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Nova Scotia court rejects First Nations cannabis “sovereignty” argument

A Nova Scotia court has rejected a claim that the members of a First Nation can operate cannabis stores outside of provincial and federal cannabis regulations.

The defendants in the case argued that provincial regulations for cannabis stores in Nova Scotia do not apply to businesses operating within the territory of the Millbrook First Nation and that they do not need to pay provincial or federal duties on the products sold.

In a provincial court ruling from June 7, a judge said the defendant’s case did not make an effective argument for the existence of aboriginal and/or Treaty rights attached to their cannabis store operations, siding with the Crown, who argued the case was “frivolous” and a waste of the court’s time.

The defendant’s lawyer argued that the First Nation had a historical connection to cannabis and cannabis trade prior to contact with Europeans, that the development of federal and provincial cannabis regulations did not include consultation with the First Nation, and that Millbrook First Nation is on unceded territory.

The judge rejected the claim that a treaty right to sell cannabis exists and rejected claims that there is evidence the First Nation had engaged in the cultivation or selling of cannabis prior to contact with Europeans. 

However, the judge also said they welcome a “stronger” argument along the same lines. 

The matter cannot proceed on this foundation. I welcome a stronger one,” wrote Associate Chief Judge Ronda van der Hoek in her decision. 

“The Court cannot allow the matter to proceed on such a foundation given its role to protect scarce judicial resources and in light of the Crown meeting the test to summarily dismiss, in the words of the Supreme Court of Canada, “manifestly frivolous” applications. This decision is not taken lightly. Instead, it is clear that court time allotted to such an exercise will surely result in Jordan stays being granted in other matters scheduled to proceed in this court. It cannot be understated that decisions affirming and defining, or denying and restricting, aboriginal and Treaty rights are significant for the communities who advance them and Nova Scotians. The Court is aware that we are all Treaty people, but how the Treaties are interpreted must be based on a foundation that warrants consideration. At this time, that foundation has not been established for cannabis sales outside the lawful regime, and the existing regime applies to all Nova Scotians.”

In a similar ruling posted on the same day by Judge van der Hoek, she also rejected efforts to have charges thrown out related to the three raids of unlicensed cannabis stores in the province in 2021.

The defendants in the case heard in a court in Truro, Nova Scotia, attempted to make several arguments intending to have the charges dismissed, including claiming that the Crown could not prove that the cannabis was for sale or that one of the men arrested was not actually working at the store. 

The judge rejected these arguments, noting evidence showing the cannabis products were listed as for sale, and the person in question was found behind the counter of the store when police arrived. 

One defendant also argued that the Crown had failed to prove the elements of the offences or are subject to the Kineapple principle, which prevents multiple convictions for a single criminal matter. The judge said they were willing to hear that argument at a later date. 

Another related constitutional challenge by a band councillor from Millbrook First Nation, Chris Googoo, who has claimed a similar treaty right to sell cannabis, had his case dismissed earlier this year after the court found there was not enough evidence to proceed. Since the case was dismissed, the charter challenge did not proceed. 

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 several unlicensed cannabis dispensaries operating in the area. Googoo was arrested and charged with illegal possession and distribution of cannabis.

Googoo—who was represented by long-time cannabis rights lawyer Jack Lloyd—staged the 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 2022, where he appeared to set trial dates.

Googoo was 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.

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.”

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 can 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. 

In 2022, 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.”  

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 in 2022, 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.”

An Indigenous man in BC sued the provincial government in 2023, arguing that both federal and provincial cannabis laws ignore First Nations’ and Indigenous peoples’ jurisdiction.

Ongoing issue of jurisdictional authority 

The issue of jurisdiction around cannabis laws is contentious in Canada as it relates to First Nations and Indigenous authorities. Canada’s Cannabis Act and Regulations provide the authority to regulate the sale of cannabis to provinces and territories. Many provinces, including BC, along with the federal government, have said that their own respective cannabis regulations are laws of general application, meaning they apply to all areas in those jurisdictions, including Indigenous land. 

In 2020, BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, said the province does not recognize such sovereignty in regard to federal and provincial cannabis regulations, but it is hesitant to enforce the law on First Nations territory out of fear of a court challenge

Meanwhile, the New Brunswick government claims it is powerless to enforce its cannabis laws on First Nations land.

In 2023, the federal Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples called for jurisdiction over cannabis possession, sale, and distribution in Canada


Indiva receives creditor protection

Ontario-based cannabis edibles producer Indiva Limited announced on June 13 that it had been granted an order from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice under the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) in order to restructure its business and financial affairs.

The CCAA filing follows an update from Indiva in early June announcing that its liabilities under an amending agreement with Alberta-based SNDL had been extended to June 13, 2024. In April 2024, Indiva repaid $2 million of the principal amount outstanding from a strategic investment of $22 million provided by SNDL in 2021.

SNDL is a major investor in Indiva and stands to take over the business through a stalking horse transaction. In their most recent quarterly report, Indiva announced a net loss of $1.8 million.

Indiva says the decision to file for creditor protection provides the company with a stay of proceedings in favour of the Indiva Group, the approval of debtor-in-possession financing and the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. as monitor of the Indiva Group. The initial order also relieves Indiva of some reporting obligations under securities legislation and stock exchange rules.

The stay of proceedings and DIP Financing will provide the Indiva Group with a chance to consider potential restructuring transactions and maximize the value of its assets for the benefit of its creditors and other stakeholders, which could include the sale of all or substantially all of Indiva’s business or assets through a court-supervised sales process.

The Indiva Group says it also plans to seek approval to launch a sale and investment solicitation process (SISP) for its business and assets in the near term. Indiva also intends to enter into a transaction for SNDL Inc. to acquire the business and assets of the Indiva Group through a stalking horse transaction. 

Located in London, Ontario, Indiva is a cannabis producer with an array of edibles and extracts in the Canadian market, including Pearls by Grön, No Future Gummies and Vapes, Bhang Chocolate, Indiva Blips Tablets, Indiva Doppio Sandwich Cookies, and Indiva 1432 Chocolate. 

Earlier this year, SNDL reported its first profitable quarter for cannabis production and increased losses for its retail cannabis holdings.

SNDL has invested in several cannabis companies in the industry’s production and retail sectors. In May, SNDL alleged that Mantioba-based Delta9 Cannabis was in default of its financing agreement with SNDL and demanded immediate payment of a $10 million convertible debenture financing. Delta 9 CEO John Arbuthnot denied the claim.


Manitobans still waiting for right to grow cannabis at home

Although Manitoba recently passed legislation to allow people to grow cannabis at home, they could be waiting several months before the law actually comes into force. 

A source with the Manitoba government tells StratCann that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Manitoba are currently formulating legislation with the LGCA that will allow people in the province to grow up to four cannabis plants at home, and expects that this will be in place “within the next six months”. 

The bill was passed on June 3, but the specific details of the law are still unknown.

Bill 34, The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act, which repealed Manitoba’s ban on growing up to four cannabis plants at home, passed on June 3, but the specific details of the new law are still unknown.

A media representative with the Manitoba government tells StratCann via email that no information on the new law is currently available due to a media blackout related to a current bylaw election, but says the bill itself has not yet received Royal Assent. Government documents online, however, do show it received royal assent on June 4. This does not mean the law is in effect, though. 

Jesse Lavoie, who spearheaded a lawsuit targeting Manitoba’s home grow ban, but says he would be disappointed by a long delay in implementing the law.

“We appreciate the progressive update to our archaic homegrown prohibition,” Lavoie tells StratCann. “Implanting this policy immediately will allow Manitobans to take advantage of the summer and grow as nature intended, in the sunshine. Any delay just means our status as second class citizens compared to the rest of Canada persists.”

Lavoie’s organization, TobaGrown, has now suspended their lawsuit following the government’s move to repeal the home grow ban, but he says they can still move forward with the lawsuit if the law takes too long to implement.


Study finds inaccurate labelling on some cannabis oils in Ontario

A study from researchers in Ontario says that some cannabis oils on the market in Canada are inaccurately labelled for THC and CBD.

While there have been many studies looking at the accuracy of labelling on cannabis flower and edibles, and some extracts, this is potentially the first study to look at legal cannabis oils. 

In a case series study, researchers at McMaster University and St Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton tested 30 cannabis oil products available on the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) website. 

The amount of THC and CBD in those products was then tested by the Centre for Microbial Chemical Biology at McMaster University for comparison against the amounts listed on the product label.

While none of the products contained significantly more THC than the labelled amount, 12 of the 30 tested products were found to be outside of the allowable variable limit for THC, and three products were outside the variability limit for CBD. 

Of the 16 cannabis oils tested that had a label amount of 2.5 mg/g THC or greater, seven of them had amounts that were lower than what was labelled by more than the 15% allowable variance. 

In addition, the study found discrepancies between the amount of THC and CBD listed on the OCS website’s product description for 10 of 30 oil products.

Five products were also found to be labelled with inconsistent listings of active THC/CBD and total THC/CBD, with one product being labelled as having 5 mg/g CBD but found to be 26 mg/g total CBD upon secondary testing. Unlike products like dried flower, cannabis oils of the type the study looked at should generally have the same active and total THC/CBD amounts. 

The researchers involved argue that their findings merit greater quality control efforts by the industry, while also noting the limited scope of their research. The OCS currently lists around 50 cannabis oil SKUs online.


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Legacy Supply Chain’s new processing licence expands service capability in Ontario

A company connected to OCS’s distribution warehouse recently received a federal cannabis processing licence.

Legacy Supply Chain, an omnichannel third-party logistics provider that operates the OCS’ distribution centre through their subsidiary Domain Logistics, received a standard cannabis processing licence from Health Canada in April.

The licence allows the company to expand its logistics services to include storage, transportation, and distribution of cannabis products to all Canadian licensed cannabis producers and expands on Legacy’s existing service capabilities by leveraging its experience in its omnichannel North American supply chain, says Mike Glodziak, President & CEO of Legacy Supply Chain. 

“This licence enables us to offer supply chain services that create value for the LP community in Canada,” he said. 

“Since legalization in 2018, we’ve operated the world’s most expansive recreational cannabis supply chain, ensuring the safe, secure, efficient, and responsible flow of products to conscientious consumers across Ontario. We are excited to partner with licensed producers, and are committed to providing innovative solutions that help them grow and scale their business across Canada.” 

The new licence and facility will allow Legacy to give an easier path into the Ontario market, especially for western Canadian producers. Rather than sending multiple shipments to the OCS’ central distribution warehouse in Guelph (managed by Domain), producers can now ship one large shipment to Legacy Supply Chain’s new facility. Legacy can then send those products into the central warehouse for the producer, explains Kyle Krug, VP of Corporate Strategy at Legacy. 

“The value we’re bringing to these LPs is the ability to help grow and scale their brands better,”  says Krug. “If you’re a western Canadian LP, you can now, instead of spending a lot of money and time and effort transporting your product into Ontario for real-time fulfilment, we have a distribution warehouse in Ontario that has one day access to the Guelph DC. 

“So essentially, for all LPs, but especially if you’re a western LP, you can shorten that time to market here in Ontario.”

Legacy manages all aspects of shipping, from the producer’s facility to their new processing centre, and from the processing centre to the OCS central warehouse. 

The processing licence from Health Canada allows Legacy to handle and store the cannabis products, but Krug says the company has no plans for any value-add processing under the licence. 

Featured image via Legacy Supply 


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Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke shares feedback on new cannabis regulations

The Kahnawà:ke Legislative Commission in Quebec released the results of a call for feedback on its recent Cannabis Control Law draft Regulation Concerning Suppliers, and Regulation Concerning Alternate Board Members Feedback Report this week.

The Kahnawake Mohawk Territory is a First Nations reserve of the Mohawks of Kahnawá:ke, located on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada.

On December 6, 2023, the Kahnawà:ke Legislative Commission (KLC) shared that the final Regulation (Regulation Concerning Dispensaries and Dispensary Licences) for the Kahnawà:ke Cannabis Control Law was enacted at a duly convened Council meeting held on December 4.

Only two responses to the survey were published, both of which shared concerns about the proposed regulations being aligned with Health Canada’s cannabis regulations. In response, the commission argues that while its long-term goal is to have “complete control and jurisdiction over the cannabis industry, we are not currently equipped to replace the role of Health Canada.”

“In order to take over their complex role, it will take significant time to develop and implement and will require drafting and amending the Law and its regulations,” continued the official response from council.”

Ietsénhaienhs Tonya Perron, who helped to lead the cannabis file for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke (MCK) for several years, told StratCann in an interview in 2021 that the process of creating cannabis regulations in Kahnawà:ke has been an act of balancing community concerns.

“It’s a fine line to walk between all of those differing opinions, but that’s what makes our community so beautiful and so unique, the councillor told StratCann at the time. “People come from different places in the way that they think. But one thing that’s for sure is that everybody in the community definitely states that it’s up to us to decide what needs to be done here and not for anybody else to tell us what should be done here.”

The feedback and responses were compiled during the 30-day review period of the draft regulations that took place from April 12, 2024, to May 13, 2024.

The MCK announced a memorandum with Health Canada in 2021 in relation to their cannabis production regulations. The memo, which harmonizes federal and MCK cannabis production regulations, was years in the making. In late 2018, the community passed their own Cannabis Control Law, and draft regulations to regulate production, sale, and personal medical production.

The memorandum established channels of communication between the Mohawk Council and Health Canada regarding inspections of production facilities and information sharing, as well as assisting the community in better understanding supply chain management. The MCK regulations also require that any cannabis producer must be owned by a member of the community.

Those regulations closely mirror the federal cannabis regulations while allowing for additional approvals by the MCK. In addition to production, the regulations cover cannabis sales, which are to be limited to three stores. Although MCK was open to harmonizing its cannabis production rules with Health Canada, the organization has no similar plans with the province of Quebec, which only licences its own provincially-run cannabis stores. Numerous cannabis stores operate within the community without council approval.

Despite all these regulations to allow the community to manage cannabis production and sales, Perron also explained to StratCann that there are many concerns and differing opinions within the community. While some are open to allowing the industry a foothold in their community in some fashion, others have been deeply opposed. Much of this opposition, she explains, is deeply rooted in those trying to protect the community from drug use and addiction that can arise from generational trauma that is still present today. 

“The opinions of the community are from one spectrum to the other, so it’s a balancing act for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke, and even just for the community decision making process. On the one hand, we have been a zero tolerance community, so public policy was zero tolerance of illicit drugs. Obviously the word illicit is important because once cannabis became legal, it took it out of the illicit definition. There are a number of community members who still want it to be zero tolerance, but there’s a number of community members on the other side of the spectrum that see this as economic opportunities, a way to push jurisdictions. 

“So there are very different mindsets,” she continued. “Some want it in a regulated fashion, and then there’s some obviously who don’t want it regulated, who just want the opportunity to have revenue generation from it. So you have these two diverse opinions, and then you have some people in the middle.”


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Conservative MP says he would vote to recriminalize cannabis if given a chance

In a recent interview on a podcast, Conservative MP Arnold Viersen told host and Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith that he would vote for a bill that made cannabis illegal again if given a chance. 

The comments came in a relatively friendly exchange between the two MPs posted on May 31 on Erskine-Smith’s podcast called Uncommons. Erskine-Smith has hosted the show since 2020, speaking with an array of policymakers, politicians, and other subject experts on various Canadian political issues. 

The interview with Viersen was centred around Bill C-270, known as the Stopping Internet Sexual Exploitation Act (SISE), a private member’s bill introduced by Viersen in 2022, but it also delved into the broader issue of social conservatism in Canada. 

In that vein, Erksine-Smith pressed Viersen on what he framed as a contradiction between a conservative ideology that wants the government to leave people alone with more socially conservative ideas centred around policing people’s personal behaviour, such as abortion or gay marriage or cannabis.

Sharing that he uses cannabis to manage symptoms from Chron’s Disease, Erskine-Smith asked, “If there was a vote to recriminalize cannabis, are you going to make me a criminal again?,” to which Viersen replies: “Your predictions are correct. Yeah.” This remark was met by an exasperated, but laughing, “no” from Erskine-Smith.

Viersen also told Erskine-Smith that he does not see a contradiction in social conservatives like himself claiming to want the government to leave people alone while also criminalizing and policing some peoples’ behaviour.

Erskine-Smith also suggested cannabis could help with Vierson’s poetry, which he has shared in the House. “…if you want the rhyme to flow better, definitely cannabis will help.”

Such sentiments from the Conservatives around cannabis are not uncommon. Marylyn Gladu, Conservative MP for Sarnia—Lambton (ON), who has a storied anti-cannabis history in the House as one of those who led the charge to oppose legalization in the first place, has long said the party would push back on legalization. 

In 2019, she told the Globe and Mail last year that the party wouldn’t roll back cannabis legalization but would like to make major changes to it, including raising the age of access, banning home grows (including medical), supporting larger companies over smaller ones, while also wanting to pare back packaging restrictions for foods and drinks. 

Recently, another Conservative MP in Ontario has called on the federal Health Minister to look at issues with medical cannabis home grows. Conservatives have also continued to call for an end to a medical cannabis “loophole”.

On April 20 of this year, Erskine-Smith spoke with Gladu on a broad range of topics, which included cannabis legalization. She rebutted Erskine-Smith’s assertion that the sky did not fall after Canada legalized cannabis, claiming there is under-enforcement of the regulations, infiltration of organized crime, and a 32% increase in drug-impaired driving.

She also criticized legalization for allowing provinces to manage distribution and sales, complaining about the number of cannabis stores in Ontario. Of course, provinces have jurisdiction around distribution and sales and any attempt to take that power away would have been unconstitutional, and the number of cannabis stores in Ontario is directly due to the management of the file by Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government. 

Gladu and the rest of the Conservative party all voted against legalizing cannabis, save for one Conservative MP, Scott Reid (ON), who says the party punished him for breaking ranks on the bill. 

Erskine-Smith, Scott Reid, and NDP MP Don Davies are co-chairs of the federal cannabis caucus. 

Featured image of Arnold Viersen via YouTube.


Health Canada issues recall for cannabis products containing undeclared intoxicating cannabinoid

An Alberta-based cannabis company has recalled several cannabis oils and softgels due to the “presumed presence” of hexahydrocannabinol (HHC), considered by Health Canada to be an intoxicating cannabinoid.

HHC is a “semisynthetic CBD” often synthesized from CBD.

The recall involves six lots of products from cannabis producer iNaturally Organic Inc’s Emprise CBN+CBD 50mg Softgels, NuLeaf Naturals 1800 mg Full Spectrum Hemp Multicannabinoid Oil Softgels, and NuLeaf Naturals 1800 mg Full Spectrum Hemp Multicannabinoid Oil cannabis extracts.

The NuLeaf Naturals oil contains Delta 9, CBC, CBD, CBG, and CBN each at 3 mg per softgel. The NuLeaf Naturals softgels contain CBC, CBD, CBG and CBN, each at 15 mg/ml.

The recalled products were sold in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon, and through medical cannabis platforms Herbal Dispatch, Open Fields Winnipeg, and Médicibis.

Health Canada says the recall is due to the identified hazard of the presumed presence of hexahydrocannabinol, which consumers may not be aware of. To date, iNaturally Organic Inc. says it has received two adverse reaction reports about these products. Health Canada has received three adverse reaction reports and one complaint related to these products.

There were 8,526 units of Emprise CBN+CBD 50mg Softgels distributed, 2,286 units of NuLeaf Naturals 1,800 mg Full Spectrum Hemp Multicannabinoid Oil Softgels (with Delta 9, CBC, CBD, CBG and  CBN each at 3 mg per softgel) distributed, and 2,534 units of NuLeaf Naturals 1,800 mg Full Spectrum Hemp Multicannabinoid Oil (CBC, CBD, CBG and CBN, each at 15 mg/ml) distributed from December 2022 to May 31, 2024.

Health Canada says consumers should immediately stop using the product, either returning the product to where it was purchased or disposing of it. 

Mukhdeep Mangat, VP of operations at Emprise, tells StratCann that they have independent lab tests showing no presence of HHC and were surprised by Health Canada’s findings.

“Analytical testing laboratories working with iNaturally Organic did not detect HHC in any of the products prior to batch release.”   

“iNaturally Organic received two adverse event reports about all three products combined.  Health Canada received three adverse event reports and one complaint.  The adverse event reports and complaint total six reports after sale of well over 10,000 units total of the three products, or less than one in 1,000 units.  

“iNaturally Organic prioritizes the health of its customers and is investigating Health Canada’s assertion of presumed presence of HHC, despite no evidence of HHC in the products from analytical testing laboratories working with iNaturally Organic.”


Manitoba passes legislation to allow growing cannabis at home

Manitobans will soon be able to legally grow cannabis at home.

Bill 34, The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act, which repealed Manitoba’s ban on growing up to four cannabis plants at home, passed on June 3, 2024.

The bill fulfills a commitment Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew made prior to forming government in late 2023 when the Manitoba NDP defeated the previous Progressive Conservative government. The ban on growing cannabis at home had been put in place by the Progressive Conservatives.

Although the Bill was delayed for several weeks, along with other legislation, due to delay tactics by the opposition, the proposed legislation received little pushback from the opposition, save for the newly-elected MLA for Brandon West Wayne Balcaen. Balcaen raised concerns at second reading in the house and when the bill was discussed in the Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development. 

In the Committee, Balcaen referenced his experience as the former Chief of Police in Brandon, Manitoba, in his concerns with the bill, saying he had seen many homes with extensive damage from indoor cannabis operations. 

The MLA also said he had concerns with children eating cannabis off of a plant, that it will lead to less tax revenue for the province because they will be growing their own, that it will lead to the legalization of other drugs, and that it will “open the doors to organized crime.”

“This legislation will be a segway for organized crime into very lucrative black market sales and I believe that this will open up the doors for organized crime to find ways into this business and certainly gain further financial gains within our province,” he stated for the record in committee. 

Balcaen expressed similar concerns when the bill was debated at second reading, asking, “who will monitor these grows, and who will monitor the sale of the seeds to produce these cannabis products?”

PC MLA Jeff Wharton (Red River North) had similar concerns: “Can the mem­ber explain how the bill–or how we can ensure that the cannabis grown in a private residence will not be blended potentially with dangerous ad­di­tional sub­stances that could hurt not only the user but the children in the home?”

Despite these concerns, the Bill passed with no amendments in committee on May 27 and passed concurrence and third reading on June 3, 2024.

The group challenging Manitoba’s ban on growing cannabis at home filed an appeal earlier this year against a court decision to uphold the ban. That group, TobaGrown, has now suspended their lawsuit following the government’s move to repeal the home grow ban.

“TobaGrown is pleased to observe the progress of this Bill and values the ongoing positive communication we’re having with the Manitoba Government,” says Jesse Lavoie who has led the charge against the ban through his organization, TobaGrown. “We have formally suspended our lawsuit against the Province and will fully withdraw it upon the enactment of the new legislation.”

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Growing Relationships – Kelowna 2024 Agenda

We look forward to welcoming you to Growing Relationships in Kelowna, BC, on Monday, June 10!

Below are the details for our Growing Relationships attendees. Please read the details fully and email us if you have any questions. We suggest you bookmark this page and have it handy on your phone for June 10. We will not have paper agendas but we will have signage at the event.

TIME

The doors open at 8:45am PDT for registration, networking, and a light breakfast; programming will begin at 9:30am. We will end around 4:30pm with some prize give-aways, don’t forget to put your name in the bowl at registration!

