cannabis industry.

This Indigenous-led fund was announced today by Regional Chief Terry Teegee, BC Assembly of First Nations; the Task Group for the First Nations Summit; Jean-Yves Duclos, Federal Minister of Health; Patty Hajdu, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services; and Mike Farnworth, British Columbia Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

The goal of the BC Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund is to support First Nations communities and Indigenous businesses in British Columbia that want to take part in, or increase their participation in, the legal cannabis industry in the province. 

The fund will also support the development of information and planning workshops for First Nations communities and Indigenous entrepreneurs to learn more about the cannabis industry, regulations, business opportunities, and how to apply for funding. These supports are intended to help create jobs and economic opportunities for Indigenous businesses and First Nations.

The B.C. Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund will be administered by the New Relationship Trust and Aboriginal Financial Institutions in British Columbia. The Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia are investing up to $7.5 million over three years in the Fund. 

The BC government has been working to facilitate First Nations participation in the legal cannabis space in the province for several years now. In 2020, they announced $500,000 in funding in partnership with the federal government to assist one First Nation to transition to the legal market. 

While some Indigenous communities in BC have argued that federal and provincial cannabis rules do not apply on their lands, others say they are choosing to work with both the federal and provincial regulators to find a more sustainable path towards economic development and even reconciliation. 

Terry Teegee, Regional Chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations, says the group has been advocating for these changes for some time now, and is looking forward to future progress.  

“Developing economic opportunities through cannabis-related initiatives is a priority for many First Nations in British Columbia. BCAFN is pleased to partner with the B.C. Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund, providing much-needed capital and support for capacity building, community planning and decision-making.” 

“This fund is an example of the positive results of our efforts to ensure First Nation participation in the B.C. cannabis industry,” he continues. “At the same time, we urge further partnership among all levels of government to address outstanding issues regarding jurisdiction, and implement the economic component of reconciliation, which involves new fiscal relationships.”

Hugh Braker, a Political Executive with the First Nations Summit, says the new program could assist with efforts to adhere to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP.

“Our partnership with the Provincial and Federal governments on this initiative demonstrates the value of meaningful collaboration. We also deeply appreciate the expertise and community connections that the Aboriginal Financial Institutions and the New Relationship Trust will bring to this work. We intend for this program to support the priorities of First Nations in relation to cannabis and look forward to how it will evolve as we work to align provincial and federal laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

BC is home to several First Nations-owned cannabis producers and retailers.

More information on the announcement can be found here.

Feature image of Unity Cannabis in Williams Lake, BC, owned and operated by Williams Lake First Nation.

Growing Relationships is coming to Calgary on April 29, 2023


~ SAVE THE DATE ~
TICKET SALES ARE NOW OPEN!


StratCann is bringing our Growing Relationship industry event to Calgary, Alberta on Saturday, April 29, 2023.

Following on the success of our sold-out event in Kelowna, BC, we’re bringing it to Alberta’s community of small-batch and micro producers, retailers and other professionals in the cannabis industry.

This event is specifically designed to create opportunities to build relationships and socialize with the community as we bring retailers and producers together for a day of networking, discussion and learning.

Growing Relationships ~ Kelowna, BC

We’re passionate about bringing growers, processors, and retailers together to get to know each other and share ideas. An important component of the Growing Relationships events is to engage the community in discussion and brainstorming on industry issues from a variety of perspectives.

Attendees will enjoy time for networking, engaging panel discussions, a delicious catered lunch, and exclusive access to the Sunalta patio at the Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel.

As the BC event was sold-out, we recommend you sign up here to be notified as soon as tickets go on sale in January!


Updated: Ontario, BC pause listing any new delta-8 THC products, await guidance from Health Canada

The Ontario Cannabis Store sent out a notice to licensed cannabis producers on December 15 to inform them that the provincial cannabis distributor and retailer will no longer be listing delta-8 THC products until it receives guidance from Health Canada.

Update: BC now confirms that they will also not be registering or replenishing any products that contain Delta-8-THC until they determine their next steps.

In their letter, the OCS says they have been monitoring “emerging concerns in the United States, where the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued public health warnings for unregulated products that contain the novel synthetic cannabinoid delta-8 THC. As a result, an increasing number of U.S. States have taken steps to regulate or ban products that contain this cannabinoid.”

The OCS began carrying several products that contained novel cannabinoids, including Delta-8 products. These have been in the form of cannabis vapes, edibles, beverages, and topicals. The OCS will still continue to purchase and list dried cannabis products, including pre-rolls, that contain low levels of naturally occurring Delta-8 THC.

While the provincial agency says it is not aware of any adverse reactions to these products in the legal cannabis market in Canada to date, products that contain delta-8 THC fall “outside the definition of THC under the federal Cannabis Act”.

The OCS says it has contacted Health Canada, asking for direction on the subject of delta-8 products specifically. 

Until Health Canada provides this requested guidance to the industry, “out of an abundance of caution” the OCS will: no longer accept any product that contains delta-8 THC as part of the product call process; will not issue notices to purchase new products containing delta-8 THC that have previously been submitted through the product call process; will not issue purchase orders for any products containing delta-8 THC (any purchase orders that have been issued but not fulfilled to OCS will be cancelled); and will not issue replenishment orders for any currently listed delta-8 THC products.

The OCS will still sell the existing inventory through its online store and whole distribution channels. OCS.ca currently lists nine products that feature delta-8 THC.

Other provinces

UPDATE: In response to a request for comment from StratCann, the BC LDB says that it has become aware of some products containing delta-8 THC “which falls outside the definition THC under the Federal Cannabis Act”. 

“Information about Delta-8-THC and the potential biological effects and health risks to consumers is new and emerging, and the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) is working with its government counterparts to determine the appropriate next steps,” wrote a representative for the LDB. 

“Until we determine next steps, the LDB will not be registering or replenishing any products that contain Delta-8-THC.”

A representative from the SQDC in Quebec noted that the SQDC does not currently sell products with minor cannabinoids such as delta-8 on the labeling. “As such we do not have a position on the matter at this moment” noted the media representative.

StratCann has reached out for comment from other provinces as well as Health Canada and will be updating as that information is provided.

The NSLC in Nova Scotia does not carry any delta-8 products, nor does Cannabis NL, serving Newfoundland and Labrador. Cannabis NB in New Brunswick lists at least 1 delta-8 product on their website. At least one store in Yukon carries a delta-8 product.

A representative for Cannabis NB (CNB) tells StratCann: “We have just become aware of OCS’ policy approach and we are still assessing the situation. In general, for CNB, we follow the act and the guidelines as mandated by Health Canada when it comes to selling products and adhere to direction that they provide.”


Cannabis NL looking to add several new stores

Newfoundland and Labrador is looking to expand their retail network with several new cannabis store locations in the province. 

Cannabis NL says they recently issued a request for proposals for the following communities: Clarenville, St. Anthony, Pasadena, Rocky Harbour, Springdale and Twillingate. Cannabis NL will also be reviewing other opportunities throughout the province in Q4 of this fiscal year. 

The province currently regulates and distributes to 40 licensed cannabis retailers across the area through the Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC), which oversees Cannabis NL.

The province also began allowing the sale of cannabis vape pens in September, a move the government says will help its legal stores better capture market share from illegal cannabis operators, noting that such products represent about 20% of total sales in other legal markets. 

Cannabis sales through licensed cannabis retailers (LCRs) in Newfoundland and Labrador totalled $17.7 million in Q2 of 2022, an increase of 10.2% over Q2 2021. Online sales brought the total to $17.8 million.

This was also an increase from Q1 2022’s sales of $15.4 million

Effective October 1st, 2022, the NLC also increased commission rates paid to Tier 1 and Tier 2 LCRs from 15% to 20%. The province has four different retail “tiers” of cannabis retail licences, with Tier 1 stores operating as stand-alone cannabis-only locations, while Tier 2 stores are cannabis-only stores that are located in an existing non-cannabis retail location. 

Tier 3 stores operate within non-cannabis retail locations but have their own separate counter, while Tier 4 stores sell cannabis at the same counter as other non-cannabis products. For example, the island of Newfoundland currently has 11 “C Shop” cannabis stores located inside larger shopping centres. 

The provincial regulator hopes the new commission rate will help these stores to “mitigate the specific challenges of this store format compared with other tiers and improve the viability of these specialized stores in our local cannabis industry.”

