SINCE 2014, as Health Canada tried to phase out cannabis home production for patients, designated growers, patients, and all others linked to the emerging cannabis industry, have been divided by assumptions, ideals, and ego. With Justin Trudeau elected, many started to believe in a dream almost thought dead, legalization. While John Conroy, Kirk Tousaw and others worked hard to succeed in the repeal of the MMPR program and saving all medical cannabis gardens in Canada, the focus started to be aimed at the upcoming rights of growers under a legalization model. I got very interested about all the different opinions and business models being speculated by those in the industry so I decided to ask them how would they ideally envision the production model working under the Liberals legalization laws.
Primarily, most people agree (as do the courts) that banning home growing for medical use was unconstitutional. Patients, like all consumers, prefer the variety of choice of what they ingest, smoke, drink, and so on. Just as with home grown vegetables, cannabis growing can be a therapy in and of itself. Under legalization, the same concepts apply. Personal home growing hurts no one but the consumer themselves only if bad gardening practices are used and, by allowing home growing it decreases the consumer’s reliance on black market weed. If we all look to the tobacco and alcohol personal production regulations already in place, we can be hopeful the government will follow these precedents.
The big debates start when we begin to discuss production for the intent to sell to the Canadian public when cannabis is legalized.. All the different interpretations and opinions, some very reserved, some downright delusional, and others innovative and worthy of exploration. The reality is that the government clearly has showed their intention to start from what is familiar (licensed producers, public health, law enforcement , etc) so we should all be prepared for the first days of legalization to be timid and strict. The evolution of the regulations and commercial program will probably take months, or years if we look history of the MMAR program. There’s no right or wrong way to legalize and regulate cannabis, just a safe and careful way.
Commercialization of any product requires strong quality assurance but especially when it comes to cannabis. The product itself, unlike tomatoes and even tobacco, cannot really be washed before the harvest to avoid possible mold contamination.Cannabis needs to be required to hit high quality standards in order to make it’s way to the market. While outdoor cannabis is exposed to different contaminants such as insects, feces from animals, pollens of various plants etc, the indoor or greenhouse environment is only permitted under the current regulations of commercial production.
Some argue the medical commercial production program is very tightly regulated and quality assurance requirement levels are too high, This is not an argument about the regulations currently in place but if we assume these regulations are the starting point, natural evolution promises interesting days ahead with more realistic regulations and application system to work with. Also the conspiracy theorists will be sad to learn that there is no rigged applications or biased system, only some applicants more talented and skilled than others. Every applicant is on the same waiting list from the day we applied, whether corporate or craft facility.
Corporate cannabis, or licensed producers; they don’t need an introduction and everyone has heard bad and good from most of them. Tweed, Tilray, Aurora, Organigram are amongst them and whether you like them or not, they serve a large public in need for the easy and safe access to cannabis products.
Gone are the days where a dying patient under MMAR regulations had to wait weeks or months to legally possess cannabis, then wait months for a Designated Grower (if they weren’t cheated in the process ) to arrive with cannabis they could only ‘’trust blindly’’. Only very few people had/have the ethic of self regulating themselves in order to provide REAL standardized, safe, consistent medicine. Today, the licensed producer can register the patients who needs cannabis within 24 hours and get the product to their door within the next 48 hours in some cases. This is real access in my opinion. There are many patients who got ripped, used, abused by the program and lots of unscrupulous people trying to grow cannabis legally for the wrong reasons.
Recently we’ve begun to hear more and more about ‘’Craft cannabis”. Craft cannabis is compared to the microbrewery in the alcohol commercial model. The model sounds and look interesting to most.
Most can agree that craft cannabis should meet the same standards of quality as any other producers. Just imagine if your favorite local brewed beer you that you drink with your usual smoked meat sandwich (yes I’m French-Canadian) tasted great one day, not so great the next time, or gross and makes you sick from salmonella when the boss isn’t there. You wouldn’t call that ‘’craft beer’’. So again standardization and quality assurance is what rule most markets. Regulations are there for a good reason, to ensure the licensed producers know what they do and follow these regulations, corporates or craft producers.
The concepts get more complicated when the application process is brought to the table. Some express the idea that legal cannabis could be grown outside, at home, or in another type of small local farm model. The idea that this model will be introduced right away is blinding these people from creating a viable craft producer. Yes the regulations and application system of Health Canada are complicated and long, but just as quality assurance, were all subjected to the same regulations, the same application time frame too. Everyone agrees about the system needing improvement, but as an applicant in the last phase of the licensed producer program, I decided to work with what we had instead of missing the show. Lots of people forget that out of the 36 or so licensed producers, 1/3 of them are actually craft cannabis as they are smaller than 25000 sq feet and have been brought to life by mom and pop grow operations, DGs and patients, activists etc… I believe that every single of those craft cannabis licensed producers could share numerous dark days and anxiety time they went through, some have probably divorced and others gone bankrupt in the process. Again, I agree with the general opinion that having a second system for smaller producers (as less security, inspections, infrastructures may be needed ) but again we have to work with what we have for now.
No matter what is your preferred source of cannabis (homegrown, DG, LP, distribution center), we all agree on two main things. The access and liberty of choice to access it we feel comfortable with. I strongly believe that legalization won’t be perfect at first just as the application system won’t be upgraded as fast as we would like, but who would have thought Canada would be the FIRST country to really FULLY legalize and regulate cannabis in the world. Lots of unnecessary arrests and criminal records will stop hurting the future of fellow Canadians for the simple crime of enjoying smoking cannabis instead of drinking, kids will finally get a fair, true and responsible prevention program and we’ll see the new generations more free than ever with their adult choices of substance. Our generation will be the last one affected by cannabis prohibition and all the stigmas.
We are at dawn of legalization and accepting to follow the regulations in place is the only way to follow the dream of cannabis commercialization if you have what it takes. When me and my partners applied in 2013 to the licensed producer program, we neither thought this adventure would take us to ups and downs, anxiety and tears, errors and success. 4 years later (no we didn’t lose any time really on any phase of the application) and a licence on the tip of our fingers, we realize the program isn’t there to discourage you, but more to be the ultimate challenge to join the skilled and hardworking group of companies who made it. A stronger and better team is coming out of this adventure, more ready than ever, to join and start to produce one of the top canadian craft cannabis brands and make it available to you. Most craft cannabis producers listed as licensed producers will all tell you this was a crazy road, race and marathon!