VENUE

Growing Relationships is at the Manteo at Eldorado Resort (3762 Lakeshore Rd, Kelowna). We will be in the Waterfront Ballroom & Patio. Look for signage in the lobby of the Manteo hotel at the resort.

► Bring your government-issued ID, this is an age-gated event.

DRESS FOR THE WEATHER

Our event room opens up to our exclusive outdoor lakeside patio. This space will be available for informal networking throughout the day, and for the industry speed-dating if the weather cooperates. You may also wish to enjoy your lunch al fresco, so come prepared!

PARKING

The Eldorado Resort has very limited parking available, typically used for guests registered at the hotel. However, the Kelowna Public Parking lot is right beside the hotel, and there is a parking lot at Gyro Beach just a short walk from the venue.

The Eldorado Manteo Resort Event Parking Fee is $15 per day. QR codes will be available in the event room for you to scan, register & pay for your parking. Or, you can register & pay at the hotel’s front desk.

The hotel lot is limited and on a first-come-first-served basis. There is also a public space in the Kelowna Public Parking lot on Cook Road, located directly in front of Hotel Eldorado, for up to $11.00 a day or $1.65 per hour.

EVENT AGENDA

TimeMonday, June 10, 2024
8:45-9:30Registration & Light Breakfast
9:30-9:40Welcome & Introductions
Presentation
9:40-10:00Navigating the Green Frontier
10:00-11:00Industry Roundtable Workshop
11:00-12:30Industry Speed-Networking session
12:30-1:30Lunch
1:30-1:55Prizes & Presentations
2:00-3:00CannaTalks Panel: Exploring the Supply Chain
3:00-3:15Nutrition Break
3:15-4:15Retail Panel: Realities of Cannabis Retail in BC
4:20-4:45Closing Remarks… and more Prizes!

INDUSTRY SPEED-NETWORKING: how to prepare

This is a fun and fast-paced experience! We strongly encourage you to practice and perfect your B2B elevator pitch before you arrive: craft a concise 1-minute introduction to introduce your business, your brand and your current products.

PLEASE NOTE: the elevator pitch applies to Producers and Services primarily, as you will be presenting your business to the retailers. Retailers: we recommend you bring business cards to share with those you make connections with!

We’ll guide you through this fast-paced activity with the goal of making impactful connections that can be further developed as we move into lunch and beyond.

DRESS CODE

We do not have a formal dress code, though most people dress business casual. We have the beautiful lakeside patio reserved for us, to enjoy networking and lunch. As the weather looks like it will cooperate, we will likely have groups outside for various portions of the speed-networking activity!

TETHER EVENT

We’ve partnered with Tether as they deliver their Kelowna Sampling Event the evening before Growing Relationships, on Sunday, June 9. Use promo code STRATCANN for 20% off any ticket type for you and your budtenders – grab your tickets here!

HASHTAGS

Help us keep the relationships growing, use the official event hashtags: #stratcannevents #growingrelationships

FEDERAL & PROVINCIAL REGULATIONS

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Study finds driving impairment was not correlated with blood THC

A recent study in Ontario looking at the effects of edible cannabis on simulated driving and blood THC levels found that driving impairment was not correlated with blood THC. 

The study is the first of its kind to look at the impact of cannabis edibles on simulated driving, with researchers using an average dose of around 7.3 mg THC to provide real-world context for the impact legally available cannabis can have on driving. 

The 22 participants (sixteen male and six female) were required to have a valid Ontario driver’s licence, to have used cannabis edibles at least once in the past six months, and to drive at least once a month. Participants could be from 19-79 years of age.

Participants were asked to not use cannabis for 72 hours before the test, or any other drugs or alcohol for 12 hours. Researchers gave them three independent, pre-programmed scenarios, including a two-lane rural highway and a “potentially frustrating event” to test the drivers’ speed, and a lateral control test on a four-lane highway to rate drivers’ reaction time.

On average, participants chose to consume about 7.3 mg of THC with 2.14 mg CBD. Eleven chose the maximum of 10 mg THC, while ten chose edibles with 5 mg THC or less. A blood sample was then collected two hours after consuming the cannabis edible or a control candy.

The mean speed of the drivers who consumed a cannabis edible was found to decrease at the two-hour mark, but not at the four or six-hour mark. Some participants noted effects up to six hours after ingestion, with some reporting being less able or willing to drive up to six hours after consuming a cannabis edible. 

While past studies have found evidence of increased swerving (“standard deviation of lateral position”) and decreased reaction time after smoking or vaping cannabis, these effects were not observed in this study. 

The researchers speculate that this may be due to the relatively low amount of THC consumed, or the inability of the driving simulator to detect small changes in performance.

After two hours, blood THC was relatively low at about 2.8 ng/mL. Blood THC was significantly increased after consuming the cannabis edible, but the mean increases in blood THC were lower than those reported for smoked cannabis. Researchers also found no direct relationship between blood THC and driving impairment, speculating that “the present study suggests that blood THC may not be as useful for detection of impaired driving after edibles as it may be for the smoked route.”

“Analysis of the relationship of blood THC to SDLP (standard deviation of lateral position) or MS (mean speed) revealed no correlation with blood THC, which fits with emerging evidence from studies of smoked cannabis that there is no linear relationship between blood THC and driving impairment.”

The paper also speculates that it’s possible the participants had a high THC tolerance that allowed them to manage the effects of cannabis more effectively. 

Twelve of the participants reported using cannabis at least once a day, while another six reported consuming it more than once a week. 

The study was approved by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Research Ethics Board and the Health Canada Research Ethics Board, and was conducted at CAMH in Toronto, Canada.

The Toronto Star has a video of someone using simulated driving equipment at their research centre. 


Shiny Bud files notice of intention to make a proposal under Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act

The parent company of Shiny Bud, a cannabis retail chain in Ontario, announced it has filed a Notice of Intention to make a proposal pursuant to the provisions of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

The parent company, Shiny Health & Wellness Corp., emphasizes that it is not bankrupt. Instead, it says the primary purpose of the Notice of Intention (NOI) filing is to “create a stabilized environment for the Company and its financial advisors to run an orderly and flexible sale, investment and solicitation process (“SISP”) with the goal of identifying one or more interested parties that wish to acquire or make an investment in the Company’s business or all or some of its assets.”

Shiny Bud says it currently operates 20 locations in Ontario. On May 16th, the company announced it had temporarily closed five of its retail cannabis stores effective immediately. It had previously closed another three locations and opened one since October 31, 2023. Its website currently lists 36 locations. The AGCO lists 37 locations as authorized to open.

If the agreement is approved, Shiny Health believes it has enough resources to fund its operations during the SISP, and its stores will remain open for business during that time. This would be subject to any restructuring steps the company may take during this process. 

It expects that its 20 licensee stores will not be impacted by the NOI and will be able to continue to use the Shiny Bud brand in accordance with the licence agreements.

Due to the NOI filings and other “financial resource constraints,” Shiny Health says it does not expect to file its annual financial statements and accompanying management’s discussion and analysis for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2024, by the prescribed deadline of May 30, 2024. 

In addition to its retail cannabis stores, Shiny Health also owns one pharmacy in Ontario, initially intending to create a chain of pharmacies that would provide access to cannabis, as well. A recent report proposed allowing sales of medical cannabis through pharmacies in Canada.

As of October 31, 2023, Shiny Health had cash of $239,817, liabilities that exceeded current assets by $7.4 million, an accumulated deficit of $26.7 million, and a shareholders’ deficit of $5.1 million. 

“The current negative working capital deficit indicates the existence of material uncertainties that may cast significant doubt on the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” says its most recent report for 2023. “Management’s view is that the success of the Company is dependent upon its ability to generate sufficient positive cash flow from its total operations to cover all its costs, including overhead and public company costs and obtaining financing through a combination of equity and additional debt where possible for working capital, debt service and to sustain its operations until positive overall cash flow is achieved.”

For the three months ended October 31, 2023, Shiny Health had $4.3 million in revenue, with a loss of $752,594 and a net comprehensive loss of $5.9 million. 

In the same period, it brought in $3.6 million in revenue from its retail cannabis operations, $220,849 from its “data program,” and $346,828 from its pharmacy. This represented about a 45% decline in revenue for its retail cannabis operations and data program from the same period in 2022.

For the nine months ended October 31, 2023, retail cannabis operations brought in $14.8 million, a 30% decline from the same period in 2022 and $852,450 from its data program, down 33% from the same period in 2022. 

The company blames the decrease in cannabis sales and data program revenue on the market conditions in Ontario and the closure of some of its stores.


Second cannabis store opens in Nunavut

A second cannabis store opened in Iqaluit, Nunavut, in April, to help serve the Territory’s population of just over 40,000 people.

The store, Higher Experience, is located about a 15-minute walk from Iqaluit’s first cannabis store, Nuna Cannabis, which opened in 2021. The territory began accepting applications for private retailers in 2020. The population of Iqaluit, the territory’s capital, is about 7,000.

Prior to this, the only way for Nunavummiut to buy cannabis was from two businesses under a licence category the territory calls Registered Suppliers. Residents can still order online or by phone from Canopy/Tweed or AgMedica/Vertical Cannabis.

In the most recent annual report from the province for 2020-2021, revenues from online cannabis sales through the NULC’s partners accounted for less than a tenth of a percent of total revenues the Commission earned in the year.

Higher Experience’s application had been in the works for several years. Kevin Ikeno, one of the owners at the store, said it was a long process, but he’s excited to now be open. 

“We’re phenomenally excited to finally get [a licence],” Ikeno tells StratCann. “It has been a long time coming, but we’re very happy to now be open for business. The community has been fantastically welcoming. They’ve been very friendly.”

Unlike most provinces, Nunavut has no central delivery, so the Territory’s two stores must arrange for orders from each of the approximately 40 registered wholesale suppliers

The territory allows two other licence types in addition to its registered suppliers: physical cannabis stores and what it’s calling remote sales. These two licence categories can also be combined.

There are also two subclasses of physical stores: enclosed cannabis stores and integrated cannabis stores.

Enclosed cannabis stores can be either stand-alone buildings or located within an existing commercial space such as a multi-unit building. Higher Experience is located at 760 Queen Elizabeth Way in Iqaluit, the Territory’s capital. 

The age of access in Nunavut is 19. 

h/t nunatsiaq.com


Alberta government researching impact of legalization on province’s youth

The Alberta Government is looking into the impact of cannabis legalization on young people in the province.

The provincial government made their announcement on May 27, saying that now that more than five years have passed since cannabis was legalized in Canada, Alberta’s government is working with drug policy experts, doctors, and professors to examine the impacts of cannabis on people 25 and under. 

The provincial government says it is providing a one-time grant of about $280,000 to conduct a review of the available evidence and data regarding the impacts of cannabis use on youth, in coordination with experts from the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, Dalhousie University, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Birmingham.

“We owe it to young Albertans and their families to make sure we fully understand the effects of legal cannabis,” says Dan Williams, Minister of Alberta Mental Health and Addiction. “We’re proud to bring together this group of respected health experts to provide insight and advice as we continue to navigate this evolving area of health care.”

The research team will report to the Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, and the work is expected to be completed in summer 2024. Alberta has the lowest age of access in Canada at 18. All other provinces and territories have an age of access of 19, except for Quebec, which has set the age of access at 21. 

The government says the review could potentially inform future policy changes in Alberta and could recommend policy changes to ensure children and youth are protected from the harms of cannabis.

“As cannabis products have become more widely available, we must continue to evaluate their health impacts—particularly on young people whose brains are still developing,” says Blair Gibbs, a former advisor to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and policy consultant who is advising on the project. “I look forward to working with leading experts from around the world to closely examine the evidence and help inform decisions in the best interest of Albertans.”

In addition to Gibbs, the province lists: Dr. Sebastian Straube, professor and division director, Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta; Dr. Philip Tibbo, professor in the Department of Psychiatry with a cross-appointment in Psychology and Neuroscience at Dalhousie University; Dr. Charl Els, fellowship-trained addiction psychiatrist and occupational physician, clinical professor, Department of Psychiatry and Medicine, University of Alberta; Dr. Emily Hennessy, associate director of Biostatistics, Recovery Research Institute and assistant professor, Harvard Medical School; Dr. Victoria Burns, associate professor, University of Calgary, and director, University of Calgary Recovery Community and Recovery on Campus Alberta; and Dr. Ed Day, United Kingdom government’s drug recovery champion and clinical reader in Addiction Psychiatry at the Institute for Mental Health at the University of Birmingham.

The government of Alberta says it spends more than $1.55 billion annually on addiction and mental health care and supports, including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.

A recent study in Alberta found an increase in hospitalization rates among younger adults (18-24) before legalization, yet no increased risk was associated with cannabis legalization, for either younger (18-24) or older adults (25+).

A recently published study looking at cannabis use rates in Ontario estimates that teens using cannabis are at an 11 times higher risk of developing a psychotic disorder compared to teens not using cannabis. 

The study found a “strong but age-dependent association between cannabis use and psychotic disorders, consistent with the theory that adolescence is a particularly vulnerable time to use cannabis as the brain is still developing,” arguing that more evidence-based cannabis prevention strategies for adolescents are needed as more jurisdictions move to “liberalize cannabis use and perception of harm declines among youth.”

Other provinces have also taken measures to mitigate concerns with youth cannabis use. Ontario has released a document entitled How to Talk to Youth About Your Cannabis Consumption through its Cannabis Made Clear program. 

Younger Canadians are twice as likely to use cannabis than older Canadians according to data from Statistics Canada, although this rate depends on the age demographic. In 2023, 38% of adults aged 18 to 24 years and 35% aged 25 to 44 years reported having used cannabis in the previous 12 months, compared with just 15.5% of adults aged 45 years and older.

In 2023, about 1 in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 years (8.7%) and 25 to 44 years (10.3%) reported having used cannabis daily or almost daily in the previous 12 months, compared with 4.8% of adults aged 45 years and older. 

Cannabis use among those 15 years and older actually declined slightly in Alberta from 2020-2021, according to data released by Statistics Canada in late 2023


BC’s T’iitsk’in Spirit Ventures revive production at former CannTrust facility in Ontario

A company owned by a First Nation in BC is looking to grow cannabis in CannTrust’s old facility in Ontario. 

T’iitsk’in Spirit Ventures Ltd. (TSV), owned by the Uchucklesaht Nation in BC, recently acquired the facility through a reverse vesting order structure earlier this year under numbered company 1000832157 Ontario Inc. According to court documents, the purchaser intends to begin growing cannabis at the facility again at 1396 Balfour Street, Pelham, Ontario (previously known as the “Fenwick Premises”).

The move recently caught the eye of a Ward Councillor in Pelham, as activities at the site had begun again. Ward 1 Councillor Wayne Olson told Pelham Today that he stopped by the facility recently to introduce himself and provide suggestions on how the owners could engage with the community.  

“I told (the representative) that maybe they should have a public meeting. They seemed open to that,” Pelham Today reported Olsen as saying. 

The facility, and others in the community of Pelham, have generated a lot of negative attention from Council and some community members over the past few years regarding concerns about light, odour, and noise pollution. The facility itself was also at the centre of concerns with allegations of unlicensed activities under its previous owners.

Three executives connected to CanTrust at the time, Peter Aceto, Mark Litwin, and Eric Paul,  faced charges after the Ontario Securities Commission (OCS) and the RCMP declared they were aware of these activities. They were acquitted when the OCS decided it could not obtain a conviction. 

Mayor Marvin Junkin told Pelham Today that the town has not received any notification of the facility’s sale or the company’s plans to begin cannabis production. 

The Uchucklesaht Nation, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, owns and operates the Thunderbird Spirit cannabis brand.

Representatives from the Uchucklesaht Nation were unavailable for comment at press time.

Featured image via Google Maps


Break-in at West Kelowna cannabis store

A cannabis store in West Kelowna was broken into in the early hours of Friday morning, leaving behind extensive damage and making off with a handful of pre-rolls.

Skye Cannabis Co., located on Industrial Rd in West Kelowna in a small shopping centre shared with a gas station, is open again for business after cleaning up following the break-in just before 3 am on Friday, May 24.

Natasha Raey, the owner of the store, says she received an alert on her phone and quickly contacted police who responded quickly, but not before the burglars escaped with a handful of cannabis pre-rolls. 

Video of the incident shows the two bumbling burglars struggling to use a truck and chain to rip the doors off the store, before seeming to search in vain for products inside. Raey says they made off with only a handful of pre-rolls but caused significant damage, not only to the two doors but to the back office and at least one display case. 

“Luckily we’re very secure,” says Raey. “We’re happy that no one was hurt, but it’s a lot of damage for very little profit on their part.”

She says the two could have probably made more money working in her store for a day than they will likely make selling the handful of products they stole.  

Raey and her team have shared the video with police and with the community, many of whom she says have reached out to her saying they believe they recognize the maroon Dodge 4×4 truck and the two men involved. 

Two cannabis stores in BC’s Lower Mainland faced similar break-ins earlier this year, causing significant damage to the stores and a loss of product. 

Image from inside Skye Cannabis showing damage to the front door. Image via Natasha Raey.

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AGLC delisting more than 500 cannabis SKUs

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) has notified several licensed producers that they will soon be de-listing more than 500 slow-selling SKUs from their central warehouse. 

Several producers received recent notices from the AGLC, informing them the SKUs will be put into the agency’s Do Not Purchase list.

A representative from AGLC confirmed with StratCann:

“AGLC is reviewing our cannabis product listings in order to streamline our supply chain, better manage inventory and remove some slow moving SKUs. Simplifying our supply chain will create more efficiencies and allow Alberta to focus more on best-performing products. This impacts between 550-600 SKUs. We are working with stakeholders to make this transition gradually over the next month to allow sell-through of impacted products.

“Alberta continues to have a wide range of products available for retailers and consumers. We encourage Albertans to talk with their retailer to find something similar if a product is no longer available.”

The move will allow the AGLC to free up warehouse space through their third-party vendor for faster-moving products. BC recently announced similar changes to its policies for accepting new products and storing existing products as the industry closes in on six years of operation. 

This sort of “SKU rationalization” is not uncommon, in or outside of the cannabis industry, and other provinces have instituted similar measures, although at times with more notice.

One complaint StratCann heard from more than one producer who reached out to us on the issue was a sense of frustration that this policy change came with little to no advanced notice. Another producer, speaking on background, says they had received an initial notification from AGLC last week informing them that certain SKUs would be delisted effective immediately, before receiving a second notice giving them 30-45 days before they would be delisted. 

Although the reasoning behind such a quick delisting process is unclear, the province has been making efforts to provide more opportunities for its local cannabis industry.

Sources close to the file say the regulator is interested in topics like farmgate and even direct delivery, which could potentially offer more opportunities for local producers and retailers to distinguish themselves from bigger chains. 

The AGLC uses a third party company, Connect Logistics, to manage its warehouse and wholesale distribution.


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Hospital visits for cannabis among older Ontarians were increasing even before legalization

A study released this week shows that the annual rate of Emergency Department visits among older people in Ontario increased post-legalization.

What many stories covering this new research paper overlook, however, is that rates were already increasing significantly in the years before legalization in late 2018. In fact, post-legalization, the rate of increase slowed considerably.

In addition, while many news articles on the paper are highlighting that there was an increase in these hospital visits in 2020—and attributing this to the introduction of cannabis edibles in Canada—they again overlook that cannabis edibles were not widely available in Canada in much of 2020. 

While these products were made legal in late 2019, they did not become widely available, and at competitive prices, until mid-2021. This is a misunderstanding of the market, which has been repeated many times by researchers and the media reporting on their work. 

The most recent study, published on May 20 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that emergency department visits in Ontario for cannabis-related poisonings increased from 55 per 100,000 visits in 2015 to 107 in 2016, 190 in 2017, and 337 in 2018. 

Figure: Annual Rates of Emergency Department (ED) Visits for Cannabis Poisoning
in Ontario Older Adults, 2015-2022

It then increased to just 375, 392, and 462 in 2019, 2020, and 2021 before declining to 404 in  2022.

The most significant increases in this timeline covered by the study occurred in the years leading up to legalization. In addition, while the study and some articles on the study discuss an increase in emergency department visits related to the introduction of edibles, the increases in 2020 and even 2021 were very modest, especially compared to previous years. 

The increase from 2019 to 2020 was just 17 per 100,000, while the increase from 2020-2021 (when edibles began to be more common in the legal market) was just 70 per 100,000. Then, in 2022, when these products were even more available and affordable, those visits actually declined by 58 per 100,000 compared to the previous year.

So, on the one hand, yes, there are notable increased emergency room visits among older Canadians related to cannabis use. And yes, this is a legitimate public health concern and cost. But to say this is caused by legalization, or specifically by cannabis edibles, is misleading. These figures were already rising in the years leading up to legalization—significantly so—and grew much less in the years following legalization, comparatively speaking. 

In addition, in the most recent year recorded (2022), those visits declined from a peak, potentially supporting the idea that consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about how to self-regulate the use of these products and better manage any symptoms without needing to visit the emergency department. 

Unfortunately, news reports that inaccurately attribute these increases specifically to legal edibles or to legalization in general simply serve to feed prohibitionist straw men. This is not new; we’ve seen similar issues in the past in regard to edibles and young people, with researchers and media seemingly unaware of the prevalence of illicit edibles


New authority for inspectors in New Brunswick to deal with more than 100 illegal cannabis stores

New Brunswick recently passed new legislation to give provincial inspectors more authority to target a growing number of illegal cannabis stores.

Bill 29, An Act Respecting Cannabis Control Act, passed third reading on May 15, and gives inspectors more authority and increases fines for those operating illegal cannabis stores, as well as their landlords.

The legislation was also debated by the Standing Committee on Economic Policy, where several questions were raised by Robert McKee, MLA for Moncton Centre, and Kevin Arseneau, MLA for Kent North, fielded by Bruce Fitch, the Bill’s sponsor.

According to Fitch, as of April 1, 2024, 107 illegal cannabis stores are operating in the province. Of these, 74 are operating in First Nations communities, says Fitch. Provincial representatives have in the past repeatedly said they do not have the authority to enforce their cannabis regulations on First Nations reserve lands, and this legislation is not expected to change that.

During debate of the bill in the Committee, Fitch did not directly respond to several questions from both McKee and Arseneau about how this new legislation would apply to these First Nations-affiliated stores, or about the current provincial government’s stance on these types of stores, instead making references to the complexity of the issue, often referring to provincial and federal jurisdictions or explaining the difference between provincial and federal rules. This mirrors similar statements made by the RCMP.

The legislation increases penalties to $5,000 if you operate a store, $2,000 if you are selling illegal cannabis (but not necessarily operating a store), and $5,000 for a landlord who knowingly allows such an operation on their property. 

Law enforcement in New Brunswick has raided several unlicensed cannabis stores in recent months, with one recent raid in April, two in March, and two more arrests and products seized from an unlicensed dispensary in Saint John in January

A court recently issued a $20,000 fine following a raid in 2022, while charges against two men connected to the company have been withdrawn.

There are 25 Cannabis NB stores in the province, plus a handful of licensed, privately-run cannabis stores.


BC LDB warehouse making changes to improve product freshness

BC is updating its rules for how long cannabis can sit in its warehouse before it will be returned to the producer. 

In a notice sent out to producers on Friday, May 17, the British Columbia LDB wholesale division noted upcoming changes to the inventory thresholds for licensed producers. This means changes to the maximum storage time at the LDB distribution centre in Richmond and a new maximum age limit at the time of delivery to the LDB distribution centre. 