The province originally approved 24 retail locations and has been slowly adding new stores over time. Earlier this year NLC began allowing cannabis clone sales at select retail locations. 

In October 2021, in order to better manage a growing number of retailers and demand, the NLC began warehousing and selling cannabis to LCRs. Prior to this, cannabis producers sold and distributed cannabis directly to retailers. 

Edibles, extracts, and infused pre-rolls help increased sales in BC

Cannabis sales increased in BC and prices dropped in the second quarter of 2022 compared to the same time period in 2021. 

These figures increased from the previous quarter as well, despite the shutdown of the province’s central distribution warehouse from August 15 to August 31 due to a strike

The BCLDB’s newest quarterly cannabis sales data shows an 18% increase in wholesale cannabis grams, an 8% increase in wholesale sales, and an 8% overall price decrease, while the number of cannabis stores increased by nearly 18% in Q2 2022 compared to Q2 2021. 

The report covers July, August, and September. The LDB began sharing these quarterly results in October, with their Q1 2022 release

Despite these sales increases and price drops, overall sales of dried flower in the province declined in Q2 compared to last year by 13% and nearly 9% in gram totals. These declines were offset by increases in beverages (7%), edibles (27%), inhalable extracts (62%), pre-rolls (13%), and seeds (59%). 

Ingestible extracts (16% of total sales), and topicals (20% of total sales) also declined compared to Q2 2022. 

Carbonated beverages saw a 37% increase in sales compared to Q2 2021, while all other beverage categories declined. 

In the cannabis edibles category, increases were in the “other edibles” (49%) and cannabis chews (33%) categories, while baked goods declined by 20%, chocolate by 10%, and hard candy by 91%.

The biggest increase in the inhalable extracts category was “other inhalables”—which includes infused pre-rolls—at 571%. Disposable pens increased by 235%, wax sales increased by 148%, carts by 24%, hash by 21%, resin and rosin by 19%, and shatter by 12%.

Image via LDB

Direct Delivery

Direct Delivery sales, which launched in August of this year, saw $704,978 in sales, with $285,633 coming from dried flower and $279,240 in pre-rolls, $133,448 in inhalable extracts, and $6,657 in edibles and beverages.


-All images via LDB

Saskatchewan bill will give First Nations more control over cannabis rules

The Government of Saskatchewan has introduced new legislation that, if passed, will allow First Nations in the province to licence and regulate cannabis distribution and sales on-reserve. 

The Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Amendment Act, 2022, introduced on December 6, establishes a provincial legal framework for First Nations to licence and regulate the distribution and retailing of cannabis on-reserve. 

The legislation requires First Nations to establish their own regulatory framework for cannabis sales and distribution that mirrors provincial rules, with stores sourcing their products from federally licensed and regulated cannabis producers.

The province says the goal with these proposed changes is to create more of a level playing field for First Nations communities. 

The proposed change began with an order in council signed on July 28 that said First Nations in Saskatchewan would no longer need to get a permit from the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) in order to operate on-reserve cannabis stores. The SLGA is the provincial agency in charge of regulating the liquor and cannabis industries.

The change in legislation also came with additional changes giving First Nations a legal framework to enforce laws and bylaws on reserve.

Darcy Bear, the Chief of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, says the changes will give them the ability to better enforce the law in their communities. 

“First Nations assert their jurisdiction and maintain community safety by creating laws under the Indian Act, land codes, and other federal legislation, but there have been difficulties in enforcing these laws in the courts,” says Bear. “Through our work with the provincial government, the amendments to SOPA will give us access to prosecution and enforcement tools that will give force to our laws in areas such as environmental protection and community safety, and strengthen the place of our laws alongside federal and provincial law.”

The provincial government notes that these amendments follow a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by the Government of Saskatchewan, Muskoday First Nation, and Whitecap Dakota First Nation on October 18, 2019, and seek to address longstanding issues around the enforcement of First Nations’ laws.

“The Government of Saskatchewan is proud to take this important step as part of our ongoing work with the Muskoday and Whitecap Dakota First Nations,” says Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre. 

“These amendments will allow these and other First Nations communities in the future to use the more simplified summary offences procedure, instead of the long-form process under the federal Criminal Code, to issue tickets and fines such as those issued for traffic violations and other provincial offences.”

A retail cannabis store operating within Zagime Anishinabek First Nation

Not everyone is happy with the possible changes, though. Chief Derek Sunshine of the Fishing Lake First Nation told CBC earlier this year that he had no intention of pursuing an agreement with the province or SLGA.

“They have no say in my nation,” he said, noting that the band created its own licensing system, and its store is operating under that authority. “They have no right to say to my nation that we need a licence.” Numerous First Nation communities in the province, and across Canada, have opened their own cannabis stores, operating outside of provincial and federal regulations, with at least eight communities creating their own bylaws.


Rogue Processing

Located in Niverville, MB, about 20 km south of Winnipeg, Rogue Processing offers state-of-the-art co-packing services to Canadian cannabis companies looking for a client-focused, eco-friendly, cost-effective, and tech-savvy alternative to current service providers. 

Their 1,600 sq ft facility received its processing license this past September and is now ready to offer an array of services to cannabis businesses in Manitoba and across Canada. 

From their home base in Niverville, Rogue is offering a diverse set of services targeted at different segments of the industry. Presently, they are perfectly positioned to offer producers, both out-of-province and local, a cost-effective entry into the Manitoba retail market with their centrally located packaging and distribution services. They hope to also service retailers in neighbouring provinces Ontario and Saskatchewan soon.

It’s sustainable not only because we’re using more environmentally friendly packaging, it’s also a more financially sustainable model where customers keep more profits in their pocket allowing them to…grow their business.

Graham Taylor, Rogue Processing

For out-of-province distributors, they offer in-province storage and distribution solutions. And for processors across the country, their systems offer an excellent option for packaging bulk product to be returned to its home province for wholesale. 

“We’re really trying to support the growers who are facing challenges as they try to get a foothold in the industry,” says Graham Taylor, Rogue’s President and CEO. “That’s why we’ve created this friendly, sustainable business model for small growers. 

“It’s sustainable not only because we’re using more environmentally friendly packaging,” he adds, it’s also a more financially sustainable model where customers” keep more profits in their pocket,” allowing them “ to stay in business and grow their business. And we hope to grow along with them.”

Graham Taylor, President and CEO

Taylor says that typical co-packers often lock their clients into long-term agreements that can be challenging to navigate and often prove more beneficial to the service provider rather than the customer.

Rogue defies this trend, offering their services for a low-cost, per-unit service fee, allowing producers the freedom and flexibility to control their products without being bound to long-term agreements that might sound better in the beginning but become more burdensome over time. 

Rogue uses recyclable peel-top tins packed with nitrogen gas to preserve product quality by both preventing oxygen exposure to the packaged goods and preserving the structural integrity of contents in a rigid, hermetically-sealed container. They are currently packaging flower, pre-rolled cones, and milled cannabis.

Their centrally located facility also provides the opportunity for clients to save big on shipping fees throughout the province. 

Ease of use for both producers and retailers is also front-of-mind for the team at Rogue, who has developed a user-friendly but highly functional website to complement their physical operations. 

“Rogue’s website will communicate all steps of the processing procedure to all appropriate stakeholders,” says Taylor. “Growers need only provide the cannabis and the necessary information, and Rogue Processing will then handle all the work.”

Retailers will also benefit from Rogue’s services, including the enhanced shelf life of nitrogen-packed SKUs, environmentally conscious recyclable packaging, and their online processing system, which offers rapid purchase order filling, shipping notifications, and order tracking.  

“Retailers know us and know a lot of the brands we represent, they like our eco-friendly and nitrogen-flushed packaging. So any new brands that work with us can benefit from our developed relationships. And as we get approved to sell into other provinces like Saskatchewan and Ontario, that network only grows.”

Sponsored content by: Rogue Processing


Quebec police shut down two large illicit cannabis production sites

Police in Laval, Quebec, say they have dismantled two large-scale cannabis operations in an industrial district in the city.

On November 30, investigators from the Laval Police Services’ Organized Crime Squad executed search warrants at two locations and a vehicle located on Leman Boulevard in the industrial district of Duvernay. 

Police are calling the bust “historic”, seizing significant quantities of cannabis and production equipment and arresting three. 

Police say they were tipped off to the industrial operations, one of which was in possession of a Health Canada production permit, most likely for a personal or designated medical cannabis licence. Police say the operation far exceeded its authorized plant count.

Police also contend that the scale of these two cannabis cultivation sites was so great that it took several squads nearly 48 hours to dismantle them.

Police seized 2,271 cannabis plants, nearly 70 kg of cannabis resin, 1,314 kg of dried cannabis, and half a million dollars worth of production equipment. Police estimate the value of each plant at $1,000, each gram at about $4, and each kilogram of resin as $4,000, giving a total estimated value for the raid of over $8 million.


Survey shows increase of drivers in Ontario consuming cannabis edibles

A newly released survey from the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario shows about one-quarter of drivers in the province say they had recently consumed an edible prior to operating a motor vehicle.

The survey showed that 26% of respondents in Ontario admitted to consuming an edible prior to driving, an increase from a similar survey in 2019 that showed 16% being comfortable with the admission. 

The organization says in a press release that with approximately 10 million Ontario drivers, 26% equals about 156,000 Ontario drivers who have driven high on edibles in the last three months.

“It’s shocking that we’re seeing this many people who are getting behind the wheel while high,” says Michael Stewart, community relations consultant at CAA SCO. “Our data shows an alarming trend in the use of edibles and driving. With the growing popularity of cookies, gummies, and chocolates since legalization, the use of edibles continues to rise, and so do people who drive high on edibles.”

Stewart warns that edibles pose a greater risk to road safety because they are harder to detect and can take hours for the effects to kick in. The concern, he says, is that people may get behind the wheel sober, only for the effects of an edible to kick in mid-drive. 

The survey also found that in the past three months, approximately 600,000 Ontario drivers have admitted to driving after consuming cannabis in some form. Although the CAA SCO says this is still an alarming trend, it notes this doesn’t represent an increase from their 2019 survey. 

The most recent information from Statistics Canada, released in 2021, only covers up to 2019 so it’s still too early to measure long-term trends following legalization accurately. The federal agency did take steps to capture detailed information on cannabis-impaired driving in the lead-up to legalization in order to create a pre-legalization baseline. 

These figures also show an increase in the detection of cannabis-impaired drivers even prior to legalization, potentially showing a broader societal trend. Rates of drug-impaired driving in Canada have been increasing since 2008, when the federal agency started distinguishing between impaired driving as a result of alcohol or drug impairment.

The legalization of cannabis in late 2018 also provided police with broad new screening and enforcement powers in relation to impaired driving to screen for alcohol and drugs, which Statistics Canada also notes may have contributed to the rise in the rate of police-reported impaired driving in 2019.

Despite this significant increase in drug-impaired driving, the report also references data from the National Cannabis Survey showing that cannabis-impaired driving does not appear to have increased following legalization. In that study, covering the first three quarters of 2019, 13.2% of cannabis users with a driver’s licence reported driving within two hours of use at least once in the three months preceding the survey. This is slightly lower than what was observed in the pre-legalization period covering the first three quarters of 2018 (14.2%).

The same survey also shows that the proportion of Canadians who said they had been a passenger in a vehicle driven by a person who had used cannabis fell from 5.3% in the pre-legalization period to 4.2% post-legalization. Similar findings were also found in the Quebec Cannabis Survey (Institut de la statistique du Québec 2020).

The discrepancy, argues the report, is that police-reported drug-impaired driving data includes impairment by any type of drug, not only cannabis.

As an example of increased enforcement, 604 drug recognition experts (DREs) were trained in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, bringing the total number to over one thousand. In that same period, more than 8,000 police officers completed training or upgrading on the standardized field sobriety test (also known as the “physical coordination test”). 

This increase in testing, says the Statistics Canada report, could mean that officers are merely uncovering those with THC in their system who had previously gone undetected, rather than simply from an increase in consumption due to legalization. This would be consistent with similar figures from Statistics Canada showing only modest increases in overall consumption of cannabis following legalization.

Early figures from some US jurisdictions that have also legalized cannabis show conflicting figures when it comes to any potential increase in impaired driving following legalization. A 2017 study of Colorado and Washington found that motor vehicle fatality rates did not differ significantly in the first three years of legalization. 

In 2019, an analysis of 3,005 non-fatally injured drivers at a B.C. area trauma center found no evidence of crash risks increasing with THC

Despite more legal access to cannabis, impaired driving cases not on the rise in Canada or US

CAA SCO reminds Canadians that those who fail a DRE evaluation face an immediate 90-day licence suspension, a seven-day vehicle impoundment, and a $550 fine. 

If convicted in court, drivers will see their licence suspended for at least a year, along with various other mandatory stipulations, including an education or treatment program, and the use of an ignition interlock device for at least a year.


Cannabis farmgate comes to BC

As of November 30, cannabis growers in BC can now apply for a “farmgate” retail licence that will allow them to run a retail cannabis store at their farm or facility, but consumers may still need to wait to visit one near them.  

Long anticipated, British Columbia’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) announced in October that they will be accepting Producer Retail Store (PRS) licence applications beginning at the end of November. 

The PRS licence is what the LCRB calls their cannabis farmgate program. The program will allow micro cultivators, standard cultivators, and nurseries to sell their own products at their own production facilities or sites. 

BC says the farmgate licence is intended to support cannabis growers in the province to become “part of developing a robust, diverse and sustainable legal cannabis economy” in BC that is “inclusive of Indigenous and rural communities.”

I would love to have other products in there, including maybe a cafe, local fruits and vegetables, pottery, honey and jams, anything that a farm store would have, as well as a consumption area, a dab bar, maybe infused treats from the bakery.

Allanah Davis, Dabble Cannabis Co.

Two First Nations-owned cannabis producers in BC—Sugar Cane Cannabis in Williams Lake and All Nations Cannabis in Shxwhá:y Village, Chilliwack—have already recently opened their own farmgate stores through unique agreements with the province. All other applicable growers will now be able to apply as well. 

The program will be limited to cannabis cultivators and nurseries. Stand-alone cannabis processors will not be able to apply. 

Sugar Cane Cannabis’ farmgate store in Williams Lake

Kyp Rowe, President of the Victoria Cannabis Company (VCC), a collection of micro cultivation sites and a nursery in Victoria, says his company is eager to get started and has already built out much of its storefront.

Located along the Galloping Goose Trail, Rowe says they plan on catering to locals as well as Victoria’s steady stream of tourists. 

“We saw the potential because of the location, because of the traffic, the fact that we believe this can allow us to distinguish ourselves and have a fighting chance.” 

VCC operates multiple licences in the building where their retail store will be located, just off Esquimalt Rd. on Mary St. The plan will be to focus on selling their own cannabis as well as other unique BC-grown products. The goal, he says, is to ensure they offer a different experience than other retailers in the area. 

“We want to be a destination spot in a tourist town where if you want a store that’s going to have all the top BC gear, you come to VCC. That’s what we specialize in. We’ve put a lot into building this and with our location, we really think we can be a jewel in the crown for this beautiful city.”

“We plan on keeping it to as much BC product as possible, friends and family, gear that we would smoke. You’re never going to see a distillate cartridge in this place.”

Not everyone says they are ready to apply, though. Logan Dunn of Dunn Cannabis in Abbotsford says that he would love to build out a farmgate store at his small, indoor micro cultivation and processing facility, but he’s still waiting on clarity from his municipality.

“I want to, but I don’t even know if the rules will allow farmgate yet,” says Dunn. “If we can get clarity around that, then I can speak to the city about what I want to do here. So I’m looking forward to seeing that so that we can really go to work.” 

All Nations Cannabis’ farmgate store in n Chilliwack

While VCC already has its own retail store built, Dunn’s plans are, if he can get the necessary approvals, to build a new building on his site for a store, as well as a small area for events with on-site consumption, if allowed. 

“There is so much I want to do here. I think we can create a really unique destination for people. But we’re in limbo until we can find out what the city is going to do.”

Back on Vancouver Island, Alannah Davis, CEO of Dabble Cannabis Co, an outdoor cannabis farm located in the Cowichan Valley, says she wants to build some kind of farmgate store, but plans to wait to see how things work out first. 

“I envision a farm store that is not just a cannabis retail store,” Davis shares. “I would love to have other products in there, including maybe a cafe, local fruits and vegetables, pottery, honey and jams, anything that a farm store would have, as well as a consumption area, a dab bar, maybe infused treats from the bakery.”

Acknowledging that much of this is still “far fetched” given the current provincial and federal regulations, the plan is to try and work with all levels of government to try and make allowances that are closer to her own vision. Cost is another issue, Davis points out, from $9,000 in provincial licensing fees, to the cost of building the store itself.