The stated intent of these changes is to improve product freshness. The change will also likely allow the LDB to maximize storage space in their 70,000 square-foot warehouse. There are more than 125 licensed cannabis producers registered to do business with the LDB.

Under the new rules, which the LDB will begin using in November 2024, cannabis flower, pre-rolls (including infused), and cannabis edibles products must be delivered to the LDB distribution centre within three months from the packaging date. Inventory of these products will be held for a maximum of six months from the date it is received by the LDB.

Other categories of cannabis products will be required to be delivered within five months from the packaging date. These categories will be held for a maximum of nine months from arrival at the LDB distribution centre.

Inventory that exceeds these timelines will be put on hold and returned to the producer. Any products that exceed the age limit at the time of delivery will be required to be pre-approved by the LDB demand planner.

Producers selling into BC must also provide the LDB with an estimated minimum shelf life before being registered for sale. Products with a Best Before Date or Expiry Date printed on the label must be delivered to the LDB with at least six months remaining until the stated Best Before or Expiry Date.

The BC Cannabis Customer Care Centre also recently updated their business operating hours, and are now closed on Saturday.


Alberta makes changes to retail secure storage, “simulated or actual mixing” of cannabis, and more

New cannabis stores in Alberta may have a chance to save money on their secure storage rooms after recently announced regulatory changes from the AGLC.

The changes were part of a handful announced by Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis on May 10. Retailers can also now use samples from producers in sensory containers in-store, along with changes to record-keeping for such sensory displays. The AGLC also removed a section of their provincial rules that had previously prohibited the “simulated act of mixing cannabis” in retail stores.

This last piece is a reference to a section from the provincial retail cannabis handbook that had previously prohibited the “simulated or actual mixing, application or consumption of cannabis with other ingredients or substances.”

A request from clarification was made to the AGLC on May 13. No reply was available as of press time.

The section this was removed from concerns what kinds of activities are permitted in cannabis stores. Previously, there were more restrictions on what types of activities can occur within a cannabis store other than the sale of cannabis. 

A source close to the issue explained to StratCann that while a store still can not be used for activities not related to cannabis (for example, hosting an art show or a yoga class), events or activities that are directly related to cannabis can now occur within the store. The section that had previously prohibited a cost being charged to the public, directly or indirectly, to attend an activity in a retail cannabis store was also removed as part of this recent set of changes. 

Most of the changes are just cleaning up aspects of the retail cannabis handbook but include the announcement that AGLC may now approve alternative construction methods to secure cannabis rooms.

As of January 2024, the AGLC no longer requires retailers to keep their products in locked display cases when the store is closed, however, these new changes can still mean significant savings for any future stores seeking to create a secure storage area. 

“We’ve been looking at the cannabis market to determine what’s working, what needs to be improved, and what’s redundant or unnecessary while protecting public health and safety,” said Dale Nally, Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction at the time those initial changes came into force on January 31.

Nally has been one of the provincial government’s key voices on regulatory change for the cannabis industry through the Red Tape Reduction Act. Nally and other ministers and Alberta MLAs were also part of a recent provincial cannabis industry lobbying day on May 9 in Edmonton, put together by an Alberta-based consulting firm that works in the cannabis space. 

Alberta has led the country on several recent cannabis regulatory changes. In addition, in 2022, the province removed the requirement for window coverings for cannabis retailers and in 2023, Alberta began allowing producers to hand out samples at cannabis events

The AGLC also announced in late 2023 that the agency had reduced the SKU listing fee for cannabis producers. Previously $1,500, the reduced cost to list a new SKU to sell into the Alberta market is now $250.


Featured image via Spiritleaf

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Cannabis stores in Ontario sold nearly $2 billion worth of cannabis in 2023

Cannabis stores in Ontario sold nearly $2 billion worth of cannabis in 2023 to more than 10 million people, a 12% increase in sales from the previous year. This was the equivalent of 338 million grams of cannabis, a 23% increase from the prior year.

Ontario added 80 new licensed cannabis stores in this time period. The province authorized 276 new stores, a decrease from 497 added in 2022. Another 142 closed in 2023, up from 114 in 2022.

The new report from the OCS is the first of its kind from the agency since Q4 2022. The agency plans to update and publish its By the Numbers data report twice per year. 

“As the largest wholesale distributor of legal cannabis in the world, the OCS is proud to deliver comprehensive data aimed at informing Ontarians and supporting industry partners as we enable Canada’s largest and most vibrant cannabis marketplace,” said David Lobo, President and CEO of OCS.

Total cannabis sales in 2023 through authorized cannabis stores in Ontario were $1,941,213,130. The OCS shipped 94,507,896 units to some 1,700 privately owned stores from its distribution centre in Guelph, a 26% increase from 2022.

The average wholesale price of dried cannabis flower was $4.05 a gram, not including HST. As of December 31, 2023, there were 3,983 total active product SKUs listed by the OCS.

Dried flower and pre-rolls were the bulk of these SKUs (28% and 21%), followed by concentrates (infused pre-rolls, distillate, dabs, hash, etc) at 15%, vapes at 14%, edibles at 10%, extracts (ingestible oils, tablets) at 5%, beverages at 5%, and topicals at 2%.

The wholesale price of all cannabis flower, including pre-rolls, dropped compared to 2022, except for 7 gram SKUs, which increased by just 3%.

About one-fifth (20%) of Ontarians say they consume cannabis on a regular basis, with 27% indicating they consume occasionally. More than half (54%) report purchasing cannabis only from legal sources, while 39% report purchasing from legal and illegal sources. Just 7% say they only buy from illegal sources.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Ontarians say legalizing cannabis has been good for Canada.

There were nine product recalls for cannabis in Ontario in 2023, compared to six in 2022 and 10 in 2021.


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Organigram recalls small batch of its Big Bag o Buds for having too much THC

Organigram has recalled one lot of its dried cannabis sold in Ontario due to a labelling error. 

The products, Big Bag o Buds CombOz GMO Cookies + Ultra Sour dried cannabis, were recalled due to the label showing a lower total THC level than was present in the cannabis.

The 28 gram SKUs (two 14 gram units) were labelled as having total THC of 209 mg/g (20.9%), while the actual total was 271 mg/g (27.1%).

There were 138 units of recalled products sold from April 28, 2024 to May 9, 2024, lot number 11304240425.

Health Canada reminds consumers that they can contact the store where they purchased the cannabis if they wish to return it. 

Any health or safety complaints related to the use of this cannabis product or any other cannabis product can be made by filling out Health Canada’s online complaint form. Labelling errors are the most common reason for cannabis product recalls in Canada, and the process can be costly for producers. There have been five recalls listed by Health Canada for cannabis products so far in 2024.

Group launches suit against SQDC for forcing consumers to make “blind purchases”

A group of legal advisors and cannabis consultants is launching a class action suit against the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC), alleging the provincial cannabis agency does not comply with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). 

The organization, Groupe SGF, is bringing the class action to court on behalf of the plaintiff, Gabriel Bélanger. Bélanger argues that the SQDC forces people to make “blind purchases” of cannabis products listed on their website.

“All cannabis products which are sold online and which have the mention “strain rotating” in their description sheet do not comply with the CPA since it provides that consumers must have access to a description which includes the characteristics and technical specifications,” says a press release from Groupe SGF. “By not allowing consumers to know what variety is in the product when ordering, the SQDC forces consumers to make blind purchases.”

Groupe SGF says their goal with this collective action is justice for cannabis consumers. The class action includes anyone who has purchased cannabis in the “dried flower” and “pre-rolled” categories for which the strain displayed on the SQDC website has been “strain rotating” since October 17, 2018.

“The SQDC, a state-owned company, appears to be violating its own Consumer Protection Act, and it seems abnormal to us that cannabis consumers in Quebec are forced to make blind purchases when they buy cannabis on the only legal cannabis sales site in the province,” said Maxime Guérin, a lawyer with Groupe SGF.

Groupe SGF is a Quebec law firm specializing in the cannabis industry. 

Bélanger and Guérin are involved in another cannabis-industry-related class action suit filed in 2023 alleging that several Canadian banks have engaged in financial discrimination against legal cannabis businesses. 

SQDC Public Affairs and Corporate Communications officer Vanessa Roland Director confirmed with StratCann that it has received the motion to exercise a class action related to products whose strain “rotates”, and says it contends to contest the application.

“The SQDC will take the time necessary to properly analyze the matter. However, at first sight, the company disagrees with the applicant’s claims and intends to contest the application. 

“The SQDC does indeed sell rotating-strain products. The company clearly mentions this special feature on the information sheets for the products concerned and, more importantly, does not require anyone to choose these products. Customers in search of a specific strain enjoy access to a broad range of single-strain products. 

“In addition, dropping rotating-strain products would limit consumers’ ability to choose. Several rotating-strain products are among the most affordable for customers. Removing them would run counter to the interests of consumers seeking these products. It should also be borne in mind that that if the SQDC is to fulfill its mission of migrating customers from the illegal market while maintaining a focus on health protection, the company needs to meet its customers’ varied needs. 

“Furthermore, removing these products would be detrimental to the SQDC’s small producers, particularly the Québec-based and artisanal ones, whose rotating-strain products provide a way to make themselves known and sell their production despite having smaller harvests. 

“We also note that similar approaches exist in other business contexts. Take, for example, spontaneous chef’s menus in high-end restaurants or cook’s choice meals at rotisseries, where the main is either a breast or a leg as determined by the cook. Customers without a preference can save money while helping the rotisserie prevent waste. Consequently, the SQDD defends the relevance of its offer of rotating-strain products and hopes they will remain an option for its customers.”

Note: This article has been edited to add comments from SQDC.


OCS to allow farmgate stores to sell exclusive products

The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) has plans to soon allow cannabis farmgate stores to sell cannabis products that are exclusive to their location.

In an announcement posted on Thursday, May 9, the OCS says the rule change will occur in late spring, creating new opportunities for cannabis farmgate locations. 

Ontario’s cannabis farmgate program issued its first licenses in April 2021, and since then has issued nine such licences across the province, with five in operation.

These new changes, says the OCS, will add value to its farmgate framework and “will help to create engaging destinations for consumers that elevate legal products above illegal alternatives.”

The OCS also plans to engage cannabis producers and retailers about the opportunities presented by this operating model and assess its impact.

One company that helped consult with the OCS on this new program, Sensi Brands, is excited by the opportunity to expand its unique offerings. Station House Cannabis is the retail location attached to Sensi Brands, a licensed cultivator and processor in St. Thomas, Ontario, who received their farmgate licence from the province in 2021.

Sensi Brands’ Founder & CEO Tony Giorgi says the new change will allow them to test out new cultivars and products through their farmgate store before launching them to a wider market, as well as providing a unique opportunity for their farmgate customers. 

“For us, we think it’s a huge win and another key step forward in favour of Ontario producers for those who have the ability to offer farmgate. This is a win for Ontario LPs. 

“It’s great to have this process to be able to innovate new products and introduce them into the marketplace very quickly before going through national commercialization.”

Giorgi says Sensi Brands now employs around 120 people, and the farmgate location has helped build their brand within the local community of St. Thomas.

“There’s a lot of value to the farmgate store as we’ve learned after running it now for three years. The ability to continue to educate and work within the community is really important.”

Ontario’s farmgate rules allow licensed cannabis producers to apply to operate an Authorized Retail Store at their production facility. These Farmgate Stores are licensed and regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (“AGCO”) like any other retail cannabis store.

One key difference, however, is that these producers can sell products directly from their farms rather than first sending them through the OCS distribution centre. 

There are five cannabis farmgate stores open in Ontario: Thrive Cannabis, Kingston Cannabis, Level Up, Royal Cannabis Supply Company, and Station House Cannabis Co. There are four other locations that have received a Retail Store Authorization (RSA), but have not opened.

British Columbia and New Brunswick have also implemented their own farmgate programs. New Brunswick now has six such stores, while BC has only one currently.


Featured image of Station House Cannabis’ farmgate store in St. Thomas, ON.

Manitoba businesses caught off guard by province’s recent “pause” on “controlled access” retail cannabis licences

Two Manitoba businesses say they were caught off guard by a recent change to the province’s cannabis store licensing program, impacting their business plans. 

In April, the Manitoba government said it was placing a temporary freeze on any new “controlled access” retail cannabis licences for at least six months while the new provincial government looked into the issue more. These licences for retail cannabis stores allow for cannabis to be sold in convenience stores and gas stations that carry other non-cannabis products.

The province currently lists 205 cannabis stores licensed. Eleven of these stores are “controlled access” stores. 

Edwardo Famakin, a spokesperson for Manitoba cannabis producer, WOWKPOW, says he and his partners were “blindsided” by the announcement as they were in the final stages of receiving approval for an agreement with Manitoba retail/gas station Domo to supply the chain with their locally-produced cannabis products. 

Famakin tells StratCann that WOWKPOW and Domo had been in talks with the provincial government about their plans to supply five gas stations in the Winnipeg area with cannabis products, and had expected some of the first licences to be issued in May of this year. 

Instead, he said he learned of the news that the province was pausing the program in media reports, rather than from the government—something that has left him and his colleagues confused. 

He says WOWKPOW signed an agreement in June 2023 with Domo to supply several of their locations with cannabis, an ongoing discussion he says Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL) and the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) were aware of.

“We all had a big meeting about how we were going to do this,” explains a frustrated Famakin. “Then over the next 11 months we all worked together to get everything ready. So seeing this in the news instead of them informing us, it was gut wrenching. It threw us off.”

Now, he says the company is already having to lay off employees they had hired in expectation of this new agreement. 

“The directive I’ve provided to MBLL, through the board chair, is to put a pause on licences for controlled access in urban areas and cities. We do have concerns about the availability of cannabis for young people and we want to make sure that we’re making socially responsible choices. Widespread availability of cannabis outside of an age restricted area is a concern, and we want to make sure we’re balancing availability and social responsibility.”

Glen Simard, the Minister responsible for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation (MBLL)

In a prepared statement sent to StratCann, Douglas and Kate Everett, the chairman and president of Domo Corporation Ltd., said the company was disappointed to hear of the pause on the issuing of licences for Controlled Access Cannabis Stores, a change they blame on lobbying from Manitoba’s Retail Cannabis Council, an organization representing some cannabis stores in the province.

“After a year-long extremely detailed application process, Domo was in the final stages of obtaining Controlled Access Retailer Licences for our five stores when [the] Government derailed the process. We feel it is particularly unfortunate that the Manitoba Government is favouring large out of province chain retailers instead of local Manitoba-based cultivators, distributors, and retailers.”

Some cannabis retailers in the province have in the past expressed concern about such licences. Melanie Bekevich, owner of Mistik Cannabis in Winnipeg and a member of the Retail Cannabis Council of Manitoba (RCCMB), told StratCann earlier this year that the organization had met with the Manitoba government to express their concerns with how these licences are being issued. 

“In their review process they should have consulted their regulatory bodies to see the impact of their decisions for stakeholders who had been working with them the entire time. For existing applications already in the system, to just end it without any type of communication or forewarning, is striking.

Edwardo Famakin, WOWKPOW Cannabis

“The RCCMB is pleased that the Minister has been responsive to the industry’s calls for a review on the controlled access licence category,” said Bekevich. “This category was intended to provide access to legal cannabis for rural and remote communities, but we’re seeing most of these licences in Winnipeg and Brandon. A review of the category could ensure controlled access licensing is being used in the spirit of its original intent. The Minister will need to find a balance between limiting exposure of minors to cannabis sales and access for rural remote communities.”

Steven Stairs, the chairperson of the Cannabis Business Association of Manitoba, questions the pause, arguing that Manitoba needs moore access to legal cannabis, not less.

“Why put a moratorium on the Controlled Access licenses? If anything, we need more of these in urban areas to combat the black market. Recent police reports have shown that the black market cannabis industry is selling cannabis through small corner stores and bodegas. Pausing the ability for these types of stores to become legal licensed stores only enables the black market to continue selling out of these locations across the city without obstruction.”

Famakin, at WOWKPOW, says one of his frustrations is that the new provincial government, which replaced the previous government in an election in 2023, had not contacted stakeholders like WOWKPOW or Domo to let them know about the changes in advance. 

“In their review process they should have consulted their regulatory bodies to see the impact of their decisions for stakeholders who had been working with them the entire time. For existing applications already in the system, to just end it without any type of communication or forewarning, is striking. I don’t think there’s just cause for the pause. Manitoba producers need more places to sell Manitoba products.”

Glen Simard, Manitoba Minister of Sport, Culture, Heritage and Tourism, as well as the Minister responsible for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation (MBLL), told StratCann the “pause” on such licences was in urban areas and was based on concerns with young people being able to potentially access cannabis in less-than-secure retail settings.

“We know that when legalization took place, that this was a new and emerging market. As with liquor and lotteries, our focus is on ensuring social responsibility,” Simard tells StratCann. “We want to make sure that people are accessing cannabis in a safe and reliable manner.  What we see now is that consumers don’t struggle to access cannabis. With over 200 stores in Manitoba, people in urban areas have access to cannabis.  

“The directive I’ve provided to MBLL, through the board chair, is to put a pause on licences for controlled access in urban areas and cities. We do have concerns about the availability of cannabis for young people and we want to make sure that we’re making socially responsible choices. Widespread availability of cannabis outside of an age restricted area is a concern, and we want to make sure we’re balancing availability and social responsibility.”

“I’ll be frank,” he added, “we’re not hearing an overwhelming desire from Manitobans to see cannabis available in convenience stores. That’s why we’re taking the time to do a review and get this right. People would expect this on the liquor side, where we’ve always considered market viability when looking at liquor retail licences.”

Simard also says the new provincial government has no plans of changing Manitoba’s private retail cannabis model into a publicly-owned retail model, despite some claims from the opposition. 

“One important side note: We’re not looking to bring cannabis sales under public ownership and are committed to working with our existing retail partners to ensure a continued focus on social responsibility.”

Featured image via Google Maps

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Salt Spring too small for two cannabis stores, proposed location inappropriate, say residents, council

A BC court has ruled that a community’s rejection of a retail cannabis licence was not unreasonable following an appeal by the retail applicant. 

The appeal was before the Supreme Court of BC in relation to a 2022 application for a cannabis store to operate with a provincial licence in the Village of Ganges on Salt Spring Island.

In a town hall meeting on June 22, 2023, the applicant, Canna Northwest Enterprises Inc., had their application denied by the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee (LTC) based on its location’s proximity to schools, a public library, and a public park.

The applicant appealed the decision, seeking a judicial review with the court, arguing the decision was unreasonable and was based on protecting another previously approved cannabis store. 

Several attendees at the town hall meeting expressed concern with both the location of the proposed store and concern that the small community did not need more than one cannabis store. Another store, The Harvest Moon, had been approved by the LTC in April 2020 and is located about one kilometre from the new applicant. Employees of The Harvest Moon spoke out against the new application in the town hall alongside other community members.

In 2021, Salt Spring Island’s population was listed as about 12,000.

The Licensed Retail Cannabis Council of BC (LRCCBC) also provided a submission to the LTC, which, while not taking a specific position on the application, referred to factors such as the inability of regulated retailers to differentiate themselves through pricing or marketing; the problem of excess concentration of retail operations in given locations; and “exceptionally low” profit margins.

The location of the proposed store was previously home to an unlicensed cannabis store: in 2019, Leaf Compassion Cannabis applied for a licence. At the time, there was no opposition to the location by the community, with the local Advisory Planning Commission recommending that the LTC support the application. 

However, once the supported application was forwarded to the provincial government for approval, the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) did not approve the licence. Leaf Compassion’s website now redirects to an unregulated online cannabis store called Barely Legal.

Applications for retail cannabis licences in BC must be approved by both the province and the municipality. 

Arguing for the licence, the applicant’s principal, Mr. Chouinard, submitted a petition to the LTC in support of the application with 90 signatures. Chouinard argued that he was not made aware of concerns regarding location prior to the town hall meeting, was not given notice that the application would be discussed during the town hall, and was not given a meaningful opportunity during the meeting to address the issue of location.

The ruling Justice in the appeal countered these points, noting that concerns with the location had been communicated to the applicant, and that he had had the opportunity to attend any town halls where his application was discussed. 

In his final ruling, Justice A. Saunders ruled that the council’s denial of the application was not unreasonable, and the petitioner was not deprived of procedural fairness.


Featured image via Google Maps

OCS published its Social Impact Report

The Ontario Cannabis Store’s (OCS) Social Responsibility Strategy has distributed and invested over three-quarters of a million dollars and provided more than two dozen equity and access grants in its first three years of operation. 

The results of the program were shared in the OCS’ new Social Impact Report, published on April 26, to highlight the progress of the program since its launch in 2021. The agency’s first multi-year Social Responsibility Strategy is scheduled to run from 2021-2024. 

In April 2023, the OCS also launched its Social Impact Fund, which is dedicated to funding community projects and research initiatives that resonate with one of OCS’s three key pillars of social responsibility. Those pillars are

  • Sustainability: Establishing a Foundation for Sustainability.
  • Inclusion: Supporting a Diverse & Inclusive Industry.
  • Knowledge: Advancing Cannabis Knowledge & Promoting Responsible Consumption.

The OCS also launched its “Good All Around” social impact platform in 2023, with a goal of connecting Ontarians to the benefits and contributions of the legal cannabis framework.

Through these programs, the OCS has distributed $500,000 in funds to six organizations through the Social Impact Fund, $319,000 towards supporting Black-led initiatives, and $60 million back into the marketplace through OCS’s new fixed markup pricing structure and margin reduction.

The provincial agency also distributed 18 grants worth $56,500 to enhance the presence and participation of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour-owned cannabis businesses at industry events, mitigating cost and other participation barriers. It also provided another eight grants to increase industry event presence and participation of small Ontario-based cannabis businesses totalling $14,800. 

In addition, it provided an 8% wholesale rate adjustment on all cannabis products sold to authorized cannabis stores operating on First Nation reserves, and estimates it saved the industry around $10 million due to OCS’s insurance policy revision in 2022 to allow for easier access to the marketplace.

The OCS also provided 31 CannSell training vouchers prioritizing individuals who identify with equity-deserving and 2SLGBTQ+ groups. CannSell is a training program approved for legally authorized cannabis retailers in Ontario.

“The OCS has a mission to enable Canada’s largest and most vibrant cannabis marketplace through great customer experiences – including promoting safe access to legal cannabis, educating on responsible consumption, and fostering a legal industry that reflects the population it serves,” says OCS president and CEO David Lobo.

“The Social Impact Report isn’t just a reflection of what we have achieved; it is a testament to our entire team’s commitment to environmental sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and improving cannabis literacy through education.”

The report also notes that the OCS has partnered with Climate Smart and initiated a Life Cycle Assessment. Climate Smart training focuses on how to understand, measure, and reduce emissions. According to the report, a Life Cycle Assessment is a scientific methodology used to analyze the environmental impacts associated with all the life cycle stages of a product.

The OCS’ Life Cycle Assessment is based on a standard unit of 3.5 grams of dried cannabis, looking at the overall carbon footprint from seed to sale. 

In 2024, OCS is developing its next Social Responsibility Strategy (2025–28).

The full report can be read here


Manitoba to pause issuing controlled access retail cannabis licences 

The Manitoba government says it will be placing a temporary freeze on any new licences that allow convenience stores to sell cannabis.