“Rather than jump in and be frustrated by what I can’t have, it makes more sense to just do some work with the government and work towards what I want to see and then jump in when we’re more well-positioned and when the regs are more aligned with what I want to do.”

The application fee is $7,500. The first-year licensing fee is $1,500, while the annual renewal fee is $1,500. These are the same fees as a standard retail cannabis licence. Davis notes that the licensing fee for a winery, brewery, or distillery is $550.

The province has also been asking stakeholders if they would be interested in holding events on the site of their production facility and farmgate licence, as well as allowing on-site consumption and product sampling. A report on the process of that work is expected soon. 

ECO Canadian Organic‘s farmgate store in New Brunswick

Farmgate in other provinces

The first province to allow cannabis farmgate stores was Ontario in early 2021, followed by New Brunswick later the same year. Ontario currently lists four cannabis farmgate locations and New Brunswick lists three. 

Thrive Cannabis, an outdoor cannabis farm a few hours outside Toronto, opened the first cannabis farmgate store in Canada in April 2021. With a year and a half of experience behind their store now, Robyn Rabinovich, VP of Marketing at Aurora Cannabis (Thrive’s new parent company), says the real value to having the store at their farm has been creating a unique experience for consumers, rather than operating as a standard day-to-day retailer.  

“For us, the primary value of farmgate is to build a deeper connection with our consumers, as it gives us a unique opportunity to get direct feedback on our products and deliver brand messaging right to the consumer. The farmgate store makes our products easily accessible and gives consumers a unique chance to connect directly with the employees who make their products and learn more about our soil-to-oil process.”


Toronto police raid unlicensed dispensary, seize products and arrest 6

Police in Toronto raided an unlicensed cannabis store, 1Tonamara, that was also selling psilocybin infused chocolate.

The raid, which took place on Monday, November 28, 2022, ended in six arrests and the seizure of “a large quantity” of dried cannabis, pre-rolled joints, oils, hash, and edibles as well as psilocybin in a chocolate bar form and a “small quantity” of cash. 

The police report from 14 Division says authorities “became involved in a drug investigation” on Sunday, November 13—although 1Tonamara has operated for some time. A cannabis industry organization raised concerns about the unlicensed store opening its doors to children on Halloween, along with a neighbouring unlicensed dispensary, CAFE.

While most illicit cannabis dispensaries in the city have been closed, CAFE currently lists several locations in Toronto. 

Kevin Vuong, an Independent MP representing the Ontario riding of Spadina—Fort York, which is home to both 1Tonamara and the neighbouring CAFE location, says he and many of his constituents have been concerned with the lack of enforcement against these kinds of unlicensed stores. 

“Many of these illegal stores are using targeted ads and promotion to attract children, and these unscrupulous illegal businesses are also selling copycat edibles that look like candy,” Vuong said in the House of Commons recently, also saying that “some of the products have actually poisoned children.”

“The problem exists because there has been a serious lack of enforcement of the many regulations that legitimate Canadian cannabis businesses must follow,” he continued. “Ignoring these rules has allowed the black market to flourish. Many of these illegal businesses make upwards of $50,000 a day, according to some reports. Most are operating 24-7, selling their unregulated and contaminated products that, and I cannot emphasize it enough, target children. Some have even set up businesses right across the street from a school.”

Vuong says that some parents have told him they have been warned not to speak up about the issue, and feel “threatened, helpless and hopeless.” He calls on assistance from the federal government to ensure local police can do their jobs. 

“While I commend police in Spadina—Fort York, especially 14 Division, for their work in trying to shut down these illegal stores, they cannot do it alone. I hope the federal government will assist police in closing these illegal operations, so I want to ask my hon. colleague what the government is prepared to do to crack down on these illegal pot shops.”

Vuong was not immediately available for additional comment on this weeks’ raid. 

The six individuals facing charges related to the 1Tonamara raid are from Toronto, Midland, and Sutton West, and all face charges for Possession of a Schedule III Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking, Possession for the Purpose of Selling, and Possession of Proceeds of Crime Under $5000.

They will attend court at Old City Hall on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, in room 103 at 9 a.m.

An employee of 1Tonamara who spoke with StratCann prior to the raid said that although the store was raided in 2018, they had not faced any pushback since. 

“Now that cannabis is just a plant, the government has no right to tell us what tomatoes to buy, so what gives them the right to tell us what flower to buy?” asked Scott Cameron, Head of Operations at 1Tonamara.

Manitoba looking to repeal 6% fee for cannabis retailers

The Manitoba government is looking to repeal its 6% social responsibility fee to help the legal market better compete with the illicit market.

If passed, the legislation will be in effect as of January 1, 2023.

The fee was originally put in place to ensure cannabis stores contributed to the social costs that were expected by some to come with legalization, such as increased health costs, public education, and addiction services. 

“The social responsibility fee is a key component of our regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis,” said Justice Minister Cliff Cullen when the legislation was first introduced in 2019. “It would be used to protect vulnerable populations, help eliminate the illegal market, and pay for social costs connected to cannabis use. This approach ensures retailers would share in the social costs of public education, safety, health, and addictions.”

In the nearly three years that the fee has been in place, the province has brought in around $2.4 million to pay for these kinds of services. Since then, the cannabis market in the province has grown significantly, with approximately 170 retail stores currently listed as open.

The bill to repeal the social responsibility fee, Bill 10, The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act (Social Responsibility Fee Repealed), was introduced on Monday, November 28, by the Minister of Finance, Cameron Friesen, and seconded by the Minister of Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations, Alan Lagimodiere.

Minister Friesen said repealing the 6% fee is another step the provincial government is taking to help the legal cannabis industry displace the illegal cannabis market in Manitoba. 

“After four years of legalization, the cannabis market is maturing, the regulatory costs to the province are well known, leading to the repealing of the social responsibility fee and the transition to a new taxation regime for the long term,” said Friesen. “Repealing the social responsibility fee will continue to reduce the cannabis cost to consumers looking to switch from the illegal market.” 

The bill will still need to go through second and third reading before potentially passing and becoming law. 

Cannabis sales brought in over $24 million for the province in 2021-2022 (Year ending March 31), after all operating costs and allocations. This was up nearly 75% from the earnings in the previous year of $14.1 million.

Although it doesn’t break down specific cannabis dollars, the province released more $11 million in Social responsibility funding in 2021-22 and more than $12 million in the previous year. 

Revenue generated by cannabis operations in the province was $113.9 million in 2021-22, an increase of $33.7 million or 42.0% from revenue of $80.2 million in the prior year.

Sources say the province is also looking to join onto the federal excise tax program, which the province original opted out of. That would increase the tax collected in Manitoba from $0.25 a gram to $1 a gram.

Manitoba also launched a “cross docking” service in 2022 to address some of the challenges the province’s direct-to-retail distribution can pose.

Feature image via The Cannabis Market in Winnipeg


Newfoundland and Labrador now allows cannabis vape sales

Consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador are now able to purchase cannabis vape pens through the legal cannabis market. 

The recent policy change, which resulted in vape pens appearing on shelves in late October, reverses a previous ban on the products in the province.  

In 2019, when the products were first made legal, the provincial government said vapes had too many unknown health effects, and that they were waiting until there was more evidence about the connection between cannabis vaping products and severe lung disease. 

Quebec took a similar stance, with a ban on not only vape pens, but any cannabis concentrates over 30% THC. 

Since that time, vape pens have rapidly grown in popularity—garnering around 15% of the total market in Ontario—Canada’s largest market—behind dried flower and pre rolls. The products are also widely available in the illicit market with no regulatory oversight

Chris Crosbie, the founder of Atlantic Cultivation, which operates a production facility and retail stores in Newfoundland, says his company was the first to have vapes on shelves in the province. 

“We work closely with our partners in the provincial government and the NLC cannabis regulator. Through multiple years of conversation around the efficacy and benefits of locally regulated vape pens we are tremendously happy that vapes have become a legal option for consumers in the province. Atlantic was the first supplier of HTFSE and Distillate vape carts in the province.”

The NLC told SaltWire that the decision to allow the products was driven by this increasing popularity.

“This is now an established segment of the legal cannabis market throughout most of the country, with the category, nationwide, representing approximately 20 percent of legal sales,” the statement read. “Given the significant portion of the illicit market that vape represents, we believe this is a positive step in continuing to capture market share from illegal operators.”

While cannabis became legal in Canada in 2018, products like vape pens and other concentrates, as well as edibles and topicals, weren’t approved for commercial sale until the end of 2019. This timeline coincided with a rise in uncertainty around cannabis vape pens in the US—primarily in the illicit market—tied to serious health issues often associated with Vitamin E acetate. 

This concern informed decisions from provinces like Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador to disallow these products. Other provinces that have allowed them, like British Columbia, have attached additional fees to them in recognition of similar health concerns. 

The provincial online store in Newfoundland and Labrador currently lists 12 vape products, both disposable pens and carts. 

Sixty-one million dollars of cannabis was sold through the NLC’s licensed retailers’ 2021-2022 fiscal year, a 17% increase from the previous year. As of June 1, 2022, the NLC carried 800 products from 27 suppliers and says it will continue to work with its partners to provide additional options to meet customer demand. 

Growth was driven by increased sales of pre-rolls, concentrates, edibles and ground/milled product, while dried flower remained the most popular product category. 

There are currently 40 Licensed Cannabis Retailers in Newfoundland and Labrador, compared to 30 one year earlier.

The NLC began warehousing cannabis in October 2021. Prior to then, producers shipped directly to Licensed Cannabis Retailers (LCR) in the province.


Quebec sold nearly $140 million worth of cannabis in Q2

The Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) has released its most recent quarterly report for sales between June 19, 2022, and September 10, 2022.

In the most recently-reported fiscal quarter, the SQDC saw $139.1 million in sales, with an overall net income of $22.3 million.

The province also brought in $33.6 million in their share of federal excise taxes ($47.1 million in total). 

The sales in the most recent quarter were down slightly ($3.9 million) compared to the same period last year, where the province saw $142 million in sales. The SQDC sold 25,095 kg of cannabis during this most recent quarter. 

Despite this drop relative to last year, sales were up slightly compared to the previous quarter. In Q1 2022, sales generated $54 million for the Quebec government, with the crown corporation posting a net income of $20.5 million and another $33.5 million in taxes. 

The SQDC blames this “stagnation” of sales on the ongoing strike, which continues in 22 of their 90 branches. Although these branches are still open, they are operating at reduced hours and face picket line pressures. 

The provincial organization is still negotiating with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 28 of its 90 branches. Twenty-two of them have been on strike since May 20, and are operated by managers on a reduced schedule. In September, the Superior Court of Quebec issued an injunction to limit union “pressure tactics” against SQDC.

In June, members of a different union, the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), voted to accept an agreement with the SQDC for increased wages, hours, and better working conditions.

Like other provinces, the majority of sales are through brick-and-mortar storefronts. The majority of the 3.2 million transactions through the SQDC (23,864 kg or $132.5 million) were through the now 90 stores operating in the province (as of August 1), while just over 5% of sales were through the SQDC’s online store (1,231 kg) for a total of $6.6 million. 

Net operating expenses for the SQDC totalled $21.5M, for a ratio of 15.5% of sales.

The province has also been expanding and changing its approach to cannabis. The SQDC introduced a 90-minute delivery service for the greater Quebec City region and certain localities in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean. Currently in the test phase, the program could be rolled out more widely in the coming months. 

The province also introduced several new cannabis edibles that adhere to the province’s strict limits on such products, namely cannabis-infused oven-baked beets, dehydrated cauliflower, and dried figs and “cannabis bites” made of dates, hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, currants, and cinnamon. They are produced by Ontario producer Aphria under their Solei brand.

Earlier this year, the SQDC’s President and CEO Jacques Farcy told StratCann that the province plans to begin shifting from adding new stores to refining consumer experience, including a new “small lot” program to introduce new, unique products into the market.

If the pilot project is successful based on producer and consumer feedback, the SQDC plans on fully implementing the program in April-May 2023.

Quebec reinvests its cannabis revenue in cannabis prevention and research, and to combat any harm related to the use of psychoactive substances.

As of September 10, 2022, the SQDC had 1,036 employees within its network and head office.

Other provinces

In comparison, British Columbia—which has about 5.3 million residents compared to Quebec’s 8.5 million—sold just under $110 million worth of cannabis in Q1, while Ontario’s Q2 results showed $394 million in sales. Ontario’s population is about 15 million.

While Quebec had about 70 stores in their most recent reporting period, BC had around 440. Ontario had about 1,100.


BC credit union receives award for cannabis campaign

A BC credit union has received two awards for a campaign that highlights the unequal treatment of cannabis businesses by banks in Canada.

Community Savings Credit Union, which operates seven branches across British Columbia, recently received two awards from the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) annual award ceremony.

Many cannabis companies in Canada have long found it difficult to find and keep a bank or other lending institution even to allow them to maintain an account. Community Savings Credit Union is one of a handful of organizations that have actually worked to create solutions for cannabis companies turned away by other institutions. They even recently launched an account specifically for micro-cannabis licence holders.

The awards were given out at the annual CMA Awards, recognizing the best in Canadian marketing, including the top campaigns of the year. 

A press release from Community Savings says the campaign raised awareness of the inequitable and unfair treatment cannabis businesses face from mainstream financial institutions and highlighted how the lack of access to banking services limits the sector’s growth in Canada. Community Savings was recognized with two awards for its creative campaigns and advocacy. 

“Fees for cannabis businesses with traditional banks were (and still are) high,” continues the release. “Cannabis businesses face either outright refusals to open accounts, or overpriced application costs and high banking fees—fees tend to run from 1,500% to 5,000% higher for a cannabis business compared to other retail businesses.”

Community Savings says they created their own unique direct mailing campaigns, including ‘Roll with us’, featuring custom-branded rolling papers, and ‘Does your bank deliver?’, featuring custom-printed pizza-scented pizza boxes with a ‘menu’ detailing Community Savings’ account offerings. 

Alongside these direct mail campaigns, Community Savings also used media engagement and influencers to further its message of support for the cannabis industry, raising awareness of what they say is the prejudiced treatment of cannabis businesses.

Mike Schilling, President and CEO of Community Savings, said: “There is a serious side to our campaigns that have fun with cannabis culture. We meet too many businesses in the industry that are being exploited and paying up to 5,000% more than they should for a simple account. We treat cannabis retailers like any other small business, with best-in-class service and products. 

“This campaign isn’t only about the cannabis industry—it is about equal access to fair and affordable banking services. Community Savings will continue to advocate for what is right and what is fair, and supporting the cannabis industry is just the beginning.”

For more on cannabis banking, visit www.comsavings.com/rollwithus.


OCS eliminates recall liability insurance requirement

This week the Ontario Cannabis Store announced that they will be eliminating their requirement for product recall liability insurance and increasing their commercial general liability insurance.

Producers and insurance providers say this is a step forward in terms of lowering the cost of entry into the Ontario market. 

As of November 17, the provincial agency is eliminating the requirement for product recall insurance, as long as producers can show they have increased their commercial general liability insurance requirement from $5M to $15M per occurrence.

The OCS notes these changes are due to producer feedback concerned with the impact of the high rate of recall insurance, especially for smaller producers seeking to sell into Ontario.

…there are a lot of producers who have been holding back from entering Ontario because of that cost. Now producers will be able to access another market.

Kieley Beaudry, lberta Cannabis Micro Licence Association

The previous rate for recall insurance required by the OCS was $15 million, which translated to a $50,000 annual fee for any producer to be an approved OCS vendor. As a comparison, British Columbia requires $10 million for both recall and general liability, and some provinces have no such requirements. 

These kinds of insurance requirements have been a barrier to some producers—especially for smaller producers—even entering into some provincial markets. The Alberta Micro Licensing Association (ACMLA) has been calling for changes in Alberta and other provinces

In Alberta, Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC) does not require that micros have recall insurance, unlike Ontario, which previously had seed recall coverage at $10 million, and all other insurance at $15 million.

“It’s a move in the right direction. It removed this barrier for all producers,” says Kieley Beaudry, President of the ACMLA. “The costs are enormous and there are a lot of producers who have been holding back from entering Ontario because of that cost. Now producers will be able to access another market in the space.”

A $15 million recall policy can end up costing a producer $100,000 or more a year, she notes. 

James Clay, the CEO at J.T. Insurance Services, which provides insurance solutions for companies operating in the cannabis space in Canada, points out that Alberta has recently shifted their own requirements and thinks Ontario may have come to the same conclusions about limited risk due to recalls. 