Following the tabling of legislation that proposes to repeal the province’s ban on growing cannabis at home, Glen Simard, the Minister responsible for the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation, told media that the province will be pausing the issuance of new licences for “controlled access” cannabis stores in the province for at least six months.

A representative for Simard’s office confirms that the government is seeking to pause the issuance of new licences while it studies the issue further. 

Such controlled access licences for retail cannabis stores allow for cannabis to be sold in convenience stores and gas stations that carry other non-cannabis products. According to provincial rules, businesses holding a controlled-access licence may allow young persons to enter the store, but cannabis must not be visible or accessible.

The province currently lists 205 cannabis stores licensed in the province, with 122 of them in Winnipeg. Eleven of these stores are “controlled access” stores. 

Some cannabis retailers in the province have in the past expressed concern about such licences. Melanie Bekevich, the owner of Mistik Cannabis in Winnipeg, and a member of the Retail Cannabis Council of Manitoba (RCCMB), tells StratCann the organization had met with the Manitoba government to express their concerns with how these licences are being issued. 

“The RCCMB is pleased that the Minister has been responsive to the industry’s calls for a review on the controlled access licence category,” says Bekevich. “This category was intended to provide access to legal cannabis for rural and remote communities, but we’re seeing most of these licences in Winnipeg and Brandon. A review of the category could ensure controlled access licensing is being used in the spirit of its original intent. The Minister will need to find a balance between limiting exposure of minors to cannabis sales and access for rural remote communities.”

Raj Grover, the CEO of High Tide Cannabis, which operates three Canna Cabana cannabis stores in the province, says he hopes the review provides better guidelines for these types of licences. 

“We applaud Manitoba’s new NDP government for confirming today that it will place a six-month moratorium on new controlled access cannabis retail licences,” says Grover. “These licences were intended to provide access to legal cannabis in rural communities without an established legal retail cannabis store; however, many of the controlled access licences were granted to convenience and grocery stores within downtown Winnipeg. We hope that the six month review will help establish important guardrails to ensure that these licences are limited to under serviced communities only, as was originally intended.”


Manitoba NDP table bill to repeal ban on growing cannabis at home

In an announcement in the House today, Matt Wiebe, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Manitoba, announced the provincial government would be lifting the province’s ban on people growing cannabis at home.

Bill 34, The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act, was tabled today. It proposed to repeal the province’s ban, allowing Manitobans to grow up to four plants per household, per federal regulations.

The Manitoba NDP, led by leader and now-premier Wab Kinew, formed a majority government in an election in October 2023, defeating the Progressive Conservative government in power since 2016.

“Manitoba will now align with federal legislation on cannabis by allowing people to grow up to four plants per residence,” said Wiebe in a press release. “This amendment is a direct response to Manitoba consumers and was one of our campaign promises. This bill will provide Manitobans the opportunity to grow their own cannabis as long as it is done in a safe and secure way. The regulatory framework will prioritize public safety, with a focus on protecting youth and ensuring cannabis plants are not accessible to young people.”

Then-Premier Brian Pallister said at the time that banning the home cultivation of cannabis would protect children and undermine the illicit market. Quebec and Manitoba were the only provinces to challenge that authority, banning home growing entirely, as did the Territory of Nunavut. 

While Quebec’s rules implement fines for those found growing cannabis, Manitoba’s ban creates criminal penalties and a $2,542 fine for growing non-medical cannabis in a residence in Manitoba

Quebec’s ban on growing cannabis at home was challenged in the courts, making its way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the province’s right to do so. 

In 2023, a Manitoba court also ruled that the province’s ban on growing cannabis at home could stay in place after facing a similar challenge. The organization that challenged the law recently filed another appeal in March 2024. 

The Manitoba law has been challenged in court by resident Jesse Lavoie, who argued the provincial ban was unconstitutional and an overreach of provincial authority.

“We are incredibly pleased with the Manitoba NDP’s decision to bring our laws into alignment with the Cannabis Act and the rest of the country,” Lavoie told StratCann. “It’s been a long journey for TobaGrown to reach this point, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of the Manitoba cannabis community. As soon as these changes become law we will be notifying the Courts that we are dismissing our lawsuit. Thank you, Premier Kinew and Manitoba NDP.”

The Manitoba government is also looking at a temporary freeze on new controlled-access stores cannabis store licences. More info on this change soon.


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Two enforcement actions against BC Cannabis Stores

BC’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) has conducted 20 inspections of its BC Cannabis Stores to ensure they check IDs since the beginning of legalization, compared to 277 in privately run cannabis stores in the province. 

The LCRB regularly inspects privately and publicly run cannabis and liquor stores in the province to ensure compliance with provincial rules, including administrative, public safety, and MAPs (checking IDs) inspections. 

LRCB has conducted 910 such inspections of private cannabis stores in the past 12 months (as of April 19, 2024). Of those, 277 were inspections undertaken as part of the provincial government’s Minors as Agents Program (MAP) to ensure cannabis stores are checking customer IDs, with the majority (263) taking place in the last year. Inspectors work with agents who are minors who then visit the store and attempt to purchase a product. 

If the employee at the store sells any cannabis to the minor, a second inspector enters the store to inform them of the violation and the possible repercussions, which can be a fine of several thousand dollars or temporary store closure. 

The Minors as Agents Program inspections of all cannabis retail stores in the province, both BC Cannabis Stores and private Cannabis Retail Stores (CRS), began in March 2023. Since then, the LRCB has issued at least eight penalties to stores following failed MAP inspections, with two enforcement actions related to MAP inspections at provincially-run BC Cannabis Stores.

Some stores have opted to pay a fine when found out of compliance, while others have opted to temporarily close their doors. A few stores that faced penalties successfully have argued their case in court, with no fines or other penalties applied. Most recently, Evergreen Cannabis in Vancouver successfully argued that the failure to check ID was an employee oversight, avoiding any formal penalty. 

The 263 MAP inspections of private stores represented 54% of all such stores in the province (currently around 470). There are 34 government-run BC Cannabis stores. The LRCB has taken enforcement action against two public stores that failed inspection.

While the results of enforcement action for a MAP visit to a private cannabis store are shared online, such information is not posted for the BC Cannabis Stores that faced similar penalties for failing to check for IDs.

Cory Waldron, the owner of Mood Cannabis, a retail store in Nanaimo and the President of the Licensed Retail Cannabis Council of BC (LRCCBC), told StratCann he doesn’t understand the double standard. While he supports such inspections, he would like to see government-run stores be treated the same as their privately-run counterparts. 

“With regard to the MAPS Program, and cannabis stores getting caught selling to minors, all retailers need to be accountable, whether it’s a BCCS Government store, or an independent retailer. If there were two government stores that were caught selling to minors, why are those two stores not on the publicized list of liquor and cannabis stores that were issued infractions? And what were the results of the hearings? Were they fined $7000, did they shut down their stores for one week, or did they even have a hearing?”

“These are important questions because, as a retailer where the government store is a competitor and also our supplier (through the BCLDB),” he adds, “transparency and a level playing field is important. If government stores are getting special treatment with regards to following regulations and disciplinary processes, this certainly does not reinforce trust between retailers and the BCLDB.”

Jaclynn Pehota, the Executive Director at LRCCBC, adds that such a high level of compliance for private stores is a positive sign and something retailers should be proud of while echoing Waldron’s calls for a level playing field when it comes to enforcement.

Jeff Guignard, the Executive Director at ABLE BC, which represents cannabis and alcohol retailers in the province, says that the rates of inspections of BC Cannabis stores, while lower than private stores, is still a fair approach given there are also fewer BC Cannabis Stores in the province.

“BC’s cannabis industry works very hard to have the right policies, procedures, and training in place to keep cannabis out of the hands of minors,” says Guignard in an email to StratCan.

“It may seem that government cannabis stores are inspected less often than private stores, but it’s fairly equal as a percentage of overall licenses. For example, there are over 10 times more private than government cannabis stores, so you’d expect to see about ten times as many inspections.”

Guignard says ABLE tracks such inspections across several sectors in BC, which is shown below:


Curaleaf Holdings closes on acquisition of Ontario’s Northern Green Canada

US-based cannabis company Curaleaf Holdings Inc., has closed on its acquisition of Northern Green Canada. This Canadian licensed cannabis producer focuses primarily on EU-GMP product certification for the international market.

First Licensed in April 2018, North Green Canada (NGC) is based in Brampton, Ontario and operates a medical cannabis platform, and has sold into recreational markets. The majority of the company’s sales in recent years have been through the export market. 

NGC has supplied high THC, non-irradiated cannabis flower to the German, Australian, Israeli, and New Zealand markets. The acquisition gives Curaleaf more opportunities to advance on the international stage. NGC has supplied Curaleaf’s German Brand Four20 Pharma.

“We are thrilled to welcome NGC formally to the Curaleaf family of global brands,” said Boris Jordan, Founder and Executive Chairman of Curaleaf. “This is an incredibly important deal for our international expansion strategy, as we’ll be able to bolster our supply of high quality EU-GMP certified flower immediately to key European markets as well as enter the fast-growing markets of Australia and New Zealand.”

In its most recent quarterly filing, Curaleaf reported net revenue of $345.3 million and a net loss attributable to Curaleaf Holdings, Inc., excluding discontinued operations, of $57.7 million.

In 2020, NGC put out a press release saying they were the first privately-owned Canadian licensed producer of cannabis to have EU GMP certification and referred to sales in Germany and Israel, as well as pending agreements in the final stages of completion in the U.K., Poland, Denmark, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand. 

Curaleaf is listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the symbol CURA and trades on the OTCQX market under CURLF.

Featured image via Google Maps.


Manitoba NDP could lift home grow ban

The Manitoba government is expected to table legislation as early as the week of April 22 that could lift the province’s ban on residents growing cannabis at home. 

The province originally banned growing cannabis at home in 2018. While Canada’s federal regulations allow people to grow up to four plants per household, courts in Canada have upheld the right of provinces to “limit to zero” the number of plants someone grows at home, which works as an effective ban on the activity. 

The ban does not include those who are authorized to grow cannabis for medical purposes.

Bill 34, The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act, has been expected to be tabled in the House for the last several weeks, but it was delayed due to the release of the provincial budget and other priorities. Rumours have swirled for weeks that the legislation would include language lifting the home grow ban, and City News Manitoba first broke the embargo on this detail on April 19.

The contents of Bill 34 are still not known. 

The Manitoba NDP, led by leader and now-premier Wab Kinew, formed a majority government in an election in October 2023, defeating the Progressive Conservative government that had been in power since 2016. Then-Premier Brian Pallister said at the time that banning home cultivation of cannabis would protect children and undermine the illicit market.

Quebec and Manitoba were the only two provinces to challenge federal authority, banning home growing entirely, as did the Territory of Nunavut. While Quebec’s rules implement fines for those found growing cannabis, Manitoba’s ban creates criminal penalties and a $2,542 fine for growing non-medical cannabis in a residence.

Quebec’s ban on growing cannabis at home was challenged in the courts, making its way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the province’s right to do so. 

In 2023, a Manitoba court also ruled that the province’s ban on growing cannabis at home could stay in place after facing a similar challenge. The organization that challenged the law recently filed another appeal in March 2024. 

That group, TobaGrown, has noted that the Manitoba NDP, including Wab Kinew, had expressed support for lifting the ban previous to forming government, a commitment the group’s founder Jesse Lavoie has been pressuring the party to uphold. 

“Since the NDP was elected in October 2023, we have consistently communicated that our preference would be to see the law changed by the government, not the courts,” said Lavoie earlier this year.

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Cannabis producers take shipping company to court over products seized at US border

Two cannabis producers are taking a shipping company to court, alleging the company attempted to take the cannabis over the US border, resulting in the seizure of 151 kilograms.

BC-based We Grow BC Ltd. and Alberta-based Westleaf Labs, now known as Decibel Cannabis, filed a notice of civil claim in a BC Supreme Court this month for $834,901, arguing that BC-based Seven Elk Shipping’s actions resulted in the seizure of their product by US border officials.

The notice of claim contends that We Grow BC and Westleaf Labs contracted the shipping company in January 2023 to deliver their cannabis within Canada, with specific instructions not to enter the US. 

Then, in May, according to the notice of claim, Seven Elks took possession of several pallets of cannabis in Port Coquitlam, BC, for transport to We Grow in Creston, BC and from Delta, BC, to Westleaf’s facility in Calgary. 

The claim contends that on May 17, the day Seven Elk took possession of the product, the company attempted to cross the border at the Peace Arch crossing in BC, where the cannabis was seized by US authorities. US customs then destroyed the products, or at least refused to return them to any of the companies. 

We Grow BC and Westleaf Labs argue that the value of the product was $834,901, which Seven Elk charged $11,901 to deliver. 

The two cannabis companies allege Seven Elk’s actions constitute a breach of contract, which has damaged their reputations. 

The lawsuit contends that Seven Elks acknowledged in written communications to We Grow and Westleaf its fault in respect of the seizure but has “refused or otherwise failed to compensate We Grow or Westleaf for the losses arising from the seizure.”

We Grow BC and Westleaf Labs formally announced their collaboration in 2019, combining the BC cultivator’s operations and Qwest brand with the Alberta processor retail and distribution network. At the time, the two companies characterized the deal as creating one of the largest craft producers in Canada.

Seven Elk’s website is no longer active. These allegations have not been proven in court. 


More outdoor consumption spaces are opening in BC

Following BC’s announcement earlier this year that certain businesses could open patio space to cannabis consumption, a handful of cannabis stores and other businesses in the province have taken action. 

The Billy Miner Ale House and Cafe in Maple Ridge recently advertised a new outdoor consumption space in partnership with a local cannabis store, Cheeky’s Cannabis. Both businesses are owned, at least in part, by parent company, Springs Group.

“When I first heard about the amendment, I thought this just makes sense. They already have the space, they have these pubs where people are smoking. Why not enhance the smoking patios and become a little more like a lounge, set some games up, make it more appealing to this generation.”

Laura Rowse, Cheeky’s Cannabis

Laura Rowse, the co-owner of Cheeky’s Cannabis, which also has a location in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, says the partnership with the Billy Miner will serve as a sort of pilot project to assess consumer demand and troubleshoot any challenges. She came up with the idea following BC’s announcement in February that locations like pubs and cafes that have patio areas where customers can smoke tobacco can also now allow cannabis consumption.

If it goes well at the first location, Rowse says she hopes to expand to another pub in Maple Ridge, as well as a new location in Mission near a new store they plan to open in the future. The current and proposed locations are all in coordination with the Springs Group, which Rowse says has been very helpful through the process. 

“We’re very grateful to have their support. When I first heard about the amendment, I thought this just makes sense. They already have the space, they have these pubs where people are smoking. Why not enhance the smoking patios and become a little more like a lounge, set some games up, make it more appealing to this generation.”

Rowse says she was inspired by other cannabis consumption spaces she has visited, including in the US, which gave her a vision of a different kind of community consumption space than how many bars are currently set up. One location in Palm Springs, California, the Four Twenty Bank, was particularly eye-opening. 

“To me, that’s my inspiration, is what she’s done there. There’s games, good ventilation, very open and welcoming. I really think this is the future of pubs. People don’t want to just sit around and drink anymore. I think people are interested in having something else to do. And this just makes it more cannabis friendly.”

Seed and Stone, another small cannabis chain with a handful of locations in BC, is currently developing a similar space at a cannabis store it operates in partnership with the Songhees First Nations on Vancouver Island. 

Vikram Sachdeva, the Founder & CEO​ of Seed and Stone, says he is working with the local leadership to develop a space with a food truck and an area where customers can enjoy cannabis.

Sam Jones, the owner of 2% Jazz Coffee, a cafe in Victoria, also began hosting cannabis-themed events in April. 

“It’s a very casual affair,” Jones explained to StratCann earlier this year. “There’s no smoking indoors at all. No buying, nothing like that. It’s just an open cafe where people can go out on the patio and smoke a joint. Then you can come back in and enjoy a coffee and some good conversation.”

Instead, he works with local cannabis companies who help host the event, which can serve as a learning session for those interested.

“We just want to provide a space where the idea of having a joint can be normalized.”

Further north on the island in Cumberland, the owner of cannabis store Trugreen Cannabis is helping to develop a community space on the property next to their store that will feature a cannabis consumption space, which store owner Michael Arneja plans to “soft launch” for April 20.

Marianna Wolff, the owner of Cannabis Cottage, a cannabis store in Penticton, is hosting a grand opening for their own outdoor consumption space in front of their store on April 20.

“This was what we were hoping to do from the beginning,” Wolff told StratCann. “We secured a space with the hope that at some point the government would allow for consumption spaces as well. So right now we’re just jumping over the moon.”

Back in Maple Ridge, Rowse says the ultimate goal is to provide a comfortable place for people to consume cannabis outside of their homes without being pushed into a back parking lot or alley. 

“My goal is for people to be comfortable, and I think this is a chance for a lot of pubs and similar businesses in BC to bring people back after covid.”


Seven arrested following raids of three unlicensed cannabis stores in NB

Officers with the New Brunswick Department of Justice and Safety recently announced that they arrested seven people and seized cannabis-related items and cash following searches at three locations selling cannabis without a licence. 

Officers seized several kilograms of dried cannabis and pre-rolls, along with cannabis products, including gummies, hash, shatter, and cannabis and nicotine vape cartridges. 

The first search warrant was executed on April 5 at Cloud Nine Vape at 10 Germain St. in Saint John, where a 35-year-old man, a 22-year-old man, and a 25-year-old woman, all from Saint John, were arrested and are now facing charges under the federal Cannabis Act. This is the second time in recent months that the 10 Germain St. location has been raided.

All three of those arrested were released from custody and will appear in court at a later date.

Officers say they seized:

  • 1.4 kilograms of dried cannabis
  • 84.8 grams of hashish
  • 212 pre-rolled cannabis joints
  • 25 packs of shatter
  • 15 distillate cartridges
  • 21 vape pens containing THC
  • 26 packages of gummies
  • 73 flavoured nicotine vapes
  • $1,051 in cash

In the second raid, on April 4 at the Queen-E Smoke and Vape Outlet at 540 Pinewood Rd. in Riverview, a 57-year-old Moncton man, a 42-year-old Moncton woman and a 23-year-old Shediac man were arrested and face charges under the federal Cannabis Act.

All three were released from custody and have court appearances scheduled for June 24 in Moncton.

Peace officers seized:

  • 1.83 kilograms of dried cannabis
  • 97 packages of edibles
  • 16 grams of hashish
  • 176 pre-rolled cannabis joints
  • 24 grams of shatter
  • 49 flavoured nicotine vapes
  • $2,132 in cash (including cash in ATM)

A search warrant was also executed on April 4 at another Queen-E Smoke and Vape Outlet in Moncton at 1631 Mountain Rd.

A 55-year-old Maple Hills (Lakeville district) woman was arrested and faces a charge under the federal Cannabis Act.

She was later released and is scheduled to appear in court on June 24.

Peace officers seized:

  • 1.25 kilograms of dried cannabis
  • 184 packages of edibles
  • 11 grams of hashish
  • 295 pre-rolled cannabis joints
  • five grams of shatter
  • 40 flavoured nicotine vapes
  • $3,116 in cash (including cash in ATM)

Legislation was tabled recently in New Brunswick that will allow the province to more aggressively target illegal cannabis stores. The provincial government has introduced amendments to its Cannabis Control Act with the goal of increasing compliance with provincial rules, reducing the sale of illegal cannabis, and preventing young people from consuming the drug.

Once passed, the proposed amendments to the act and its regulation would give inspectors more authority and increase fines for those operating illegal dispensaries and their landlords. They have been introduced as Bill 29, An Act Respecting Cannabis Control Act.

Despite this new bill, the province maintains that it cannot enforce its cannabis rules on businesses operating in First Nations communities and reserves.

In March, peace officers with the New Brunswick Department of Justice and Public Safety arrested two people and seized contraband cannabis and other illegal products from two unlicensed cannabis stores.

The province has recently announced several new licensed cannabis locations, including one on Germain Street in Saint John, with a goal of supplanting these kinds of unlicensed stores.

Featured image via New Brunswick Department of Justice and Public Safety.


Quebecers still vaping cannabis, despite provincial ban

Despite a provincial ban, a quarter of cannabis-using Quebecers report using cannabis vapes, according to new figures from the Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ).

Twenty-five percent of Quebecers who reported consuming cannabis in the past year vaped it. 

The study also shows that most cannabis consumers in Quebec get at least some of their cannabis products from legal sources in the province.

Nearly 73% of people in Quebec aged 15 to 17 who used cannabis in the past year reported vaping it, along with 55% of those aged 18 to 20, 14% of those 21-24, 9% of those 25-34, and 3% of those 35-54. 

Just under 1% of Quebecers aged 55 and older reported using a cannabis vape in the past year. 

Nearly half of Quebecers aged 15-20 who did use a cannabis vape said they did so less than one day per month. About one-quarter of them said they vaped one to three days a month. 

Quebec banned cannabis vape pens in 2019. Since there is no legal source for cannabis vapes in Quebec, residents told ISQ that they sourced their vapes from family and friends, from legal sources in other provinces, from illicit suppliers, and/or online. Newfoundland and Labrador had also previously banned the sale of cannabis vapes but began allowing them in 2022.

Only about 4% of the total population of Quebec has reported vaping cannabis in the past 12 months.

About half (49%) who said they had vaped cannabis in the past year reported that they did not know the amount of THC in the cannabis they primarily vaped. Younger people were more likely to know how much THC was in their vape products.

Some 46% of Quebecers aged 15 and over said they believed vaping cannabis poses a high health risk, 43% said it represents a moderate risk, and about 11% believe the vaping of cannabis carries no risk or that this risk is minimal. 

People over the age of 34 were more likely to see vaping cannabis as harmful than younger Quebecers.

The survey results come from the 2023 Quebec Cannabis Survey (EQC), collected between February and July 2023 from 13,209 people. The first results from the survey were released in October 2023.

The study also shows a slight decrease in Quebecers who reported using cannabis at least once in the past year, from 19% in 2022 to 17% in 2023. 

Most Quebecers who consume cannabis do so by smoking it (81%), while 31% reported using edibles and 23% consuming oral cannabis drops such as cannabis oils. These oils have the same active ingredient as in cannabis edibles.

About three-quarters (71%) of Quebecers over the age of 15 who consumed cannabis in the last year reported getting at least some of their cannabis from legal stores in Quebec (SQDC). 

Thirty-five percent said they got their cannabis from a family member, friend, or acquaintance, and 11% said they purchased cannabis in person from a legal source in another province. Just 6% reported purchasing cannabis from an illegal supplier.

Almost half (47%) of consumers 21 and older said they purchased their cannabis only from the SQDC in the past 12 months, while another 21% said they bought cannabis exclusively from sources other than the SQDC.

Approximately 21% of people who consumed cannabis in the 12 months preceding the survey obtained it via the Internet from a supplier other than an authorized Health Canada producer or the SQDC, which may give rise to possession of illegal cannabis.


Two new Trees locations join BC Budtenders Union

The employees at two new Trees Cannabis locations in BC have recently joined a union representing cannabis industry budtenders. 

Workers at two Trees Cannabis locations in Nanaimo have joined their colleagues at other locations across Vancouver Island by joining United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1518, also known as the BC Budtenders Union. The two new locations make Trees Cannabis British Columbia’s first private unionized cannabis chain.

Workers at the two Trees locations in Victoria first joined the BC Budtenders Union in 2021, following employees at Clarity Cannabis being the first to join in 2020. The second two Trees locations recently joined them in solidarity, according to a press release from the union. 

“We are proud to welcome UFCW 1518’s newest members as they make history by organizing as the province’s first private wall-to-wall unionized cannabis chain.” says UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “These workers are setting a new standard for the cannabis industry, and we anticipate that their achievement will send shockwaves across the cannabis labour landscape, empowering workers across Canada to demand fairness and respect in their own workplaces.”

As of the certification at the Trees locations in Nanaimo, The BC Budtenders Union now represents workers at nine cannabis businesses and 16 locations.

Fifteen of these locations are cannabis stores. It also represents workers at a cannabis production facility in BC,  the first cannabis production facility to successfully unionize in Canada, following a 2020 court ruling that found the company had unfairly penalized workers for trying to unionize

A third Trees location in Victoria joined the union in 2023, but the location is now closed. In 2020, employees at a cannabis store in Vancouver quietly voted to decertify the union a few months after joining, meaning the BC Budtenders Union no longer acts as their bargaining agent. 

In March of this year, a recently opened Canna Cabana location in Vancouver also joined the union, and members at The Original Farm recently approved their latest contract with the union.

In a post on the union’s Facebook page, it says the two-year contract includes a 6.5% wage increase, retroactive pay on all wage increases to November 11, 2023, doubling the Call-in premium to $1.00 per hour, and “timely and fair redistribution of cannabis samples from sales reps.”

BC began allowing producers to provide samples to retailers in 2023.

Trees Cannabis also has five locations in Ontario. In December 2023, Trees announced that it and its subsidiaries would be filing for creditor protection under the CCAA. The group had been seeking additional financing to keep it operating. On December 22, 2023, Trees was granted creditor protection. 

Then, in January, a court-appointed monitor of Trees Corporation began conducting a sale and investment solicitation process for the cannabis company. 


OCS: Decline in high-THC flower following launch of testing program

The OCS says they have seen a decline in the number of high-THC products in its catalogue after launching a testing program earlier this year. 

The Ontario Cannabis Store launched its temporary THC testing program on January 4, 2024. Under the program, the provincial cannabis wholesaler has been selecting high-THC cultivars coming into its warehouse for secondary testing

Any products with secondary testing results inconsistent with the THC levels posted on their label are subject to further scrutiny, including a potential return-to-vendor for re-labelling.

A representative from OCS tells StratCann that several products it carries have also been re-labelled with lower THC ranges since the program began. 

The issue of high THC products, primarily cannabis flower, is contentious in the cannabis industry and not limited to Canada or to the regulated market.

While research often shows that the THC percentage in most cannabis flower is in the high teens to low twenties, increasingly, many cannabis flowers on the market advertise having well over 30 percent, something considered statistically improbable but not impossible.

“The purpose of the OCS’s temporary THC testing program is to gather information and evaluate industry reports of inaccurate THC label claims on legal cannabis products. We look forward to leveraging our findings to further engage government and industry partners in support of testing and sampling standards.”

OCS spokesperson

The goal, says OCS, is to not only check against specific label claims but also to evaluate the larger claims and concerns that many cannabis products, especially cannabis flower products, have highly inflated THC levels on their labels.

“The OCS will not share commercially sensitive information publicly,” said the spokesperson in an email.  “The purpose of the OCS’s temporary THC testing program is to gather information and evaluate industry reports of inaccurate THC label claims on legal cannabis products. We look forward to leveraging our findings to further engage government and industry partners in support of testing and sampling standards.”

The OCS covers the cost of testing, which is done through a third-party lab. Any products within an acceptable range of variance (±15%) will be released for sale. Note: “±15%” refers to the variance from the label claim; it does not refer to actual percentage points. For example, a product labeled at 20% THC could be allowed to fall within about 17-23% THC because 15% of 20% is 3%.

Producers whose product falls outside of that range have five days to dispute any results that find their product’s true THC level is not aligned with what is stated on the label. 

If disputed, the OCS will send it back to the same third-party lab for more testing. If it fails again, the product will be sent back to the producer at their cost. 

Winton also says the OCS has not included product calls for High THC products in its last seven  Assortment Needs Bulletins, which are published four times a year before each product call launch.   

“The OCS is committed to working with government and industry partners to ensure consumers have confidence in legal cannabis products. We thank our network of Licensed Producers for their patience and cooperation as we continue to roll out this new temporary program.”

Concerns around inflated THC numbers have prompted many in the industry, from labs to producers, consumers, and retailers, to call on the federal and even provincial governments to do more to ensure that THC levels reported on labels are accurate. 

In 2023, Rob O’Brien, the CEO and CSO of Supra Research and Development in Kelowna, BC, shared his independent testing results online from 46 different cannabis products he purchased from BC Cannabis Stores.

Last year, Health Canada also announced it was launching a data-gathering program on cannabis markets in Canada that will include sampling and testing of both legal and illegal products currently in the market.

As part of the program, Health Canada’s Regulatory Operations and Enforcement Branch (ROEB) Cannabis Laboratory will randomly purchase cannabis products from authorized retailers in Canada. It will also work with various law enforcement agencies to test samples of illicit cannabis products. 

Health Canada routinely inspects cannabis facilities and conducts secondary testing on cannabis but maintains it does not inspect cannabis labs that provide the results used by these cannabis producers.

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More than five years after legalization, Surrey approves plan to allow cannabis stores

Surrey City Council has now approved a plan to begin allowing up to 12 cannabis stores in the city.

Council approved the city staff’s proposal in a council meeting on April 8 and will begin accepting applications soon.

In 2023, Surrey City Council began exploring the possibility of allowing cannabis stores, directing city staff to develop a plan. In July of that year, council sent a plan back to city staff to be reworked to address some councillors’ concerns. 

A survey then went out to the public about the proposed plan for up to 12 locations in the city, with up to two for each of six distinct communities: Whalley/City Centre, Guildford, Fleetwood, Newton, South Surrey, and Cloverdale.

Although many residents reported in the survey that they supported more than 12 locations, some councillors said starting with 12 was a good way to avoid the flood of new stores some cities have seen.

Stores must be a minimum of 200m from schools, community centres, and other cannabis stores. 

A previous city council had banned cannabis stores from Surrey entirely. Since then, several stores have popped up on the city’s border in neighbouring communities. Residents can also receive deliveries from stores located in other cities. 

With more than 600,000 residents, Surrey is the second largest city in BC, just behind Vancouver. The BC government currently lists 81 stores as approved in Vancouver. Neighbouring city Langley, with a population of about 150,000, has two cannabis stores, while Delta, another neighbouring city, has a population of about 100,000 and has six cannabis stores.

Pitt Meadows, a small city of about 20,000 about an hour away from Surrey, began allowing cannabis stores last summer. One store has already opened and several other applications are now in the queue.

Richmond, BC, located west of Surrey and home to more than 200,000 people, also does not allow any cannabis retailers.

Many cannabis retailers are located along the city border in neighbouring municipalities, including Langley and Vancouver.

Featured image of Queens Cannabis Co location in Delta, on the western border of Surrey.


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Diteba Laboratories Inc. files notice of intent

Mississauga-based cannabis company Diteba Laboratories Inc. filed a notice of intent (NOI) on March 2 under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, listing more than $15 million in liabilities, including nearly $8.2 owed to the CRA.

The company blames its financial hardship on the resistance of provinces and consumers to new and innovative cannabis products and the “stubborn resilience” of the flower, prerolls, and vapes markets, as well as the illicit market. 

All creditors are barred from commencing or continuing any actions against Diteba until the creditors handle the proposal.

Diteba Laboratories Inc. has thirty days from the date of filing the NOI to make a proposal.

The company already underwent a court-approved sale and investment solicitation process (SISP) in 2023, which resulted in the sale of its scientific contract research business. The same was approved in October. Diteba also operates a white-label cannabis processing and distribution business.

The company processes and packages cannabis vape products, milled cannabis flower, pre-rolls (traditional and infused), and whole cannabis flower and sells cannabis under the Common Ground brand.


Surrey, BC, once again considering plan to allow cannabis stores 

The city of Surrey, BC, which has banned cannabis stores since the beginning of legalization, will again be considering a proposal to allow up to 12 cannabis stores in the city.

In 2023, Surrey City Council began exploring the possibility of allowing cannabis stores, directing city staff to develop a plan. In July of that year, council sent a plan back to city staff to be reworked to address some councillors’ concerns. 

A survey then went out to the public about the proposed plan for up to 12 locations in the city, two for each of six distinct communities: Whalley/City Centre, Guildford, Fleetwood, Newton, South Surrey, and Cloverdale.

The survey results are now available, and Surrey City Council could address the report as early as April 8, the next scheduled council meeting. 

Under the proposed plan, city staff would inform retail cannabis applicants of the results of Surrey’s Request for Expression of Interest (RFEOI) selection process. Up to two applications would then advance to city council for consideration of their site-specific rezoning, including a public hearing, before the possibility of a licence being awarded. 

Retail licences also must receive approval from the provincial government. 

More than 4,000 people responded to the survey, with 96% living in Surrey. About 68% of respondents said they supported having 12 or more cannabis stores in the city. The 47% who strongly disagreed with the proposal said they felt setting a limit of 12 stores was too little, while just 38% of those who disagreed said it was too many. 

There were similar results when respondents were asked about the proposed limit of no more than two stores per community in Surrey. 

Those supporting more stores in Surrey didn’t necessarily mean they were cannabis consumers, though. Of those who supported having 12 or more pot shops in Surrey, just over half (52%) said they visit stores in other communities or purchase cannabis online, and 51% said they would buy from a store in Surrey.

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Oh no! “Kool-Aid man” style car crash into cannabis store in Ontario

A cannabis store in Ontario is temporarily closed today after a car crashed through the front of their store.

RC Bud Shop in downtown Harrow had a vehicle ram through the front of their store around 11:15 am on April 4.

Store manager Jenn Kane described the crash as “Kool-Aid man style” to the CBC, who were first to report on the story. A photographer on the app still known as Twitter, Tony Smyth, captured images and video of the crash shortly after it occurred. A video shows the vehicle almost completely inside the store, nearly taking out the front counter. 

CBC is also reporting that while there were people inside the store at the time, there were apparently no injuries. Harrow is located in the southwestern tip of Ontario, about 45 minutes from Detroit. 

There were no signs of impairment, no criminal charges are pending, and no injuries were reported, according to OPP. 

A similar event occurred on January 4 when a drunk driver crashed into a cannabis store in Cardinal, ON, about an hour’s drive south of Ottawa. The 67-year-old driver received a three-day licence suspension after a roadside breath test found him to have a quantity of alcohol in his system.

Featured image via X

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Heritage Cannabis seeks creditor protection

Heritage Cannabis Holdings Corp. and its subsidiaries have sought and obtained an order for creditor protection from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice pursuant to the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

The company behind a handful of cannabis brands like RAD, Purefarma, Premium 5, Pura Vida, Dank Drops, and others says the decision to commence CCAA proceedings was a difficult one, made after careful consideration of the company’s financial position, while evaluating all available alternatives and engaging in significant consultation with legal and financial advisers. 

The decision was also informed by Heritage’s senior secured lender, BJK Holdings Ltd., with an April 1 demand for payment in full of certain indebtedness owing by the Heritage group to the lender in the amount of $8.4 million.

Heritage announced in October 2023 that it had entered into binding agreements to sell its real estate properties in Ontario and British Columbia (the former Cannacure and Voyage Cannabis locations) to BJK Developments Ltd. for a net purchase price of $9.7 million and lease the Ontario and BC Property back from the Purchaser.

The purchase price was to be used to offset the amount Heritage owed BJK Holdings, reducing the Company’s remaining term debt by approximately 64% to just under $5.3 million. Heritage last updated the terms of its $7 million loan from BJK in October 2021, increasing it to $7.175 million, and extending the maturity date from September 29, 2022, to February 1, 2023. 

Under the newest deal, the remaining term financing, as amended within a third amending agreement, has been extended to January 31, 2025, with interest calculated at the Royal Bank of Canada prime lending rate minus 1.75%. In addition, the Company retains its revolving line of credit of up to $5 million with BJK, which has also been extended until January 31, 2025.

The initial order for creditor protection for Heritage includes, among other things, a stay of proceedings in favour of the company and its Canadian subsidiaries; and the appointment of KPMG Inc. as monitor of the company. The initial order also extends the stay of proceedings to certain US affiliates of the company which are not applicants in the CCAA proceedings.

The board of directors of Heritage will remain in place, and management will remain responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations under the monitor’s general oversight.

Heritage Cannabis also says it plans to seek approval of a sale and investment solicitation process. If approved, this would allow interested parties to participate in the process in accordance with the Sale and Investment Solicitation Process (SISP) procedures. Additional details regarding the SISP will be disclosed in due course.

Heritage says they expect that the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) will place the company under delisting review and that there can be no assurance as to the outcome of such review or the continued qualification for listing on the CSE.

In February 2024, Heritage Cannabis released its Q4 2023 and year-end financial results, with $11,409,434 in gross revenue for the three months ending October 31, 2023, and a comprehensive loss of $14,123,548. Its loss for 2023 was $19,906,411, down from a loss of $23,937,773 in 2022.

“Remaining true to our vision of sustainable growth, Heritage continued to optimize our products in 2023 while maintaining a close focus on production efficiencies, operational spending, and high gross margin sales, all of which were key in achieving growth in gross margin of over 50% for the year and 628% for the quarter compared to last year, showing a very promising trend for the start of this year,” said David Schwede, CEO of Heritage at the time of its year-end financials.

Featured image of Heritage Cannabis West Corporation, Heritage’s British Columbia site.


SNDL agrees to deal for four NOVA-operated Value Buds in BC

SNDL Inc. has agreed to assign its rights to own or operate four Dutch Love stores to Nova Cannabis Inc.

The move will give Nova a footprint in BC’s retail cannabis space. Nova currently owns and/or operates 96 locations across Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, primarily under its “Value Buds” banner.

SNDL is the largest private-sector liquor and cannabis retailer in Canada, with retail cannabis banners like Value Buds, Spiritleaf, and Firesale Cannabis. SNDL is also a licensed cannabis producer and one of the largest vertically integrated cannabis companies in Canada. SNDL also produces a private label product for Value Buds.

In November 2023, SNDL and Nova Cannabis announced their mutual decision to terminate the two companies’ implementation agreement from December 20, 2022, which would have, in part, seen SNDL vending into Nova’s retail network under the Value Buds, Spiritleaf, and Superette banners located in Ontario and Alberta. The pair of companies had previously attributed several delays in the implementation of that agreement to the continued review by one provincial regulator.

“SNDL remains committed to strengthening Nova’s retail position and the sustainability of its capital structure, as underscored by the extension of the credit facility,” said Zach George, CEO of SNDL, in a press release about the most recent announcement. 

“The assignment of four well-located cannabis retail stores to be owned or operated by Nova creates an opportunity for Nova to open its first Value Buds branded locations in British Columbia and highlights the benefit of SNDL’s M&A pipeline.”

As part of the assignment, Nova will issue to SNDL $8.179 million of Nova shares based on the 20-day VWAP of the Nova shares on March 28, 2024, subject to customary closing conditions.

The deal is expected to close by the end of April 2024. Adding the four Dutch Love Stores should bring Nova’s total store count to 100 and SNDL’s direct and indirect cannabis store count across all retail banners to 190. 

SNDL has also extended the maturity date of the $15 million revolving credit facility with Nova for an additional 24 months, to March 31, 2026, and has amended the revolving credit facility to remove SNDL’s right to demand repayment prior to the maturity date, subject to certain conditions.

“The updates announced further solidify SNDL’s continued support of Nova’s growth trajectory,” said Anne Fitzgerald, lead independent director of Nova. “We will continue to collaboratively pursue avenues that support Nova’s expansion and optionality with our partners at SNDL.”

In late 2022, Nova and SNDL had a tentative agreement that would have seen SNDL hand over control of 26 cannabis stores it owned under the Spiritleaf and Superette banners located in Ontario and Alberta. SNDL would also get exclusive access to Nova’s intellectual property, such as sales data, from its Value Buds retail brand.

The two companies have been repeatedly extending the closing of that partnership due to what they say is a review by one provincial regulator. The most recent extension is to November 30, 2023.

SNDL became Nova’s majority shareholder when it acquired Alcanna in 2022, Nova’s largest shareholder at the time. Similarly, High Tide, another sizeable retail cannabis business in Canada with more than 150 Canna Cabana locations across the country, reported sales from its own “Cabanalytics business data and insights platform” increased to $6.5 million in the third fiscal quarter of 2023 from $5.5 million during the same period in 2022.

Nova reported its first year of net revenue in 2023 as part of their most recent annual report. Revenue from Nova’s “proprietary data licensing arrangements” was $12.4 million for 2023, which was an increase of 125% from $5.5 million in 2022.

In its most recent annual report, SNDL reported an operating income loss of $112 million for its cannabis operations and net earnings of $4.9 million for its retail cannabis operations in 2023.

Countering its overall losses on its cannabis operations side, SNDL attributes its record results in revenue, gross profit, and cash flow within its retail cannabis segment in part to its own data program.

Despite these losses, SNDL says it is well positioned in 2024 given its recent acquisition of The Valens Company Inc., the closing of its facility in Olds, Alberta, and the transition of its remaining cultivation activities to Atholville, New Brunswick, and moving its manufacturing and processing activities in Kelowna, British Columbia.

British Columbia currently has a cap that allows a company to operate no more than eight cannabis stores, although the province has been discussing raising that limit

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New Brunswick says it can’t enforce its cannabis laws on First Nations reserves

New Brunswick says it is unable to enforce its provincial cannabis laws on First Nations land, while other provinces take a different stance. 

The new comments come following proposed changes to the province’s Cannabis Act and stand in contrast to statements and actions taken by other provincial governments.

The province’s Public Safety Minister, Kris Austin, reportedly told media recently that there is nothing the province can do to enforce its provincial cannabis rules on businesses operating on First Nations reserves. She instead argues the issue is up to the federal government to enforce. 

You can’t seize property on First Nations reserves … unless you’re talking about a property that would be involved in violent crime.”

Kris Austin, Public Safety Minister, NB

The comments from Austin came following the introduction of new legislation in New Brunswick meant to give officers from the Department of Justice and Public Safety (JPS) more power to deter illicit stores in the province. 

The provincial government recently introduced Bill 29, which will, if passed, create amendments to its Cannabis Control Act with the goal of increasing compliance with provincial rules, reducing the sale of illegal cannabis, and preventing young people from consuming the drug.

As reported by the Telegraph-Journal, Austin said: “you can’t seize property on First Nations reserves … unless you’re talking about a property that would be involved in violent crime.”

“Our understanding is when it comes to cannabis … that we’re not able to do that.”

The Telegraph-Journal went on to report that Austin made similar statements about jurisdiction in 2023, passing the buck to the federal government.

 “(First Nations cannabis stores in New Brunswick are) an issue, no question. Very frustrating,” later adding that “we can only work within provincial legislation” and “it’s up to our federal counterparts to do their part.”

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada redirected media inquiries back to the provincial RCMP, which issued a statement saying the issue is “complex.”

This fiscal year, peace officers in New Brunswick say they have investigated and shut down 23 illegal cannabis dispensaries across the province. Some of those have involved individuals from First Nations communities, like a raid last August of the L’Nuk Lounge in Moncton. That business is operating again as of press time, and its social media shows it has been operating for some time. 

At the time, New Brunswick authorities said a 33-year-old Eel River Bar First Nation man could face charges, and the investigation is ongoing.

A video shared on Facebook in May 2023 shows several store employees and First Nations representatives delivering a letter to the RCMP stating that the store is operating under territorial rights, which they argue does not need a licence from the province. The store is located just a few doors down from an RCMP station.

Former National Assembly of First Nations Chief Del Riley also appears in the video, and he’s been working with many First Nations communities in Canada to make similar arguments for sovereignty for cannabis retailers on First Nations land.

Law enforcement in New Brunswick has raided several unlicensed cannabis stores in recent months, with two arrested in two raids in March, and two more arrested and product seized from an unlicensed dispensary in Saint John in January

A court recently issued a $20,000 fine following a raid in 2022, while charges against two men connected to the company have been withdrawn.

There are 25 Cannabis NB stores in the province, plus a handful of licensed, privately-run cannabis stores.

This didn’t stop the RCMP from reportedly raiding a dispensary called the Medicine Cabinet on the Eel River Bar reserve in New Brunswick on March 26th, 2021. According to Dispensing Freedom, the RCMP left with more than $60,000 worth of cannabis products, four rifles and shotguns used by the family to hunt, Interac machines, cash, and a cash box. Police held the brothers, their father and a worker at the shop for over 10 hours before being released. Charges on the father and son were later dropped. 

This raid, however, was reportedly authorized by Sacha Labillois-Kennedy, a Chief of the Eel River Bar First Nation.

Several First Nations communities and business owners across Canada have argued that federal and provincial cannabis laws do not apply to any First Nations reserve lands or unceded territories. Dozens of stores in Ontario and British Columbia have opened in the last few years.

The issue of jurisdiction around cannabis laws is contentious in Canada as it relates to First Nations and Indigenous authorities. Canada’s Cannabis Act and Regulations provide the authority to regulate the sale of cannabis to provinces and territories. Many provinces, including BC, and the federal government, have said that their own respective cannabis regulations are laws of general application, meaning they apply to all areas in those jurisdictions, including Indigenous land. 

Police in Nova Scotia recently raided a cannabis store operating under what the owners said were sovereign, Indigenous rights in January.

Ontario Provincial Police recently raided three “sovereign” stores operated by members of First Nations communities, and British Columbia’s Community Safety Unit (CSU) conducted several raids of cannabis stores operating in K’ómoks First Nation in February. In both those series of raids, most businesses quickly reopened. 

BC has long taken the position that its own provincial Cannabis Act is a “law of general application” that applies to all of British Columbia, including First Nations’ land. However, the province’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has said in the past that the province is leery of acting on that authority and triggering court challenges that could significantly impact provincial and Indigenous law. 

“With cannabis, like a number of other issues when it comes to First Nations, our view, the province’s view, is that yes, they are laws of general application,’ said the Minister during a question period in 2020. “Just as with some other issues, First Nations have said, ‘No. These are areas of our jurisdiction,’ and that’s both at the provincial level and at the federal level.”

“As the member will no doubt be aware, on numerous occasions, these are often tested in court, sometimes with a decision that, yes, they do come under First Nations jurisdiction, and that has far-reaching effects.

“When you have an issue where there is a dispute over jurisdiction, as a number of First Nations have indicated,” continued Farnworth, “—it is their view that cannabis comes under their jurisdiction—this is a complex and complicated situation. It is something that has not just arisen. It has been around for a while, and we are working with First Nations to be able to deal with that. It’s why one of the ways in which we are encouraging legal production or legal retail is through the use of Section 119 agreements under the Act, which were designed to do just that.”

In 2021, Manitoba suspended a retailer agreement with a cannabis store on Long Plain First Nation’s urban reserve in Winnipeg due to illicit sales in the community from an unlicensed cannabis store. The formerly licensed retailer, Meta Cannabis, was the first First Nations-affiliated retailer licensed in Manitoba in 2018.

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Rubicon Organics shows increased growth in 2023 annual report

BC-based cannabis producer Rubicon Organics Inc. reported an increase in net revenue and a decrease in net profit in its recent year-end results for 2023.