Although recalls for cannabis products are not uncommon, Clay points out that most recalls are for issues like labelling errors, rather than issues where there’s been any significant risk to the public. 

“I think probably Ontario has reached the same decision as Alberta in that this is a significant problem and they didn’t think that maybe the fifteen million dollar product limit aligned with what the actual risk was.I think Ontario is trying to help the insurers.”

Clay also points out that the issue isn’t just the cost to producers, but also the costs for insurers. Because not all insurers are able to take on that level of risk, the pool of possible insurers Canadian cannabis companies can work with can be limited. 

“Perhaps they have data in Ontario that suggests that…as long as they get the commercial liability up to $15 million, that’s the better option and more insurers will be able to provide the coverage. I think that’s probably the big issue that’s driving this: that (producers) are struggling to get (insurance).”

Although the commercial general liability increases from $5 million to $15 million, Clay says this is still likely less expensive for most producers, noting it would no longer be a single flat rate like recall insurance, but based on the specifics of the company and their products. 

Gord Nichol, owner of North 40 Cannabis, a producer based in Saskatchewan, says the high insurance recall requirement in Ontario was one of the things that have kept him out of that market up until now. 

“To me it looks like a win,” says Nichol. It might even mean I can come into Ontario.” 

The OCS notes that existing producers can opt into these new insurance requirements by emailing their office no later than January 16, 2023. Producers that do not opt in to the new requirements will continue to follow the current insurance coverage requirements under their MSA. All MSA renewals will include the new insurance requirements.


Despite constitutional concerns, northern Ontario city seeks to limit homegrown cannabis

A small city in northern Ontario is looking to establish bylaws to control where people can grow cannabis, despite some concerns that such a bylaw could be unconstitutional.

Elliot Lake, a small community of about 11,000, located about two hours west of Sudbury and about six hours north of Toronto, has been working on the bylaw for much of the past year, passing it on November 14. 

The bylaw could effectively ban cannabis in smaller yards by requiring cannabis to be at least 10 metres from neighbouring properties and from any properties near areas where minors congregate. 

Although the bylaw has now passed, the municipality will be sending it to the Attorney General of Ontario for review and approval. 

The bylaw sets three rules for outdoor cannabis growing in the community: all cannabis plants will be required to be ten metres from any neighbouring properties, must be kept out of sight and reach of children or anywhere children may congregate, and cannot be grown on properties that have any point in common with schools, parks, playgrounds, daycare facilities or other public places frequented mainly by persons under 18 years of age.

The fine for any infraction of the bylaw is $150 plus additional costs. The city says they are putting the bylaws in place to protect children in response to complaints and concerns from the community. 

The city’s solicitor advised that such a bylaw—possibly the first of its kind in Canada—could potentially violate federal law, and instead proposed a public information campaign

In a letter to the city, the solicitor noted that the ability to impose restrictions on home cannabis production is under provincial jurisdiction, not municipal, and that there was a current Supreme Court appeal in Quebec that could impact these jurisdictional issues.      

“At this time, it is not possible to provide a definitive opinion regarding whether the By-law is constitutionally valid,” wrote Laura Dean, a municipal and land use planning lawyer, in her advice to Eliot Lake on their bylaw. 

“However, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) recently heard an appeal from the Quebec Court of Appeal, which is likely to shed light on this issue and assist provinces (and by extension, municipalities) to understand the scope of their authority, if any, to impose restrictions on the personal cultivation of recreational cannabis.

“The City is advised not to adopt the by-law until it has had the benefit of reviewing the SCC decision which is expected to be issued within the next six months,” the letter continues. “If the SCC rules that the province (and by extension municipalities) may not curtail the ability of individuals to possess and cultivate up to four cannabis plants (as permitted by the federal Cannabis Act) then it will be clear that the by-law is unconstitutional and should not be enacted. If the SCC rules that the province may impose more stringent regulations than the federal Cannabis Act provides, then the City can be more confident in the constitutional validity of the by-law.”

Many municipalities have sought more control over cannabis production, namely medical cannabis laws. Elliot Lake’s efforts to regulate non-medical home-grown cannabis appear to be a first in Canada. 

The bylaw itself went through some extensive revisions before passing. It initially proposed only a two-foot setback from the neighbouring property liner, along with a potential height restriction and a requirement to have plants in a secured enclosure at least 5 feet high, before hearing from community representatives, police, and advisors. 

Matt Maurer, the co-chair of the Cannabis Law Group and a litigator with Torkin Manes LLP, says he doesn’t see any potential legal challenges when it comes to Elliot Lake establishing land-use bylaws. However, if the bylaw effectively prevents someone from being able to grow cannabis entirely, he notes there would be legal challenges similar to the concerns raised by Dean.

“By-laws pertaining to how land can be used (including cultivating cannabis) are generally within the purview of a municipality, notes Maurer. “There is an argument, though, that if the rules effectively prohibit people from cultivating at home (for example if their property is not large enough), then it is contradictory to the federal and provincial rule which allows home cultivation.”

He also says the part of the bylaw that says cannabis must be kept out of sight and reach of anywhere children may congregate could also outstep a municipality’s jurisdiction. 

“The federal government has allowed cultivation within a dwelling house and explicitly gave the provinces and territories the right to modify that right. Neither the federal nor the provincial government has delegated to municipalities the right to impose further rules on how people must treat the plant within the property when those rules appear to have no relation to land use itself. It would be an interesting court case to follow if the by-law was challenged on constitutional grounds and could potentially be struck down.”

Federal cannabis regulations allow Canadians to grow up to four cannabis plants per home; they delegate further management of those activities to the province. Some provinces have imposed other limits on personal cannabis production, such as requiring that it not be visible to the public, and Manitoba and Quebec have both banned growing cannabis at home entirely. Both provincial laws are facing court challenges. 

H/T to CBC.ca 


Constitutional challenge brews following Indigenous dispensary raids in Nova Scotia

A Mi’kmaw band councillor from Millbrook First Nation in Nova Scotia, arrested in a 2020 police raid of Indigenous cannabis dispensaries, is mounting a constitutional defence arguing that his right to sell cannabis on First Nations land is constitutionally protected.

Nova Scotia RCMP officers raided Chris Googoo’s High Grade Smoke Shop, which sits on reserve land in Cole Harbour, NS, in December 2020 as part of a series of raids on five unlicensed cannabis dispensaries operating in the area. Googoo was arrested and charged with illegal possession and distribution of cannabis.

Googoo—who is being represented by long-time cannabis rights lawyer Jack Lloyd—is now staging a constitutional challenge under section 35 of the Constitution Act, which protects Indigenous treaty rights in Canada. Specifically, Googoo is referring to the 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty, which promises the Mi’kmaw “free liberty to bring to sale to Halifax or any other settlement within this province skins, feathers, fowl, fish or any other thing they shall have to sell.”

“Exercising our inherent treaty rights is something that all of our people should be doing freely, and not have to be harassed by any bodies of government,” said Googoo, at a rally of supporters outside a Nova Scotia provincial courthouse in early October, where he was appearing to set trial dates.

The constitutional case will proceed next October, with four days of hearings scheduled in advance of Googoo’s criminal trial in November 2023.

“I am presenting a constitutional challenge to the court, and I am standing on my Aboriginal and Treaty rights to provide cannabis as a medicine,” Googoo wrote in a subsequent social media post. “I always stand up for our inherent and treaty rights, as sovereign peoples on our sovereign lands. Whether it be for fishing, hunting, cannabis, or tobacco, land or resources.”

Googoo is being backed by former president of the National Indian Brotherhood (precursor to the Assembly of First Nations) and one of the authors of section 35, Chief Del Riley, who has argued that the section grants Indigenous communities the authority to write their own cannabis regulation in parallel to federal and provincial law and to sell cannabis on reserve land. “You’re actually in a hell of a good position here,” he told members of the Millbrook community in April.

The High Grade Smoke Shop was part of a raid by Halifax RCMP in 2020

However, in 2019 Millbrook First Nations Chief Bob Gloade also said that such businesses are not supported by treaty rights

“There is no treaty right protecting them in regards to selling, growing or distribution of cannabis whatsoever,” Gloade said.  “It’s not a treaty or an aboriginal right because it does not state that anywhere. Our treaty rights basically focus around hunting and gathering not growing and distribution,” he said. “Individuals feel that it is a right and they’re extending it beyond the meaning of how the treaties are laid out in black and white and it puts us in a difficult situation.”