The cannabis cultivator reported $40.1 million net revenue in 2023, a 13% increase from 2022, and gross profit after fair value adjustments of $13.1 million, about a 5% decrease from 2022.

The fourth quarter of 2023 saw $5 million in operating cash flow, the sixth consecutive quarter of operating cash flow positive.

The company also reported a $1 million loss in operations, down from a nearly $2.6 million loss in 2022 and $13.2 million loss in operations in 2021.

After adding IFRS fair value accounting related to cannabis plants and inventory, depreciation and amortization, and share-based compensation expense, the company’s adjusted EBITDA for 2023 was $4.3 million 

“I am pleased to announce that Rubicon has attained its seventh consecutive quarter of positive Adjusted EBITDA and sixth consecutive quarter of positive operating cashflow,” said Janis Risbin, CFO, in a press release. “Despite the challenges faced in the latter half of 2023 due to competitive pricing pressures in the Canadian cannabis sector and broader negative macroeconomic factors affecting Canadian consumers, we are optimistic about the prospects in 2024. With Rubicon’s prominent position as a leading force in the premium cannabis market, I am enthusiastic about the opportunities that lie ahead.”

The company, which sells certified organic products in several provincial markets, launched several new products in 2023, including its first entry into the edibles category, through a co-manufacturing relationship with 1964 Supply Co. live rosin edibles in Ontario, BC, and Alberta. These edibles were Canada’s first single-strain live rosin edibles and are vegan and gluten-free. 

One of Rubicon’s brands, Wildflower, also launched its first edibles in October 2023, which contain the minor cannabinoids CBN, CBG and CBD, as well as full spectrum THC live rosin. It also released topical products like Wildflower Extra Strength Relief Stick and Wildflower 1:1 CBD:THC Relief Stick.

The company also plans to enter the vape market by taking advantage of additional biomass from its contract-grow strategy launched in 2023, which saw its genetics being grown outside its own facility. 

Rubicon reported a 2.1% national market share of flower and pre-rolls, a 21.8% national market share of topical products, and a 15.2% national market share of premium concentrates, based on data from Hifyre.

More information from Rubicon’s March report here.


Nova Cannabis reports first year of net earnings, driven by data licensing program

Cannabis retailer Nova Cannabis Inc. reported its first year of net revenue in 2023, as part of its recently-released annual report. 

The company saw some of its largest increases in revenue from the growth of its “data licensing program.”

The Alberta-based retail chain owns and/or operates 96 locations across Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, primarily under its “Value Buds” and “Firesale Cannabis” banners.

Nova’s net earnings in 2023 were $3 million, compared to a $11.2 million net loss in the previous year. The company reported an adjusted EBITDA of $21.8 million in 2023, compared to $9.2 million in 2022.

The company also reported record revenue of $259.3 million, an increase of $32.9 million or 15%, from $226.4 million in 2022 and record gross profit of $61.6 million, or 24% of sales, a 40% increase from $43.9 million, or 19% of sales, in 2022.

Revenue from Nova’s “proprietary data licensing arrangements” was $12.4 million for 2023, which was an increase of 125% from $5.5 million in 2022.

Cash from operating activities increased significantly in 2023 to $11.7 million, an $11.6 million increase from $100,000 in 2022.

“Nova has achieved significant milestones this year, marked by sequential gross profit growth and positive net earnings for three consecutive quarters,” said Marcie Kiziak, CEO of Nova. “Our success in the current market is a direct result of our sharp focus on inventory management and the strategic enhancement of our proprietary data agreements, which has contributed to our positive cash flow position this past year. 

“Amidst a competitive and fluctuating market, our expansion will continue to be measured, focusing on tactical opportunities in the key markets of British Columbia and Ontario in 2024. Our achievements through 2023 further highlight the success of the Value Buds banner, which has proven adaptable and well-positioned to endure success in Canada’s dynamic cannabis retail sector.”

The company’s annual report also says it is focused on opening new locations in the prairie provinces, as well as BC and Ontario. Ontario recently increased the number of stores one company can operate from 75 to 150, while BC is considering raising its cap of 8 stores per company

BC currently lists three open Value Buds locations, while Ontario lists 34 as authorized to open. “Firesale Cannabis” was launched in 2023 and currently has one location in Alberta. There are 61 Value Buds locations in Alberta.


Toronto wants more money from the province to deal with a growing number of illegal cannabis stores

The head of Toronto’s licensing and standards department says the city needs more money to enforce the law against a growing number of illegal cannabis stores operating there. 

In an interview with City News, Carleton Grant, Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards at City of Toronto, says that while many illicit cannabis shops shut down voluntarily in the first few years of legalization, new illegal stores have been popping up again. 

Grant says there are currently 53 illegal, unlicensed cannabis stores now operating in Toronto and 215 legal ones (The AGCO currently lists 204 stores as being authorized to open in Toronto). 

The comments come following a request by Toronto City Council, asking the Province of Ontario  to undertake a comprehensive review of the provincial Cannabis Control Act, 2017. The motion says a review is “Imperative to ensure the effective regulations and enforcement of cannabis-related matters” in Ontario.

Municipalities need more tools and resources to address these illegal cannabis businesses, continues the motion, including “exploring options to strengthen enforcement measures, increase penalties for non-compliance, and improve collaboration between municipalities and provincial authorities

Because of the criminal nature of activities in these stores, which can include weapons and large quantities of cash, Grant says he is uncomfortable sending in his bylaw officers to address the lack of municipal licenses held by these businesses. 

“What we’d like to see is the temporary funds that the province provided to the city in the first two years of the program are reinstated.”

Carleton Grant, Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards at City of Toronto

“The concern is this is illegal activity, this is criminal activity. When our officers are going into these stores, there’s a presence of guns, large amounts of cash. There are things happening that officers really shouldn’t be involved in. 

“We do go with the police. Police are best suited to deal with this type of illegal and criminal activity, and I think that’s where this is likely to go.”

However, Grant also says that law enforcement has a limited budget and other priorities and needs additional funding from the province to enforce the law. 

“What we’d like to see is the temporary funds that the province provided to the city in the first two years of the program are reinstated,” continued Grant.

“If the city were to receive its appropriate allocation of funding from this particular program, it would assist in enforcement, it would assist in cracking down on illegal storefronts.”

Grant says he’s calling on a review of the provincial Cannabis Act, with an eye on the province providing additional funds to cities like Toronto to address the growing number of illegal cannabis stores. 

In 2018, Ontario set aside $40 million over two years to help cities manage the implementation and oversight of cannabis legalization. The first $30 million was distributed in 2019, with $10 million set aside for unforeseen costs. Ontario also invested $3.26 million to support municipalities through enhanced enforcement against illegal cannabis operations.

This plan, called the Ontario Cannabis Legislation Implementation Fund (O.C.L.I.F.), was to be used for increased enforcement (e.g. police, public health and by-law enforcement, court administration, litigation), increased response to public inquiries (e.g. 311 calls, correspondence), increased paramedic services, increased fire services, and by-law/policy development (e.g. police, public health, workplace safety policy).

Ontario has distributed four payments from this fund, with cities receiving at least $5,000 each payment. Toronto received just over $3 million for its first payment, $3.7 million for its second, and $1.5 million for its third, and just last month received the fourth and final payment of $747,954 for a total of just under $9 million.

The cost of policing and enforcement has been a major part of municipal budgets all across Canada, with a significant portion of cannabis tax revenue and other related funding going to police, enforcement, fire and emergency services as it relates to cannabis legalization. This is in addition to costs associated with developing and maintaining municipal zoning rules and bylaws.

Toronto police asked for an additional $1.5 million from the city in 2021 to address the cost of cannabis-related enforcement in the department.

Toronto Police Services’ (TPS) 2022 operating budget noted that the department had a balance of $3 million in reserve, with an expected $500 million in funds withdrawn that year. It was projected to have just over $1 million in reserve for these funds in 2023 and just over $500,000 in the beginning of 2024.

Those numbers were updated in the 2023 budget to an expected $136,000 after withdrawing nearly $2 million. 

When negotiating for a 75% share of all federal cannabis excise taxes collected, provinces argued that the costs of addressing the new cannabis laws in Canada would largely be borne by themselves, cities, and law enforcement. 

According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), municipal administration and local policing costs linked to the legalization of cannabis will total $3-4.75 million per 500,000 residents.  

As some examples of that spending and activity, public news reports show that Toronto police spent more than $350,000 placing bricks in front of several illegal dispensaries’ locations that refused to close, even following raids and product seizures in the summer of 2019, or about one-third of what they say was their cost for the first year of legalization. 

Neither TPS nor the city of Toronto were immediately available for comment. 

Previous requests for information on this subject from Toronto Police Services resulted in StratCann being told that media would need to file a freedom of information request to get information on how the department has spent the allocated cannabis funds.  


Alberta worker wins appeal to have medical cannabis covered by Worker’s Compensation Board

An Albertan recently won an appeal to have their medical cannabis covered by Workers’ Compensation.

On March 19 of this year, the Appeals Commission for Alberta Workers’ Compensation reversed the 2023 Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) Dispute Resolution and Decision Review Body (DRDRB) decision.

That decision from 2023 ruled that the worker was not entitled to coverage for medical cannabis based on a workplace accident in January 2011 in which the worker injured their ankle after falling on a patch of ice. 

Throughout the claim, the WCB had accepted the worker’s claim for a left ankle fracture and Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), but in March 2015, a case manager denied the authorization of cannabis for medical purposes as it was considered a non-standard medical aid in use for treatment of chronic pain. 

Then, upon further review, the WCB determined in March 2017 that the worker’s use of medical cannabis was, in fact, related to the injuries accepted under this claim. 

“The worker told the panel that the medical cannabis does not take the pain away, but it allows him to function, to relax, and he is able to carry on a conversation with people.”

More than five years later, in September 2022, the WCB informed the worker that any extension of the provision for medical cannabis after September 1, 2022, would be reviewed based on new policy criteria for authorization of medical cannabis.

For ongoing coverage, WCB requires a clinical reassessment to be conducted by the authorizing physician and confirmation of functional improvement every three months. WCB’s policy states that it will continue coverage if there is sufficient evidence that the cannabis is effective, measurable treatment goals are reached and maintained, and there are no adverse effects that outweigh the benefits of the cannabis.

Then, on February 16, 2023, following further reviews by WCB medical consultants, a WCB case manager ruled that the worker did have a designated condition named under the new policy criteria, but that the worker had exceeded the standard for maximum allowable THC content and maximum daily use of three grams a day, with a maximum allowable THC content of 90 milligrams per gram or 9% THC.

Because of this determination, WCB ruled that the worker did not meet all the criteria that would allow the agency to authorize medical cannabis. That ruling was immediately appealed by the worker and upheld just a few days later before it was sent to the Dispute Resolution and Decision Review Body.

In their decision, the review body noted that the worker’s long-time physician had supported his use of cannabis to deal with his chronic pain from this accident, noting that the worker uses different amounts depending on his level of pain. The physician argued that his patient represented an exception to the WCB’s rules of no more than 3 grams a day at no more than 9% THC.

The physician also indicated the worker had not used cannabis prior to his injury and had only tried it after conventional treatment for his pain did not work. He described himself as feeling like a “zombie” before trying medical cannabis, according to the review board’s ruling. 

“The worker told the panel that the medical cannabis does not take the pain away, but it allows him to function, to relax, and he is able to carry on a conversation with people,” states the final ruling. “It has allowed him to have a normal relationship with his wife, family, and friends. He is aware enough of what dose and route he requires to prepare himself for outings and interactions and events such as the hearing.”

The man says he has been using four grams per day for approximately five years without limits on THC or CBD, following the guidance of his doctor. He generally smokes but occasionally vapes dried flower, because edible products are often too expensive. He also uses edibles in the form of gummies, as well as topical gels and patches. Although he uses THC products, the majority of the products he consumes are primarily CBD-rich. 

Following the WCB ruling that said he was consuming more cannabis than necessary, the man also worked with his physician to lower his daily intake of cannabis, which resulted in an inability to eat or sleep due to the pain. 

Following these results, it was his physician who then advised him to go back to his usual dosages and modes of consumption.

In its final ruling, the review panel found that the majority of the evidence supports the worker’s use of medical cannabis under the WCB’s criteria in WCB Policy 04-06, Part II, Application 6, Question 8.


Ontario to add $31 million to budget to deal with increasing number of illegal cannabis stores

Ontario is planning to add $31 million to its budget to address illegal cannabis stores and websites operating in the province. 

As part of Ontario’s Budget 2024, it says it plans to provide the funds over three years to the Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team (PJFCET).

The PJFCET is led by the Ontario Provincial Police’s centralized enforcement unit, which targets illegal cannabis storefronts. This investment, says the province, would enable the PJFCET to “respond to the challenge of illegal online operators and crack down further on the production, sale and distribution of illegal cannabis in the online and offline space.”

Toronto City Council recently passed a motion asking the province to undertake a comprehensive review of the Provincial Cannabis Control Act, 2017. The motion says a review is “imperative to ensure the effective regulations and enforcement of cannabis-related matters” in Ontario.

Municipalities need more tools and resources to address these illegal cannabis businesses, the motion continues, including “exploring options to strengthen enforcement measures, increase penalties for non-compliance, and improve collaboration between municipalities and provincial authorities.

“I think $31 million could be spent in a better way than prohibition enforcement.”

Jennawae Cavion, Calyx + Trichomes

In a recent interview with City News, Carleton Grant, Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards at the City of Toronto, says that while many illicit cannabis shops shuttered voluntarily in the first few years of legalization, new illegal stores have been popping up. 

Grant says there are currently 53 illegal, unlicensed cannabis stores now operating in Toronto and 215 legal ones (The AGCO currently lists 204 stores as being authorized to open in Toronto). 

Enforcement in Ontario has been ongoing. Just this past February, the PJFCET executed nine search warrants at different locations associated with illicit cannabis stores.

Raj Grover, the founder and CEO of High Tide Inc., which operates 58 legal cannabis stores in Ontario, says he is happy to see the province looking to address these types of businesses, especially online stores. 

“I welcome the Ford Government’s decision to take aggressive action against illegal online cannabis dispensaries, who blatantly target kids and sell unsafe products,” says Grover. “Today’s move makes it clear that Ontario is committed to safety and supporting its legal cannabis industry. We look forward to continuing to work with Attorney General Downey and Minister Bethlenfalvy on further legislative and regulatory reform to help bolster Ontario’s regulated cannabis sector as it continues to convert consumers away from a resilient illicit market.” 

Jennawae Cavion, however, founder of Calyx + Trichomes in Kingston and the Executive Director of Norml Canada, says she thinks the money could be better spent on assisting the legal industry instead of on shutting down illegal stores, especially given how easily these stores and websites can open up again. 

“I think that they need to invest in ways to make the cannabis industry more sustainable and more inclusive so that there’s no reason for unregulated suppliers to want to exist,” Cavion tells StratCann. “I think $31 million could be spent in a better way than prohibition enforcement.”

Given the challenges legal store owners face in trying to follow all the rules to stay compliant, she says she understands why many operating in the illicit space are not interested in closing down or transitioning. 

“There’s a lot of hurdles that we still need to jump over, as legal retailers. That $31 million would go a long way to helping instead of going after people who can just open up again the next day.”

The push for more resources to address illicit sales, especially online stores, echoes a similar call for action from the federal government’s expert panel that looked at the federal cannabis legislation. 

The report said, in part, that the federal government should consider creating authorities to force internet service providers to block illicit cannabis websites and to compel financial service operators to provide financial information that helps identify illicit online operators. It also called on law enforcement to “focus its efforts on the activities of organized crime and criminal networks, the diversion of cannabis from sites registered for personal and designated production, the proliferation of retail stores on First Nations reserves operating without provincial, territorial, or community authorization, and illicit online sellers,” and noted that regulatory authorities have a role to play in combating the illicit market, not just law enforcement. 

The provincial budget also shows that Ontario brought in $310 million from its share of provincial excise on cannabis sales, with $344 million expected in 2023-24 and $379 million in 2024-2025. The Ontario Cannabis Store brought in another $234 million in 2022-2023, with $242 expected and $225 million.


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New Brunswick introducing legislative changes to reduce illicit cannabis sales

New Brunswick is changing its provincial rules to more aggressively target illegal cannabis stores.

The provincial government has introduced amendments to its Cannabis Control Act with the goal of increasing compliance with provincial rules, reducing the sale of illegal cannabis, and preventing young people from consuming the drug.

Once passed, the proposed amendments to the act and its regulation would give inspectors more authority and increase fines for those operating illegal dispensaries and their landlords. They have been introduced as Bill 29, An Act Respecting Cannabis Control Act.

“Greater compliance is required to ensure the product is regulated and to keep it out of the hands of youth.”

Health Minister Bruce Fitch

The bill makes some proposed changes to the Act, such as adding new definitions and including language addressing landlords that knowingly allow the illegal sales of cannabis to operate on their property and giving enforcement officers the ability to enter and inspect any place, premises, or vehicle to which the Act applies, or any other place or premises connected to such business.

It also allows inspectors to purchase and inspect any products they come across as part of their investigations and gives greater authority to seize property and conduct inspections.

Inspectors would be given the power to seize items they believe are evidence of an offence under the act and allow those items to be forfeited to the Crown for disposal following a conviction.

“It is an offence to operate an illegal cannabis dispensary, and amendments are needed to strengthen the province’s ability to enforce penalties and investigate,” said Health Minister Bruce Fitch. “Greater compliance is required to ensure the product is regulated and to keep it out of the hands of youth.”

Fitch said the proposed amendments align with legislation in other Canadian jurisdictions.

This fiscal year, peace officers in New Brunswick say they have investigated and shut down 23 illegal cannabis dispensaries across the province.

Law enforcement in New Brunswick has raided several unlicensed cannabis stores in recent months, with two arrested in two raids in March, and two more arrested and product seized from an unlicensed dispensary in Saint John in January

A court recently issued a $20,000 fine following a raid in 2022, while charges against two men connected to the company have been withdrawn.

There are 25 Cannabis NB stores in the province, plus a handful of licensed, privately-run cannabis stores.

Ontario also recently announced funding to address enforcement against illicit cannabis stores better. 


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Sales up, losses down for Auxly in 2023

Auxly Cannabis Group Inc. had record net revenues of $101.1 million in 2023 and a net loss of $44.5 million for the year ended December 31, 2023.

The cannabis producer’s newest annual report also shows a net income of $3.9 million compared to a net loss of $66 million in the previous year.

Cost of sales for the company also declined in 2023 compared to the year prior, and fourth-quarter net revenues were $26.9 million, a $2.2 million increase from the same quarter in the previous year.

The company incurred over $50 million in federal excise in 2023, up from $44 million in 2022.

Hugo Alves, CEO, says that 2023 was a pivotal year for Auxly. 

“Thanks to a tremendous team effort, we achieved our profitability targets despite overall industry and macro-economic headwinds. For the first time in our corporate history, we achieved full year adjusted EBITDA profitability; broke one hundred million dollars in net revenue; and generated positive cash flow from operations. We focused and optimized our business, resulting in meaningful cost savings and industry-leading margins, all done while delivering quality products and meeting the ongoing demands of our consumers.”

Net revenues for the year ended December 31, 2023, were $101.1 million compared to $94.5 million during the same period in 2022, an increase of 7%. 

Revenues for 2023 were primarily from sales of dried flower and pre-rolls (61%, up from 42% in 2022), with the rest coming from sales of oils and Cannabis 2.0 products like vapes. Net revenues also included wholesale bulk flower sales of approximately $15.7 million in 2023.

On December 31, 2023, the Company had total cash and cash equivalents of $15,608,000 negative working capital of $40,984,000 and cash flow provided by operating activities of $8,214,000 for the year ended December 31, 2023. 

The company’s financial report also says that it will have “insufficient cash to fund its operations for the next 12 months if the Company’s sales do not improve or if they decline; if the Company’s margins do not improve, or if they decline and/or if the Company’s selling, general and administrative expenses increase.”


$5,000 fine for Winnipeg woman who gave out cannabis edibles on Halloween

A woman who says she accidentally handed out illegal cannabis edibles on Halloween in 2022 has received a $5,000 fine from a provincial court. 

The ruling, handed down on March 25, 2024, came after charges against her husband were stayed in 2023. 

Sheldon Chochinov and his wife, Tammy Sigurdur, said they gave out THC candies to multiple people, including young people under the age of 18, on October 31, 2022. Sigurdur previously pleaded guilty to charges of supplying cannabis to a young person and possessing cannabis that is not packed, labelled, or stamped. 

Sigurdur told the court that she wasn’t aware she had packed up the illegal edibles because she wasn’t wearing her glasses. She said the edibles, which were packaged to look like Nerds and other branded candy, were her husband’s property. He also said he did not notice that the candy he was handing out was the cannabis-infused edibles. 

The couple say they didn’t realize what they had done until people began posting pictures of the candy on social media. The husband and wife then provided the police with a detailed statement.

Several local media outlets have covered the newest ruling in detail, including CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press

Similar infused Nerds knockoff candies made headlines recently when several young people in Halifax were sent to hospital after consuming the illicit infused candies.


Image via Winnipeg Police

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SNDL reports $112 million loss from cannabis operations and $4.9 million in retail cannabis earnings

Alberta-based SNDL reported an operating income loss of $112 million for its cannabis operations and net earnings of $4.9 million for its retail cannabis operations in 2023.

After calculating restructuring costs and asset impairments, the total adjusted operating loss for its cannabis operations was $52.4 million.

The newest annual report also shows $24.6 million in net earnings from SNDL’s alcohol businesses, for an operating income loss of $162.8 million for 2023. Part of this loss is attributed to restructuring charges of $19.6 million and goodwill impairment of $29 million.

Despite these losses, SNDL says it is well positioned in 2024 given its recent acquisition of The Valens Company Inc., the closing of its facility in Olds, Alberta, and the transition of its remaining cultivation activities to Atholville, New Brunswick, and manufacturing and processing activities in Kelowna, British Columbia.

SNDL’s cannabis operations include the operations of Valens from January 18, 2023, to December 31, 2023.

The company’s cannabis operations segment achieved a record net revenue of $87.1 million in 2023, a 96% increase from $44.4 million in 2022. Net revenue for the fourth quarter of 2023 was $26 million, up 111% from $12.3 million in the same quarter of the previous year. 

Gross margin was negative $20.6 million in 2023, compared to negative $13.3 million in 2022. Gross profit for the fourth quarter of 2023 was negative $1.1 million, compared to negative $9.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2022. This 88% improvement in gross profit during the fourth quarter is largely attributable to the strategic decision to close the facility in Olds.

Countering its overall losses on its cannabis operations side, SNDL attributes its record results in revenue, gross profit, and cash flow within its retail cannabis segment in part to its data program.

With its 63% ownership interest in Nova Cannabis Inc., SNDL is Canada’s largest private-sector cannabis retailer, operating 187 locations under its four retail banners: “Value Buds”, “Spiritleaf”, “Superette”, and “Firesale Cannabis”. 

As of March 21, 2024, SNDL had 85 Spiritleaf locations (21 corporate stores and 64 franchise stores), four Superette locations, two Firesale Cannabis stores, and 96 Value Buds stores.

Nova’s proprietary data licensing program generated revenue of $12.3 million in 2023, compared to $4.2 million in 2022, a 193% increase year-over-year. 

SNDL reported record gross profit from its retail cannabis segment, with $73.7 million in 2023, or 25% of sales, compared to $47.3 million in 2022, or 23% of sales, a 56% increase year-over-year. Gross profit for its retail cannabis segment was $20.0 million, or 27% of sales, in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared to $15.7 million, or 23% of sales, in the fourth quarter of 2022, a 27% increase year-over-year. 