Since then, the Chief has changed his tune.

“Since that time, council has debated and discussed how to advance a cannabis strategy that is respectful of, and a benefit to, all community members, carried out in a way that prioritizes community sovereignty, safety, and well-being of everyone,” Gloade said in 2021.

“This is consistent with our inherent right to govern and our fiduciary duty to exercise jurisdiction over matters such as the community’s health and safety as a whole,” he said. “We continue to discuss the development of a cannabis regime and measures necessary for the Millbrook First Nation residents’ safety and enjoyment of life.”

Case could clarify jurisdictional disputes

The case, if escalated to the federal courts, could prove significant for the nascent Indigenous cannabis movement, which has sought in parts to operate independently of—some say in defiance of—federal legalization rules. Many Indigenous cannabis operators argue they have been effectively shut out of Canadian legalization, and support has grown for a so-called sovereign cannabis industry. There are estimated to be over 300 Indigenous cannabis dispensaries now operating across the country. 

A similar constitutional challenge being brought by a group of 10 Anishinaabe dispensary owners in Ontario recently cleared a major legal hurdle when a judge refused the Crown’s motion to dismiss the case.

Last year, the Assembly of First Nations called on federal politicians to “recognize First Nations jurisdiction over cannabis and remove regulatory barriers that exclude First Nations from the marketplace.” Thus far, federal and provincial governments have held that Indigenous communities are able to harmonize their regulations with Canadian law, and governments have attempted (to varying degrees of success) to help with that process. 

Millbrook First Nation is one that finds itself in just such a position, and they have had a rocky relationship with the legal cannabis industry. Initially hopeful that legalization would be a source of economic opportunity for the community, in 2018 the band council invested $5 million in licensed producer Zenabis’ growing facility in Stellarton, NS, which opened in 2019 but was decommissioned in 2022, less than three years later. Financial statements show that Millbrook had lost more than $4.2 million on that investment, amidst a broader market downturn for public cannabis companies. 

Early this year, Millbrook First Nation published a report following a community consultation exploring the idea of sovereign cannabis regulations, concluding that there was significant community support for “developing Millbrook laws and regulations.” A group called the Mi’kmaq Cannabis Association has also formed in the wake of the raids and has argued that “cannabis can be regulated informally by the customs and conventions of the Mi’kmaq people.”  

It’s unclear if Googoo’s case will be escalated to the precedent-setting, constitutional fight he appears to be angling for. An almost identical case in Cape Breton, where an Indigenous man was arrested for operating a dispensary on reserve land, was dropped by the crown suddenly this past September, averting a planned constitutional challenge. “I’m kind of upset about it,” said defendant Albert Marshall. “I would have liked to have gone all the way to the end of it—right to the Supreme Court—to justify our inherent right to trade medicine, to trade plants.” 

Googoo will return to court on November 14.

~Kieran Delamont. Kieran is a writer and photographer in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has written on the cannabis industry for The Walrus, This Magazine, The Outline, Leafly and others. 

Featured image via APTN News


Cannabis council frustrated by illicit dispensaries taking part in Toronto Halloween event

A cannabis industry association is raising concerns with what they say were two illicit cannabis dispensaries taking part in a recent children’s-themed cannabis event in Toronto. 

The Cannabis Council of Canada (C3) is drawing attention to a recent event held by the CityPlace Residents Association that included participation from two unregulated cannabis stores.

C3 has shared two different ads that CityPlace shared online for the event showing unlicensed cannabis retailer CAFE listed as a sponsor and location for the City Place Halloween Crawl. The CityPlace Residents Instagram feed shared a post that included a reference to the CAFE location as well. 

A request for comment from CityPlace was not responded to by press time. 

The Fort York Blvd CAFE location takes part in the children-themed Halloween event. Image via George Smitherman

George Smitherman, the president and CEO of C3, says he visited the event on Halloween night and was surprised to find that not only was CAFE participating, but a second illicit dispensary on Fort York Blvd, 1Tonamara, was inviting people, including minors, into their store for free popcorn. 

“Halloween in Toronto’s City Place Neighbourhood is the perfect backdrop to highlight how illicit cannabis stores can operate with impunity from enforcement under the Cannabis Act,  even when it comes to marketing and promotion to kids,” says Smitherman.

“Toronto, like other places in Canada, is experiencing an alarming outbreak of unlicensed retail cannabis stores. These illegal stores do not pay licensing fees like other retail stores, they sell unregulated and unsourced products that have not been tested, and they don’t follow the Cannabis Act.”

While most illicit cannabis dispensaries in the city have been closed, CAFE currently lists several locations in Toronto. The City of Toronto has failed to shut the business down on numerous occasions, including changing the locks and placing large concrete barriers in front of the building

Similarly, 1Tonamara has operated on-and-off-again in Toronto for years. It lists a second shop on Spadina Avenue on its website. 

Although no one from CAFE was available for comment as of press time, Scott Cameron, Head of Operations at 1Tonamara says the retailer was happy to take part in the event, saying there was a line down the street for people wanting to get their free (not unfused) popcorn and candy they were giving out. 

Although 1Tonamara is not licensed by the city, Cameron says they have operated in their current locations for about three years now, which currently is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They were happy to take part in the event, he explains.

“We just like to give back to the community, so we had candy to give out and we got the popcorn machine going, and people just came out in droves.”

Although the business’ Spadina location was raided in 2018, Cameron says they have not faced any pushback since. 

“Now that cannabis is just a plant, the government has no right to tell us what tomatoes to buy, so what gives them the right to tell us what flower to buy?”

Another 1Tonamara location in Brampton faced legal scrutiny after a raid in 2020.

Toronto Police Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


All Nations launches their first cannabis store in Shxwhá:y Village in Chilliwack, BC

All Nations, a First Nations-run cannabis company, is partnered with Shxwhá:y First Nation on a production facility in Shxwhá:y Village in Chilliwack, BC. All Nations is opening its own retail store, featuring its own products, as well as an array of cannabis from licensed producers around Canada. 

The cannabis store is located just down the street from their indoor production facility, all located on Stó:lō land, and will feature exclusive products grown in the community. 

While the soft launch for the retail store is currently planned for Wednesday, November 2, they also plan on a more formal grand opening event in the coming weeks. 

The store itself is infused with references to the community where it sits, from the logo that includes local landmarks, the cedar siding that was harvested from Stó:lō lands, the Halq’eméylem language used on the signs inside, and other Shxwhá:y artwork and imagery. 

Signs include the Halq’eméylem language, traditionally spoken by the Stó꞉lō people

Darwin Douglas, CEO of All Nations, says it’s taken a long time to get to this point, but he’s proud to help create what he sees as long-term economic development on reserve which will support sustainable jobs for the local community. 

“At All Nations, we strive to represent connection to the Indigenous communities. We want to build positive social impact with the Indigenous communities where we operate and we can represent Indigenous people and nations in this industry,” says Douglas. “That’s what we’re about.”

Because of their ability to carry their own products through a special agreement with the province, the store is, in practice, the second cannabis “farmgate” to be licensed in BC, and the first in the Lower Mainland. The first was another First Nations community in Williams Lake that operates the Sugarcane cannabis production and retail store and recently began selling their own products as well

The unique licenses (called section 119 agreements in reference to the section of the BC Cannabis Control and Licensing Act) allow the provincial government to enter into agreements with Indigenous Nations, “providing a mechanism for meaningful government-to-government dialogue and supporting collaboration that enables both governments to achieve individual and shared goals.”

BC has now signed Section 119 agreements with six First Nations in the province. The agreement with Shxwhá:y Village took several years, and was only finalized this past July, explained Chief Robert Gladstone, Shxwhá:y Village, when the agreement was announced. 

“We set out to harmonize our interests and approach with those of the provincial government. We had some tough discussions, and finalizing this agreement took the better part of three years, but I am proud we signed an agreement that sets a strong foundation for ongoing government-to-government collaboration,” said Gladstone. 

“This is reconciliation in action. However, reconciliation has no end. The work continues through the implementation of this agreement. This would not have been possible without the support of my community, colleagues at the BC Cannabis Secretariat and my negotiating team at All Nations.”

Douglas says All Nations has plans for up to seven more All Nations Retail locations, through its Shxwhá:y partnership, which they hope to have more news about in the coming months. The goal, he says, is to partner with other First Nations communities throughout the country and help them enter the industry as well. 