Toronto police arrest man connected to cannabis store robberies

Toronto Police Services say they made an arrest in a series of robberies of four cannabis stores in the city that were conducted over the last six months. 

Between Monday, October 16, 2023, and Monday, January 8, 2024, police responded to four robbery calls in the Dundas Street East and Broadview Avenue area, Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue West area, and St. Clair Avenue West and Jane Street area.

It is alleged that in each incident, the accused entered a store while wearing a mask to disguise his identity, approached the checkout counter posing as a customer, produced a handgun and made a demand for cash, and then took a quantity of cash and cannabis before fleeing the scene

Members of Toronto Police Services’ Hold Up Squad opened an investigation and were able to identify the man, L’Mar Cecil Greene, who was arrested on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, with the assistance of Toronto Police-Intelligence Services and officers from 11 Division Major Crime Unit. Officers executed two Criminal Code Search Warrants in relation to their investigation.

It is further alleged that at the time of the search, officers recovered a handgun, a quantity of narcotics, and other items of evidentiary value related to the investigation.

Greene, 26, of Whitby, was charged with:

  1. Four counts of Robbery With Firearm
  2. Four counts of Disguise With Intent
  3. Four counts of Pointing Firearm
  4. Four counts of Weapons Dangerous
  5. Possession Firearm with Ammunition
  6. Possession Firearm Knowing it’s Possession is Unauthorized
  7. Careless Storage of Firearm
  8. Possession of Schedule I Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking 
  9. Four counts of Fail to Comply With Release Order

He is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday, March 20, 2024, at the Toronto Regional Bail Centre, 2201 Finch Avenue West, room 402, at 10 a.m.

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Ontario Chamber of Commerce calls on province to modernize cannabis sector

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has called on the province to modernize the Ontario cannabis market as part of its 2024 provincial budget submission. 

The Chamber’s annual budget submission makes numerous recommendations as part of Ontario’s budget consultation process on how to strengthen Ontario’s business community, including three key points that relate specifically to the legal cannabis sector. 

The Chamber calls for changing provincial regulations to allow licensed producers and retailers to “have a direct relationship” to pursue lost tax revenue from underground markets by creating tougher penalties for noncompliance, coupled with intensified audits, and calling on the Ontario Cannabis Retail Store to provide quarterly updates on its progress around the 16 recommendations in the Auditor General’s value-for-money audit report released in December 2021.

Those 16 recommendations include a call for a more structured, consistent, and transparent approach to its product listing calls and product listing selections, improving transparency about the product delisting process, improving customer service, and numerous calls for greater oversight of its distribution partner Domain Logistics. 

A cyberattack in 2022 on the parent company of Ontario Cannabis Store’s (OCS’) third-party operated distribution centre, Domain Logistics, briefly crippled the cannabis distribution system in Ontario. 

The Auditor General’s 2023 report revisited those 16 recommendations, noting that 79% had been fulfilled and 13% were in the process of being fulfilled. Only 3% showed little progress, while 5% were no longer relevant.  

The two recommendations that showed little to no progress were a call to explore tools such as Ontario’s Digital Identity Program to strengthen controls over online ordering of cannabis by individuals under the age of 19. The report also says the OCRC has not required Domain Logistics to incorporate more extended data retention requirements into all subcontractor agreements. 

However, the OCRC informed the Auditor General that its Privacy and Freedom of Information team is planning to perform a privacy impact assessment to determine appropriate data retention requirements and plans to implement these recommendations by March 2024.

Featured image of True North Cannabis in Grand Bend, Ontario

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OPP raid 3 “sovereign” cannabis stores in Niagara region

Ontario Provincial Police raided three unlicensed cannabis stores on March 7 in Thorold, Welland, and Fort Erie.

OPP say they seized illicit cannabis and contraband tobacco products with a potential street value of more than $230,000, resulting in the closure of three storefronts. Three were arrested. 

Police say they seized:

  • 91.5 kilograms of dried cannabis
  • 695 pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes
  • 720 grams of cannabis extract
  • 2,065 packages of cannabis edibles
  • 915 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) vape pens
  • two kilograms of hashish
  • 173,800 tobacco cigarettes
  • 420 tobacco cigars
  • $4,700 in cash and cellphones, computers and other electronics.

The three stores were reportedly all branded as “Indige Smoke”, and a representative for one Indige Smoke location who answered the phone confirmed that three of their stores had been raided on March 7. The representative declined to provide their name but said the company is speaking with legal counsel and plans to fight the raids.

A post on Indigie Smoke’s Instagram page says: “In light of recent events that everyone is aware of by now, we will continue to exercise our rights. We appreciate all the kind messages and we appreciate you all!”

The company also notes the Fort Erie Store had just opened on March 1.

While some Indigenous and First Nations activists have argued that they can operate cannabis businesses without provincial or federal oversight, the provincial and federal governments have disagreed.


Manitoba’s LGCA plans to review Province’s cannabis consumption ban

Manitoba’s Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority (LGCA) was planning a review of the province’s ban on consuming cannabis in public this year but has paused the process as it awaits direction from the new NDP government.

A 14-page briefing, first reported by the CBC, said that the provincial cannabis regulator had planned to begin a review of the possibility of cannabis consumption sites in Manitoba, including looking at the current rules that do not allow cannabis to be consumed in public in Manitoba in any form.

“LGCA has committed to a full, in-depth review of cannabis consumption sites, including industry demand, legal permissibility, and potential regulatory implications,” the briefing stated, according to the CBC.

“LGCA plans to revisit its analysis in early 2024, beginning with a review of the legislative and regulatory framework and then moving to stakeholder consultations.”

That plan was reportedly paused as the agency waits for direction from the newly formed government. The Manitoba NDP formed government in October 2023. The province’s cannabis rules were put in place by the previous Progressive Conservative government.

The LGCA also reportedly noted in its briefing that public consultations in 2021 and 2022 “did not indicate either strong support or opposition” for cannabis consumption sites in Manitoba.

Manitoba is one of several provinces that have banned the public use of cannabis. Cannabis consumption is legal in public in BC, Ontario, and some parts of Alberta. Other provinces and territories have also banned it outright. 

BC recently announced changes to its rules, allowing cannabis consumption in certain patio spaces.

This restriction means that the only place to consume cannabis is on private property or in someone’s private residence. As some landlords do not allow cannabis consumption, this ban can mean some residents have little to no ability to actually consume cannabis. 

The ban on cannabis consumption is just one of the province’s rules put in place by the previous conservative government that has been challenged by activists and advocates in the province. 

Manitoba is one of just two provinces that banned residents from growing cannabis at home, along with Quebec. The Manitoba NDP and their leader, now-Premier Wab Kinew, said that they did not support the ban previous to forming the government in last fall’s election.

A court rejected an attempt to appeal the ban in 2023, but a group challenging that ban filed an appeal on March 1 against that decision. Several requests for comment on the party’s stance on home-grow bans were unanswered, but sources close to the file tell StratCann that an announcement may come from the province on the matter of home-grown cannabis in the coming weeks.

More on this story as it unfolds.

Featured Image via Exploring Winnipeg

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Kelowna cannabis store takes one week suspension for failure to ID minor

A cannabis store in Kelowna, BC, will have to close for a week in April after an employee was alleged to have sold cannabis to a minor.

The minor worked for BC’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) as part of the province’s Minors as Agents Program (MAP).

The penalty for such an offence is a minimum $7,000 fine or closing the business for seven days. The store, Prime Cannabis, opted for the seven days, scheduled to begin on April 3, 2024.

The incident occurred during an LCRB inspection on November 30, 2023.  Following standard procedure for such a visit, an adult inspector conducted an in-store risk assessment before giving the 16-year-old minor agent the clearance to enter the store. 

The minor entered the store and purchased a single pack of cannabis-infused gummies, paying cash. The employee working at the time did not check her ID. Upon leaving the store, the minor handed the product to one of the two adult LCRB agents. The other agent re-entered the store to inform the employee that they had just sold cannabis to a minor, an offence under BC’s regulations.

In their defence, the owner of Prime Cannabis, which has two other locations in addition to the Kelowna store, one in West Kelowna and one in Cranbrook, says they have internal policies instructing employees to check IDs. However, the March 6 ruling concluded that the store’s owner had not taken enough steps to ensure employees properly followed such rules. 

One oversight noted in the ruling was a lack of a written checklist that can demonstrate proof of the content of in-store training and the time spent on various topics.

“I note the absence of written documentation: no training checklist, no written quizzes, no printed text messages about ongoing reminders,” states the final ruling. “A written checklist is particularly important when staff in the three stores are being trained by different people. Signing off on a checklist by both the trainer and the trainee can demonstrate what topics were followed and the time spent on each.”

The licensee can apply for a reconsideration of the compliance order within 30 days of receiving a copy of the ruling. 

Prime Cannabis is not the first cannabis store to be caught up in the MAPs program. In February of this year, another cannabis store in Kelowna was issued a $7,000 fine for failing to check the ID of a minor in the BC government’s program. The targeted inspection was in July 2023.

BC is sometimes more lenient in its rulings. In a case heard in 2023, ​​it was found that a cannabis retailer was not responsible when an employee failed to check the ID of a customer. This was because the store demonstrated that it had an extensive training program in place. 

While the employee was fired for their oversight, the retailer, in that instance, did not have to face a $7,000 monetary penalty or shut down for seven days.

“Prime Cannabis takes full ownership over our mistake in not ID’ing and serving a minor,” said Rob Anderson, the owner of Prime Cannabis in an email to StratCann. “We take ID’ing very seriously and have increased our minimum age to ID to 40 years old. We self-audit ourselves regularly through secret shoppers. Ultimately, there is no excuse and we own our mistake.  

“We regret the inconvenience we will cause our customers not being able to provide them with product during the week of closure.  We hope our customers will continue to support us, and we will be offering a 10% discount the entire week of reopening after serving our licence suspension.”


Cannabis sales increased in Nova Scotia to more than $111 million, driven by sales of local products

Nova Scotia sold more than $111 million of cannabis during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023. 

The figures, shared in the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation‘s annual report for 2022-2023, show a 9.3% increase in sales from the previous year and a 7.3% increase in the volume of cannabis sold by weight, for a total of 15.707 kilograms. 

About $33.5 million of those sales were of products from cannabis producers located in Nova Scotia. This represented a 41.8% increase from the previous year. The top three selling local cannabis products in Nova Scotia during 2022-2023 were Breakers Indica Milled (7g), Current Growers Pick Sativa Milled (7g), and Eastcann Animal Z (3.5g).

Local cannabis listings now represent 30.2% of active listings in Nova Scotia, up 6% from the previous year.

In-person cannabis sales were the vast majority of purchases, accounting for $110,296,000 of total sales, with online sales at $787,000, or less than 1%. While in-person sales increased by nearly $10 million in the most recent fiscal year, online sales decreased by $323,000.

The average dollar value of each transaction involving cannabis decreased by 3.1% to $38.40.

Nova Scotia approved 11 new cannabis stores in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, including the first provincially licensed First Nations cannabis store opening on the Eskasoni First Nation. 

The store is managed and run by members of the community and features signage in both English and the Mi’kmaq language. The NSLC says its team worked with the Chief, Council, and the community in the months leading up to the store opening.

The total number of provincially-licensed cannabis stores in the province is currently 48.

The NSLC says it returns 100% of its profits to the Province of Nova Scotia to support key public services. From its total sales for cannabis, alcohol and other products, the crown corporation brought in $860.7 million, returning $284.7 million to provincial revenue, a 6.0% increase in earnings over the previous year.

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Ontario bans home grows in (some) child care settings, allows for agreements with First Nations cannabis stores

Ontario passed legislation this week that, among other things, bans growing cannabis in homes where childcare services are provided and further allows the province to enter into agreements with First Nations communities to support cannabis regulations on reserves.

Bill 157, Enhancing Access to Justice Act, 2024, which passed on March 5 and received Royal Assent on March 6, includes the two amendments to Ontario’s Cannabis Control Act.

The amendment related to childcare specifically prohibits the cultivation, propagation, or harvesting of cannabis in dwellings in which child care, as defined in Ontario’s Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, is provided. 

The rule creates an exception for in-home childcare services, which is defined as child care provided at the child’s home, or place where residential care is provided for the child, and there is an agreement between a home childcare agency and the care provider that provides for the agency’s oversight of the provision of care.

British Columbia has had a similar restriction on home cultivation and consumption in childcare settings since 2018.

The Bill was introduced by the Ontario Conservatives, and while it did receive support from the opposition NDP, at least one member questioned the need for these changes. 

Kristyn Wong-Tam, the NDP critic for the Attorney General, critic for small business, and member of the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, questioned the need for the rule change, calling it a “non-issue,” and admonishing the government for recent policy changes that allow companies to operate up to 150 cannabis stores in the province, an increase from a previous cap of 75. That rule change came into effect in January

“I wonder why the government would make such a hoopla about a non-issue like cannabis in childcare facilities and then move to quietly advance the centralization and the consolidation of big cannabis corporations by giving them much more expansion power,” said Wong-Tam while the bill was being debated in the House.

“I have heard from small cannabis businesses who fear this will hurt them, and I have heard from larger cannabis businesses who believe that the limits on the numbers of cannabis stores that a company can have are too low,” Wong-Tam added in an email to StratCann. “I wish that understanding this decision played a larger role in the debate. When I reached out to cannabis stakeholders, many informed me that I was the first MPP to ever ask them how Ontario’s legislation could be enhanced. I invite cannabis stakeholders to engage their provincial government more regularly at Queen’s Park so we can learn from you about what your businesses need.”

“I invite cannabis stakeholders to engage their provincial government more regularly at Queen’s Park so we can learn from you about what your businesses need.”

Kristyn Wong-Tam, Ontario NDP

The second piece of legislation related to cannabis was a change to the provincial cannabis act, allowing the province to enter into agreements with First Nations communities to support cannabis regulations on reserves.

Any such agreements would require any regulations created by First Nations to adhere to provincial and federal regulations while providing a chance for band councils to oversee their own retail cannabis business in their communities. 

There are currently only seven licensed recreational cannabis retailers on First Nation reserves in Ontario, while many others operate outside of the provincial framework and, at times, outside the framework of the First Nations government within the reserve that they operate in.

During the bill’s second reading, Doug Downy, Ontario’s Attorney General, said the legislation was created in concert with First Nations communities and leadership.

“This comes on the heels of much conversation with First Nations partners and communities,” said Downy, “and the aspirations they have for a safe and regulated market to protect their youth and their communities, just as we seek to do the same in the rest of the province of Ontario.”

Previously, the provincial cannabis regulations authorized the Minister to enter into arrangements and agreements with a council of the band with respect to specific cannabis regulation issues on a reserve. 

Under the newly added language, provincial legislation will authorize the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations to implement the arrangement or agreement. These regulations can then modify or clarify the application of the Act, and establish requirements that apply on a reserve and incorporate rules established by the council of the band.

Featured image: Rama Cannabis, one of the seven provincially-regulated cannabis stores currently operating within First Nations communities in Ontario

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AGLC reports its first cannabis profits

Alberta’s cannabis distribution agency posted its first year of profits for fiscal year 2022-2023, bringing in over $18 million from over $600 million in sales after its operating expenses and costs. 

The cost for the AGLC to bring in $618.9 million in sales from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, was $558.5 million, leaving the agency with $60.4 million in net revenue. Operating expenses for AGLC’s cannabis operations took away another $49.3 million of that, leaving it with a net income of a little over $18 million. 

This is nearly three times as much as the $7 million forecasted in the province’s 2022-2023 budget. The province also brought in $164 million in cannabis tax. 

As a comparison, in the same time period, gaming brought in nearly $1.6 billion for AGLC, while liquor brought in $825.1 million. The AGLC’s operating expenses for its cannabis operations were higher than for alcohol ($37.8 million), despite sales for alcohol being 14 times higher than cannabis. In 2023, AGLC contributed $2.4 billion from gaming, liquor and cannabis operations to the General Revenue Fund, with cannabis accounting for less than 1%.

In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the agency had a loss of almost $4.4 million for its cannabis operations. In 2021, the agency posted a $12 million loss.

Market insight

Unsurprisingly, dried flower sales still dominate the Alberta market, accounting for 33.4% of all sales. When combined with pre-rolls and milled flower, which AGLC lists separately, this is nearly 59% of all sales from dried flower products.  

Vapes represent just over 20% of total sales in dollars, while extracts are almost 12%.

Dried flower sales declining

Despite still controlling the bulk of sales, dried flower (excluding pre-rolls and milled flower) showed its third year of declines, from $237.9 million in fiscal year 2021, $226.5 million in fiscal year 2022, and $206.9 million for the 2023 fiscal year, as of March 31, 2023.

Milled cannabis flower, however, did increase from $15.7 million in 2022 to $23.9 million in 2023. Just $2.6 million was sold in the fiscal year covering 2020-2021. Pre-roll sales increased from $120.8 million in 2022 to $131.8 million in 2023.

Sales in dollars from vapes, extracts, edibles, oil, beverages, capsules and soft gels all increased, while topicals and seeds decreased (as well as non-liquid beverages).

Most cannabis stores per capita

Alberta has the highest number of retail stores per person in Canada, and 27% of licensed cannabis producers are based in Alberta. The number of cannabis stores as of March 31, 2023, was the same as the previous year at 756. The agency currently lists 752 as of March 5, 2024.

Cannabis sales in Alberta were about $130 per capita, compared to about $95 in Ontario in the same time frame. 

Cannabis licensees are the least satisfied with the AGLC out of all its licence types, with approval of 92% for liquor licensees and agencies, 96% of charitable gaming licensees, 95% of gaming retailers and operators, and 84% of cannabis licensees. 

There were 2,085 cannabis products available and 143 contracts with licensed producers of cannabis, including 38 contracts with Alberta-based licensed producers. About 89% of Albertans who purchase cannabis say they are satisfied with the product variety, and 86% of Albertans say they are satisfied with the accessibility to purchase cannabis.

From 2022-2023, the AGLC conducted 4,944 inspections of cannabis licensees, with a 98% compliance rate. This compares to 4,662 inspections of gaming licensees and 20,643 inspections of liquor licensees, both of which had a 99% compliance rate.


Cannabis industry union adds new stores, loses one

Employees at a Vancouver cannabis store that joined the BC Budtenders Union in 2022 quietly voted to decertify the union a few months later. 

Employees at Eggs Canna on East Hastings in downtown Vancouver voted to join the union in early 2022, but changed course shortly after that, says co-owner Oana Cappellano in a recent email.

Eva Prkachin, a representative with the Budtenders Union, UFCW 1815, confirms that the employees at this location agreed to decertify union membership, meaning it no longer acts as their bargaining agent. 

Employees at the Eggs Canna location declined to comment, but Prkachin characterizes the decertification as the result of the union successfully negotiating for changes to different in-store policies. Cappellano shares a different perspective, saying staff opted to leave the union because they were disappointed with the contract the union negotiated, including making promises they could not keep. 

At the time, UFCW 1518 said Eggs Canna was the first cannabis store outside of Vancouver Island to join its ranks. Since then, employees at a Seed and Stone location in Chilliwack joined the Budtenders Union. 

Prkachin says since then, a second Seed and Stone location, this time in Delta, joined the union, and most recently, a third Trees Cannabis location, as well as Fireweed Cannabis in northern BC and Canna Cabana in Vancouver on Davie St. joined. The Canna Cabana location opened in November 2023.

Prkachin tells StratCann that the union is currently seeking to make contract negotiations easier for employees looking to unionize. 

“We’re in the process of lobbying the government right now, in concert with employers, to hopefully pull together some boilerplate language around that kind of stuff so we can get to the meat of bargaining a bit faster. It’s an area where workers have to wait too long for both sides to come to an agreement.”

As of March 5, 2024, UFCW 1518 has organized at eight cannabis retail companies in BC, some with several locations, as well as one cannabis producer. These businesses are:

  • Seed & Stone
  • Clarity Cannabis
  • Trees Cannabis
  • Canna Cabana
  • Yaletown Cannabis
  • Fireweed Cannabis
  • Burnside Buds
  • Original Farm
  • Potanicals (cannabis producer)

Cannabis consumption spaces beginning to open in BC

A cannabis store in Penticton hopes to become one of the first cannabis stores in the province with a designated consumption area. 

Cannabis Cottage, located in downtown Penticton, says it hopes to have its grand opening for the outdoor consumption space on April 20, bringing in food trucks, local artists, and performers.

This was what we were hoping to do from the beginning. We secured a space with the hope that at some point the government would allow for consumption spaces as well. So right now we’re just jumping over the moon.

Marianna Wolff, Cannabis Cottage

The store owner, Marianna Wolff, says she chose the location for her store, on a major thoroughfare in the city’s downtown, because it had a large front yard that could serve as a lounge space for customers. 

Initially, BC’s rules did not allow for such a consumption space, but a rule change announced in February of this year finally made it possible. That rule change made it so that existing patio spaces where smoking and vaping of tobacco products are allowed can now also allow cannabis use. 

It also made it so that cannabis stores, like Cannabis Cottage, can advertise consumption spaces. BC first engaged the public about these proposed changes in 2023 as part of a broader industry outreach initiative.

“We are totally thrilled,” says Wolff. “This was what we were hoping to do from the beginning. We secured a space with the hope that at some point the government would allow for consumption spaces as well. So right now we’re just jumping over the moon.”

She says she has worked with her neighbours, which includes a church, to ensure they are okay with the use of the outdoor space as a lounge. All of them gave their approval. The parish members did ask that no consumption occur during the operating hours of its Sunday School, something Wolff said she was happy to accommodate. 

She says she chose the space specifically because it was not near areas like parks or schools, and would have the approval of its neighbours. 

“The spot itself I feel is very indicative of spaces that can be good candidates for outdoor cannabis consumption without disrupting anybody who doesn’t necessarily want to have to smell it.”

Cannabis Cottage first experimented with bringing in local food trucks during a customer appreciation event last fall.

“It was very successful. It was a great show of how you can have designated space for people to enjoy their cannabis in a similar way that you might go to a brewery and enjoy a beer or go to a winery patio and enjoy a glass of wine.”

The format is similar to one taken by a cannabis retailer in Cumberland, BC, on Vancouver Island. 

Max Oudendag has been assisting Michael Arneja, the owner of Cumberland, BC’s Trugreen Cannabis, on a large outdoor community space that will include a formal cannabis consumption area.

“We’re excited to be in a position to explore how to break down the stigma of cannabis consumption and find a way to integrate that into a healthy community gathering space,” Oudendag told StratCann late last year.

Like the pop-up event Cannabis Cottage held last fall, Trugreen held several pop-ups in 2023 as a test run for their project, which they say they have been working hand-in-hand with the province to develop. 

Arneja says they also plan on launching a grand opening for the first stage of their outdoor consumption space in Cumberland on April 20, as well.

His vision extends beyond the mere creation of a cannabis consumption area, instead seeking to nurture “a stigma-free space where the community can gather and celebrate the cannabis culture with a responsible blend of cannabis use and community building.”

“We’ve been operating these pop-ups to see what the space could look like, and to get feedback from the community on what they want it to look like,” he adds, highlighting the project’s community-driven nature.

Sam Jones, the owner of 2% Jazz Coffee, a cafe in Victoria, says that beginning in April his store will be hosting monthly cannabis-themed events, as well. 

“It’s a very casual affair,” explains Jones. “There’s no smoking indoors at all. No buying, nothing like that. It’s just an open cafe where people can go out on the patio and smoke a joint. Then you can come back in and enjoy a coffee and some good conversation. 

Instead, he works with local cannabis companies who help host the event, which can serve as a learning session for those interested. The coffee shop will also be hosting a cannabis seed exchange on the last Friday in March.

“We just want to provide a space where the idea of having a joint can be normalized.”

-Note: This article was edited to include information on the 2% Jazz Coffee.


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Manitoba group files appeal against cannabis home grow ban

The group challenging Manitoba’s ban on growing cannabis at home filed an appeal today against a recent court decision to uphold the ban.

In a ruling posted in October 2023, a Manitoba judge dismissed an application by a Winnipeg resident who was challenging the legality of Manitoba’s ban on people growing their own cannabis. 

The Manitoba law, which has been in place since 2018, was challenged by resident Jesse Lavoie, who argued the provincial ban was unconstitutional and an overreach of provincial authority. 

The provincial government argued that the ban on growing cannabis at home was within the province’s power in the name of protecting public health and safety. 

Although the ruling was somewhat sympathetic to Lavoie’s lawyer’s arguments, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Shauna McCarthy sided with the arguments made by the Government of Manitoba, saying that the penalties, while strict, were not overly punitive or a violation of the balance between provincial and federal jurisdiction. The province of Manitoba, she ruled, has the right to ban growing cannabis at home, even if federal law allows people to grow up to four plants.  

One of Lavoie’s lawyers in the case, Kirk Tousaw, told StratCann they planned to appeal the ruling. That appeal was filed on March 1, 2024.

The law was put in place by the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, which had been in power since 2016. The Manitoba NDP, which formed government after an election in 2023, had previously said they do not support the ban. Lavoie, who operates the company TobaGrown, which has spearheaded the effort to challenge the ban, says he hopes the province will hold to that commitment. 

“We urge the NDP government to change the law now and to not spend anymore taxpayer dollars defending the PC’s bad law.”

Jesse Lavoie, TobaGrown

“TobaGrown has been at the forefront of advocating for a repeal of the ban on home cannabis gardens since day one,” Lavoie tells StratCann. “We have worked hard in the courts to challenge the constitutionality of the ban while also remaining open to discussions about a political solution. 

“Since the NDP was elected in October 2023, we have consistently communicated that our preference would be to see the law changed by the government, not the courts. We very much hope that the NDP does the right thing for the people of Manitoba and repeals this prohibition.

“But we continue to also believe that the ban is an improper use of the criminal law power by the provincial government and that it is unconstitutional. And that means we remain committed to appealing the trial court’s decision to the Manitoba Court of Appeal. That hearing is expected to be this spring, and we are therefore filing our Appeal Facta to ensure that Manitobans have the same right to grow four plants at home that all Canadians outside Quebec currently enjoy.

“We urge the NDP government to change the law now and to not spend anymore taxpayer dollars defending the PC’s bad law.”

Several requests for comment on the party’s stance on home grow bans were unanswered, but sources close to the file tell StratCann that an announcement may come from the province in the coming weeks. 

The House is scheduled to have its first sitting in 2024 on March 6.

In April of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a similar ban on home-grown cannabis in Quebec, ruling that the province has the authority to enforce such a ban, even in the face of federal rules allowing up to four plants per household. 

Quebec and Manitoba were the only two provinces to challenge that authority, banning home growing entirely, as did the territory of Nunavut. While Quebec’s rules implement fines for those found growing cannabis, Manitoba’s ban creates criminal penalties and a $2,542 fine for growing non-medical cannabis in a residence, as well as up to a year in prison and forfeiture of personal property.

In their conclusion, the judge wrote, in part: “The applicant has failed to meet his onus of proving that section 101.15 is in pith and substance criminal law, rather than an area under provincial jurisdiction. Rather, I have found that the pith in substance, or the dominant purpose, of the prohibition against home cultivation in Manitoba, is to support the provincial government scheme enacted to control and regulate the purchase, distribution, and sale of cannabis in a manner which is consistent with the public interest.”

The province’s cannabis laws, including the ban on growing cannabis at home, were put in place by the previous Conservative government in Manitoba. The Manitoba NDP formed government following an election on October 3. 


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Nextleaf Solutions reports record revenue

Bucking industry trends, BC-based cannabis company Nextleaf Solutions reported their third profitable quarter this week

Nextleaf reported $4.1 million in revenue, paying nearly $1 million in excise taxes while bringing in $132,821 in income. The quarter, ended December 31st, 2023, was the company’s highest gross sales period, generating more than $4.1 million.

This is an increase from the same quarter in 2022 when the company had $1.4 million in revenue and reported $559,013 in losses.

Nextleaf sells cannabis extract products like oils, soft-gels, and vape pens in markets across Canada. It also provides toll-processing services for other producers. The company’s house brands, including its Glacial Gold and High Plains Cannabis brands, only launched into Alberta in August 2023.

The company anticipates launching nine new products nationwide in Q2 2024, including Glacial Gold infused pre-rolls. 

In its recent 2023 financial report, BC-based cannabis processor Nextleaf Solutions Ltd. says it achieved four quarters of consistently positive cash flow in the past fiscal year. 

“I have a personal affinity towards Alberta and its success for us as a Company, having spent over 20 years there,” said Emma Andrews, Interim CEO, in a press release. “This was my first full quarter as interim CEO, so I spent time visiting retailers in Alberta to support our Company’s launch. It was gratifying to see first-hand how the products are gaining immediate traction and how the value proposition is resonating early on with retailers, particularly with our softgel SKUs,” 

As of December 31, 2023, Nextleaf Solutions had working capital of $1,033,496 (up from $780,408 as of September 30, 2023).


Avant Brands brings in $30 million in revenue with a $5 million loss

Kelowna-based Avant Brands Inc. announced its audited financial results for the fiscal year ended November 30, 2023.

The company behind the BLK MKT brand brought in record gross revenue of $30.2 million in the year leading up to November 30, 2023, but still recorded a net loss of almost $5.2 million. Net loss from operations alone was $1.5 million in the same period, compared to $8.5 million in the previous year.

This represents a year-over-year increase in gross revenue compared to 2022 and a decline in net loss of $6.6 million for the year leading up to November 30, 2022.

In the most recent report, net revenue was $26.3 million from the sale of 7,105 kg of cannabis, while the cost of sales was nearly $17.3 million. The company paid $3.8 million in federal excise taxes. 

The increase in net sales is attributed to a $1.4 million sales growth in recreational revenue and a $5 million sales growth in international export/wholesale.

Recreational cannabis sales accounted for 60% of net sales during the year ended November 30, 2023, with export and B2B sales comprising 39% of total revenue. Avant has exported to Israel, Australia, and Europe. Companies exporting to Israel have faced recent pushback from the industry and government there. Avant says it completed “significant” sales to Israel and Australia in the year ending November 2023, and it is preparing to fulfil further orders with existing export clients, as well as being in discussions with new potential clients.

While Avant undertakes some B2B sales, it says its primary focus is on selling flower it produces in-house. It sells an array of its products like BLK MKT, Tenzo, Flowr, Cognōscente, and Treehugger brands into markets across Canada, including BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. It sells products in Alberta through its online medical cannabis portal (www.greentecmedical.ca).

Avant operates six production facilities in BC, Alberta, and Ontario, including four in BC.

The overall weighted average selling price of cannabis sold decreased by 25% to $4.23 per gram. Non-medical cannabis sales averaged $6.31 a gram for the year ended November 30, 2023, compared to $7.18 per gram in the comparative period of the prior year. 

Avant says the decrease in the average selling price is primarily due to price compression in the industry combined with product sales and a $300,000 sales provision.

Like many other cannabis companies, the cost of operations increased for Avant compared to the same period in 2022. Operating expenses increased by $1.8 million, or 26%, over the prior year’s comparative period. Avant says this is due to higher regulatory fees, performance bonuses, and estimated professional and audit fees. 

The cannabis producer says it has a yield-per-plant of 63-99 grams of flower and 10-32 grams of trim. It says the fair value of its cannabis is $3.69 per gram of flower and $0.2 per gram of trim.

Since its inception, the Company has incurred losses and has an accumulated deficit of $65,913 as of November 30, 2023, which has been funded primarily by the issuance of equity, convertible debentures, secured credit facilities, and advances from related parties. 

“There is a material uncertainty related to these conditions that may cast significant doubt on the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern and therefore, it may be unable to realize its assets and discharge its liabilities in the normal course of business,” it reports in its financial statement. “The Company’s ability to continue as a going concern depends upon its ability to generate profitable operations or raise adequate financing in the future.”


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Increased cost of production adds to growing concerns for Greenway

Greenway Greenhouse Cannabis Corporation’s nearly $1.4 million in revenue in the last three months of 2023 still saw the Ontario cannabis producer in the red $1.6 million, according to their most recent quarterly report

This is an improvement from the previous quarter when the company reported a net loss of $576,461. For the first three quarters of 2023, the company reported a comprehensive loss of nearly $3.4 million compared to just over $1 million for the same period in 2022. 

Gross profits for the last three months of 2023 were also down compared to the same period in 2022, from $234,849 to $1.9 million.

The losses are attributed to increased production costs like labour and utilities, as well as a lower price per gram of cannabis. The cost of goods sold in the third quarter of 2023 was nearly $1.2 million compared to $508 thousand in the previous quarter. 

The company says it has insufficient cash to pay creditors for current working capital obligations and operations for the next twelve months, referencing “significant doubt about the Company’s ability to continue.” 

In addition, its quarterly report cautions that the company’s “ability to continue as a going concern is dependent upon its ability to obtain sufficient additional funding and to generate sufficient revenues and positive cash flows from its operating activities to meet its obligations and fund its planned investments and operations.”

The concerns are not new and have been mentioned in previous quarterly reports.

Greenway is sitting on more than $2 million in dried cannabis, compared to about $1.5 million in Q1 2023.

It operates a cannabis nursery facility in Kingsville, Ontario, and a flowering and processing facility in Leamington, Ontario.

It reports an average cash cost per gram of $0.75 for finished goods inventory on hand as of December 31, 2023. The company’s biological assets were comprised of 11,026 plants (March 31, 2023 – 6,519), which were, on average, 59% (March 31, 2023 – 43%) complete, and it was expected that they would yield approximately 1,364 kg (March 31, 2023 – 1,193 kg) of dry flower.

Biological assets refer to the value assigned to pre-harvest cannabis plants still in the process of growing, relating to expected yield.

Inside Greenway’s cannabis nursery. Image via Facebook.

BC cannabis company is bringing infused poutine to the Quebec market

A British Columbia-based cannabis producer is adding a new twist on a distinctly Canadian dish, a cannabis-infused poutine sauce that will be available for sale in Quebec.

Rubicon Organics Inc., a cannabis producer with a focus on certified organic cannabis, announced today that its in-house brand, 1964 Supply Co., will be offering a cannabis-infused poutine sauce crafted with hash rosin.

The new “High Cuisine” poutine sauce, available now at the SQDC for about $8, is a mix that contains two containers, each with 5 mg of THC, and can be heated in a saucepan with water before being added to your fries and cheese curds, or anything else for that matter!

“We are excited to bring this one-of-a-kind product to the Quebec market,” said Melanie Ramsey, CCO of Rubicon Organics. “Our Cannabis-Infused Poutine Sauce is not only delicious but also provides consumers with a fun and innovative way to incorporate cannabis into their culinary adventures.”

Rubicon plans to expand distribution into other provinces in the coming weeks. 

Quebec has become a testing ground for more novel cannabis edibles that seek to conform to the province’s strict rules. Quebec does not allow the sale of edibles such as candies, desserts, chocolates, or other products deemed as being appealing to those under the age of 21—the legal age of access in Quebec. 

Instead, edible products in Quebec have included “cannabis bites” made of dates, hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, currants, and cinnamon, as well as unique products like infused beets, beef jerky, sausages, ramen, black currants, spicy crackers, figs, and cauliflower.

The SQDC claims it cannot provide details on how well specific edibles have sold but lists edible products in general as just under 1% of total sales in 2022-2023.


UBC researchers launch clinical trial exploring CBD for bipolar depression

Researchers at UBC’s faculty of medicine are launching a new, unique clinical trial to investigate the potential of cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment for bipolar depression.

The new trial is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and approved by Health Canada. The goal of the research will be to investigate if CBD can help manage acute bipolar depression alongside primary courses of treatment.

The trial will enroll approximately 360 participants spanning multiple sites across Canada, including the UBC Mood Disorders Centre in Vancouver, BC, and sites in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

If proven effective, this has the potential to provide significant benefits to patients by helping effectively managing their symptoms and improving their overall quality of life

Dr. Lakshmi Yatham, UBC Department of Psychiatry

“Bipolar disorder is a complex condition, with depression often posing the greatest burden for patients,” says Dr. Lakshmi Yatham, professor and head of UBC’s Department of Psychiatry and the study’s principal investigator. “This trial marks a significant step forward in exploring innovative, much-needed treatments for bipolar disorder.”

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health condition characterized by extreme changes in mood that cycle through periods of intense highs (mania) and lows (depression). Depressive episodes present a considerable challenge for people living with the condition and are associated with feelings of sadness and hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, trouble sleeping, and increased risk of suicide. Despite available treatments, a persistent unmet need exists for more effective and well-tolerated therapies.

The new trial will explore whether CBD can help manage acute bipolar depression alongside primary courses of treatment.

No large clinical studies have been conducted to assess the safety and efficacy of CBD in treating bipolar depression.

In a small pilot study published last year, UBC researchers found that CBD did not show significantly higher adverse effects than placebo. Despite this, an exploratory analysis also suggested that cannabidiol should be further studied in bipolar depression in higher doses of at least 300 mg/day and under research designs that could better control for high placebo response.

“Our pilot trial showed signals for efficacy of CBD which provided an impetus for this large trial,” says Dr. Yatham. “If proven effective, this has the potential to provide significant benefits to patients by helping effectively manage their symptoms and improving their overall quality of life.”

This new, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study will evaluate the safety, efficacy and tolerability of a CBD product (ProZ-001) manufactured and supplied by PBG Biopharma Inc.

The research team says they anticipate that the outcomes will provide valuable insights into the development of novel and improved therapeutic options for people living with bipolar disorder.


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Ontario cannabis store finds creative way to get around social media restrictions

Ontario cannabis retailer Stok’d Cannabis has released a series of ads it says circumvent social media platforms’ restrictions on cannabis advertisements by promoting neighbouring brands. 

The retailer, with five locations in Ontario, collaborated with several local businesses to mention the store in relation to their own business, often employing cheeky puns throughout the ad. 

The ads included businesses like a bookstore, an electrician, a nail shop, and a sandwich shop, all located near or affiliated with the cannabis store. 

The campaign ran in January as sponsored posts on several platforms, a transit shelter, and local radio. 

Lisa Bigioni, co-founder and CEO of Stok’d, says they are still collecting data from the campaign to see how effective it was, but notes she has already seen increased foot traffic, and customers have told her they have seen the ads.

She says the ads all went out on accounts connected to the local businesses, not their account. 

She explains that the biggest challenge they were seeking to circumvent is not federal ad restrictions but enforcement of social media policies. 

“I think that the Health Canada restrictions I understand, and I think we did our part to not go against those restrictions. It’s the social media challenges that we have that I think was the bigger win. The ads were put out almost a month ago, and no one caught that there was this cheeky innuendo about a cannabis store. 

“And we know that social media accounts shut down cannabis advertising as soon as they see it and none of them caught it, and I think that was the bigger win.”

Erin Kawalecki, partner and chief creative officer at Angry Butterfly, who partnered with Stok’d on the project, says that the local businesses appreciated the approach. 

“While our goal was to promote Stok’d, it was also important to be authentic to the different
businesses we were partnering with,” says Kawalecki. “Finding that common language that promoted both was key, and a lot of fun, too.”

“The trickiest part was while we thought this could work, we weren’t entirely sure until the
ads went live and passed through all the different filters,” adds Bernice Lo, VP, Executive
Creative Director, Angry Butterfly, “We had plan B and C ready to go, just in case.”

The geo-targeted, 21+ campaign launched last month across multiple channels including
paid/sponsored posts and prerolls, evening radio, and select TSAs, but Angry Butterfly says the story was kept out of the ad industry press until the media finished its run to ensure the news didn’t reach the likes of Meta, Google, etc. to avoid pushback.

https://vimeo.com/913526553/a238e66c5d?share=copy
https://vimeo.com/913526921/f367776517?share=copy
https://vimeo.com/913526962/3f084f9760?share=copy


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Wayne Patrick Consumer Products pursuing a Sale, Refinancing and Investment Solicitation Process due to insolvency

Two Ontario-based cannabis companies are pursuing a Sale, Refinancing and Investment Solicitation Process (SISP) through court due to low cash flow. 

Hamilton, Ontario-based cannabis companies Wayne Patrick Consumer Products Ltd. and WPCP Ltd. had their Notice of Intent proceedings continued under the CCAA on February 20.

In a court filing, the companies’ representative says the applicants are insolvent. They are balance sheet insolvent, unable to meet their liabilities as they become due, and are in a liquidity crisis.

The Applicants produce and distribute cannabis products in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Newfoundland and Quebec. Both of their operations are run in a leased facility located in Ontario.

In their last six months, both companies have suffered losses due to high staff turnover, increased enforcement by the CRA, declining investor interest, higher interest rates, and decreased demand for cannabis products in a highly saturated and competitive market. 

The company also says it has had to sell some of its inventory at a loss. 

Wayne Patrick Ltd. owns 100% of Wayne Patrick Consumer Products Ltd. Wayne Patrick Ltd. is a private corporation incorporated under the OBCA. Its head office is also in Toronto.

On January 15, 2024, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) gave notice to WPCP that the CRA would not be renewing its license under the Excise Act when it expired on February 7, 2024. 

A few weeks later, on February 7, 2024, two of the applicants, Wayne Patrick Ltd. and WPCP, each filed an urgent notice of intention to make a proposal under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to prevent, among other things, the termination of the Excise License by CRA.

The Applicants have consolidated debt in excess of $5 million, including owing approximately $650,000 to CRA and $37,000 to Health Canada for annual licensing fees. They also have unpaid trade debt and other unsecured debt of approximately $2 million. The Applicants’ have missed the past two payrolls, and approximately $42,000 of payroll is in arrears. 

In 2020, Wayne Patrick Ltd. acquired Beleave Kannabis Corp. through Beleave’s own CCAA proceeding, the facility that Wayne Patrick operated out of. It is about 10,000 sq ft, with multiple production rooms, including a hash production room, multi-use rooms, and a large vault for storage of finished goods. Their Health Canada licence is set to expire on May 11, 2028.


Community Savings rolls out pre-approved credit cards for cannabis members

Community Savings, a BC-based credit union, has announced the launch of pre-approved business credit cards for its cannabis membership. This industry-first offer finally gives cannabis businesses in BC guaranteed access to credit cards, a long overdue change in the financial services available for the industry. 

Typically, credit cards are a standard payment solution available to any small business, but obtaining a business credit card for cannabis businesses has – until now – been a highly discriminatory process. Many cannabis businesses are rejected by credit card providers solely because of their legal business in cannabis. Community Savings has successfully campaigned for policy change to ensure cannabis businesses have credit card access. This is a significant milestone, changing the way access to basic financial services is provided to cannabis businesses in BC. 

Cannabis businesses have been forced to operate without a fully functioning banking system for too long. The industry was legalized five years ago, but big banks have ignored this sector’s needs and credit unions like Community Savings have stepped in.

Mike Schilling, President and CEO of Community Savings Credit Union

Community Savings offers three business credit cards with a range of benefits. The No Fee Cash Back Visa allows you to earn cash back for the purchases your business regularly makes. The Visa Low Rate Business Card features a low annual fee and low interest rate, and the Visa Infinite Business Card offers valuable rewards and first class privileges with a competitive annual fee and a limited time 5,000 welcome bonus points offer. Other card benefits may include zero liability fraud protection, purchase protection and extended warranty, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, as well as lost or delayed baggage protection.

Commenting on the launch, Mike Schilling, President and CEO of Community Savings Credit Union, said, “Cannabis businesses have been forced to operate without a fully functioning banking system for too long. The industry was legalized five years ago, but big banks have ignored this sector’s needs and credit unions like Community Savings have stepped in. 

Credit cards are an essential financial product for businesses. Community Savings is proud to now pre-approve every one of our cannabis members to ensure access to this basic payment product. Every day, we work with our members to help grow the cannabis industry, starting with access to the right financial services.”

Five years after legalization, access to basic financial services is just one barrier facing Canada’s legal cannabis industry. Notably, cannabis growers and producers pay federal taxes of a staggering +30% of top-line revenue, in addition to overly burdensome regulatory compliance costs experienced by all cannabis businesses. Despite the challenges, the cannabis industry has grown about 10% year-on-year since legalization and supports the jobs of nearly 100,000 Canadians. With the right legislative framework, the industry has an opportunity to grow to increase its economic competitiveness and meet global demand.

As a pro-cannabis business financial institution, Community Savings is the largest provider of banking services to BC’s cannabis sector of growers, processors, retailers and ancillary businesses. 

This month, the credit union, together with We Can Capital Inc. launched another industry-first innovative invoice factoring program crafted for British Columbia’s licensed cannabis producers (LPs). This initiative gives LPs access to affordable and readily available working capital to support growth. More information on Community Savings’ affordable invoice factoring for cannabis licensed producers in BC can be found here.


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Canadian Cannabis Exchange facilitates sale of Ogen production facility and equipment

SOLICITATION FOR OFFERS

Canadian Cannabis Exchange Ltd. (“CCX”), by and through the court appointed Receiver, Alvarez & Marsal Canada Inc. (“A&M”), announces the exclusive sale of Ogen Ltd. and Ogen Holdings Ltd.’s (collectively, “Ogen”) property, which includes a production facility and equipment. A&M has selected the CCX to act as marketing agent to assist in carrying out a court-approved sale and investment solicitation process (the “SISP”). The SISP has been designed to solicit interest in, and opportunities for, a purchase of, or investment in all or part of Ogen’s property.

Sale Package Information:

The Ogen facility is a 57,300 sq. foot, Health Canada licensed production facility on a 2.32-acre lot located at 5430 30th Street SE, Calgary. The facility is newly renovated and equipped with state-of-the-art HVAC, mechanical, lighting, and security systems. Highlights of the facility include over 30 individually secured and environmentally controlled production areas, along with office space and a loading dock. Opportunity for repositioning is created through the available 15,000 kVa incoming power capacity and a convenient location only 15 minutes from the downtown core within Calgary’s Foothills Industrial Park.

In addition to the Ogen facility, there is a diverse range of cannabis production, processing, and packaging equipment. The complete list of equipment is supported by reference photographs categorized by function into saleable buckets.

Ogen’s Health Canada license, under which the production facility operates, can also be transferred as a component of the sale. This license authorizes the holder to conduct activities under both Standard Cultivation and Standard Processing subclasses subject to the conditions stated in the Health Canada Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations.

Information regarding the sale package can be found in the Opportunity Summary.

Interested parties who wish to receive additional materials can do so by accessing an exclusively shared data room. Parties are required to execute a Confidentiality Agreement for Data Room Access to gain access, which can be obtained by following the link below or by contacting CCX directly ([email protected]