He says that they have continued to hear interest from other First Nations communities in BC and all across Canada as their production facility and now retail stores have evolved. 

“This model is really starting to get some recognition from Indigenous communities right across the country,” says Douglas. “I think it really speaks to where Indigenous communities are in their quest for economic sovereignty and their desire to build prosperity, is to look at other business opportunities within their Nation.” 

Plants in the early stages of growth inside the All Nations production facility

While the new retail store is big news, All Nations also has several years of cannabis production behind them now, and are still building out new grow rooms in their 30,000 sq ft production facility. They also have plans for building a potential second facility on adjacent property. 

All Nations currently employs 18 people, ten of whom are from the Shxwhá:y nation. The store will add another six employees. Douglas says he sees a lot of inspiration in what he sees as long-term economic opportunities, especially for young people in the community. 

“It’s about producing high-quality cannabis and growing Indigenous participation in an industry that is sustainable, creating hope for communities where there’s a future that’s sustainable and making positive social impact.”

“We have people working here who can see themselves as the master grower or quality assurance manager, and they’re working here now to train for those roles. That gives them hope, and that gives me hope.”


BC LDB releases first wholesale quarterly sales report

New sales figures from the BCLDB show that wholesale grams sold and wholesale cannabis sales in the province have increased significantly in Q1 2022 compared to the same quarter in 2021. 

The new figures, the first ever offered from BC, give a look at wholesale sales in different product categories, as well as both volume and dollar amounts. 

Wholesale sales represent the cost value (wholesale price) of cannabis products shipped to all wholesale customers in the province. This includes private stores, BC Cannabis Stores (BCCS), the BCCS online sales platform, and the LDB’s distribution centre.

There was a nearly 30% increase in the total grams sold in the province in April, May, and June 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, along with a more than 17% increase in wholesale sales. Price compression has led to sales figures being lower than total volume, with the average price per gram on all cannabis products dipping by nearly 10%, from $4.86 per gram in Q1 2021 to $4.40 in Q1 2022. 

The average price for a gram of dried cannabis dropped from $4.19 a gram to $3.86, while the number of retail stores—public and private—increased from 363 to 442.

Image via BCLDB

Mirroring similar figures from other provinces, sales for dried flower continue to dominate in BC, but have declined modestly from the previous quarter (Q4 2021), while pre-rolls and inhalable extracts, especially infused pre-rolls, continue to gain momentum. 

With inhalable extracts, vape cartridges continue to dominate sales, accounting for around 64% of all sales in the category. This is followed closely by infused pre-rolls, a quickly-growing product category, at about 21% of total sales. Shatter, resin, rosin, dry-sift, hash, and disposable vape pens make up around 15% of sales combined. 

For edibles, gummies (“chews”) continue to dominate with about 86% of all edibles sales, followed in a distant second by chocolates at around 11%. Baked goods account for about 3% of sales.

In cannabis beverages, carbonated drinks continue to dominate with 84% of total sales and around 13% in the non-carbonated category. Drink mixes, teas, and coffees account for less than about 3% of total cannabis beverage sales in the province. 

Image via BCLDB

The report also provides insight into sales figures in the four different delivery zones the LDB serves in BC. Zone 1, which includes BC’s Lower Mainland/Metro Vancouver regions, saw a nearly 32% increase in sales compared to the same period last year, from just over $33 million to nearly $44 million.

Zone 2, or Vancouver Island, saw a 12% increase in sales, from nearly $23 million in Q1 2021 to almost $26 million in the most recent quarter. Zone 3, BC’s broader Interior region, saw an increase in sales of around 10%, from $22.6 million to $25 million. Zone 4, representing BC’s northern regions, saw an increase in sales of about 3%, from $14.2 to $14.7 million.


London, Ontario-area cannabis stores face string of break-ins

Several cannabis stores in London, Ontario, say they have been the victims of break-ins in recent days and weeks. 

The targeted stores had their front doors, back doors, or windows broken into, with products stolen from display cases. 

Jesus Pantor, a supervisor at The Cannabist Shop on Richmond St. in London, says someone broke into their store in the early morning of October 26. The person or persons broke the glass at the store’s entrance, breaking through two doors before taking products from inside display cases. 

Pantor says this is at least the second break-in of this nature the business has experienced in the last six months or so. The issue isn’t just about cannabis stores, he says, although he suspects cannabis stores are an easy target because products can be easily liquidated.

“To be honest, everybody in London these days, if you’re on Richmond St., you’ve got to deal with it. There’s really no distinction between cannabis stores, restaurants, and retail stores of any fashion. It’s just a crime of opportunity.”

Another cannabis store in the London area, Forest City Marijuana on Dundas, recently posted two videos on their Instagram account showing a handful of individuals breaking in. Several individuals can be seen smashing two layers of glass to enter. 

A video shared on Instagram by Forest City Marijuana

An employee at Rightpuff Cannabis on Commissioners Rd in London told StratCann that the business experienced two such break-ins in the last month, just nine days apart from each other. Like several other retailers who spoke with StratCann, the employee said the damage to the store was worth more than the product taken from display cases. 

A manager at The Tokyo Smoke on Commissioners Rd. in London said they faced the same type of break-in about three weeks ago, with their entrance glass and several display cases broken. While the crooks only stole a few hundred dollars in product, manager Ryan Ridsdale says they caused thousands of dollars in damage. 

An employee at Tree Tops Cannabis on Kilally Road in London says they also faced a similar break-in recently, but little cannabis was taken as they don’t keep much in their display cases. 

An employee at Cannabis Link Highbury—who, like many other people StratCann spoke to for this story, asked not to be named—said they also lost a small amount of cannabis in a recent break-in, noting that most of their product remained secure in a locked back room. 

“It seems that the locations that are hurting more are the ones that have their products locked in display cases in the showroom,” the employee told StratCann. “Luckily, we didn’t have much on the floor, so they didn’t take a whole lot. But it sounds like it has been more severe for other stores.”

The employee also said they think this issue is a good reason to remove the covered window regulations for cannabis stores in Ontario. Alberta and British Columbia have recently removed such restrictions due in part to concerns with robberies and break-ins

London Police were not immediately available for comment.

Smashed display case inside Rightpuff Cannabis following a recent break-in. Image via a CityNews video

Robberies of cannabis stores have occurred sporadically for years now across Canada. Police in Ontario reported a handful of similar break-ins of cannabis stores earlier this year, with large quantities of cannabis products stolen. 

In October 2021, a cannabis store in Toronto was robbed, with numerous cannabis products stolen, prompting Toronto Police to put out an alert

Alberta has seen a handful of cannabis store robberies and burglaries. In September, a Calgary cannabis store was robbed. In December 2020 and January 2021, two other Calgary area cannabis retailers were also robbed

In June of last year, four men robbed a cannabis store at gunpoint, and in February, a man allegedly assaulted an employee and robbed a BC Cannabis Store in Oliver, BC.

According to a recent CBC report, there were 29 cannabis store robberies last year in Alberta and ten so far this year. Almost half of these instances involved violence or threats of violence. 

The Cannabist Shop in London, Ontario. Image via Google Maps

Police in BC said a couple robbed a cannabis store in Kelowna in November. In September, an Alberta cannabis store was robbed.

Robberies of cannabis stores are not limited to legal retailers. In BC in early 2020, a masked man robbed an unlicensed cannabis store in Abbotsford. In 2016, a Vancouver cannabis dispensary was also robbed at gunpoint

In May 2015, thieves broke into the same store by crashing a van through the front window. Another unlicensed dispensary in Vancouver was robbed in 2019. Right before legalization in 2018, a cannabis store owner in Ontario fought off several robbers with a bong.


Police walk back claim of “suspected edibles” in Halloween candy in Ontario

Huron OPP say a warning they issued Monday about “suspected edibles” found in Halloween candy was a false alarm. 

After putting out a press release on Monday warning of these suspected cannabis edibles based on a report from a concerned parent, the OPP says the person who distributed the candy reached out to tell them it was actually just regular candy they had packaged themselves.

“As a result of an earlier media release seeking information, the individual that distributed the Halloween treat bag contacted Huron OPP this evening. Police met with the individual and have since learned approximately 25 similar bags were distributed. The treat bags contained only candy.”

An image shared online by Huron OPP showed a picture of what appeared to be normal gummies along with plain black packaging. That image has since been deleted.

Police say the package of gummies involved in this incident was handed out in the Town of Wroxeter sometime Halloween night.

Image
The now-deleted tweet

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