Caryma Sa’d

Though Canada was the first G7 country to legalize cannabis at the federal level, indicating a major shift in drug law and policy, it is clear that the Cannabis Act, which legalized the recreational use of cannabis across the nation, is far from perfect

The third issue of NORML Canada’s newsletter focuses on the policy issues surrounding the legalization of cannabis. It denotes 10 targeted modifications to the Cannabis Act through addressing its’ shortcomings, as well as implores the government and relevant stakeholders to consider the suggestions in future legislation (Jordan Harrison).

Next, NORML Canada is pleased to support the CanMar’s 2020 Global Conference and Expo, which provides a platform for companies and individuals worldwide the stage to showcase their brands and to network with like minded people. Lastly, the August newsletter features an interview with the owners of Calyx and Trichomes, a cannabis retailer which opened at the start of COVID-19 (Jack Lloyd and Jennawae McLean).

NORML Canada would like to thank all those who contributed to this issue and appreciates the time you took to read the newsletter. If you or anyone you might know would like to contribute to further issues, please contact us at info@norml.ca

A Work in Progress: Targeted Modifications to the Cannabis Act

NORML Canada
with files from Harrison Jordan

As Canada approaches the second anniversary of legalization, the federal government is set to review the administration and operation of the Cannabis Act.

Now is an opportune time to reflect on successes and shortcomings of the cannabis legal framework. To that end, NORML Canada has compiled a list of 10 suggested changes to cannabis-related statutes and regulations. NORML Canada would like to thank Harrison Jordan for his deep thinking and heavy lifting.

(1) Increase public possession limit

Currently, individuals can only purchase through provincially authorized retailers and/or publicly posses up to 30 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) at one time. Registered medical cannabis patients can publicly posses 30 times their daily authorized limit: up to 150 grams.

While members of the public can walk into the liquor store and purchase an unlimited quantity of alcohol, regardless of alcohol content percentage, consumers of cannabis do not have the same “bulk” purchasing flexibility. Federal laws do not limit the amount that can be possessed or stored in a private residence if the purpose of the possession is not for unlawful distribution or selling. The only restriction is on public possession, ie: the amount that a consumer can carry between the storefront and their private home.

NORML Canada would like to see the removal of the current 30g (dried or equivalent) limit on purchase and public possession on cannabis that is both stamped and sealed. Any cannabis that is unstamped and unsealed will remain at the 30 gram limit.

The ability to purchase larger amounts of stamped and sealed cannabis will promote the purchase of legal cannabis product and also promote safe usage as consumers are incentivized to keep the stamp and seal on the cannabis product until the time of consumption.

(2) Permit combined cannabis products

The law does not currently allow for dried cannabis and cannabis concentrate to be combined into one cannabis product to sell to the public. Heavy cannabis consumers, who enjoy the combination effect, have no legal avenue to purchase these products in a ready-made form. In addition, the law allows processors to package up to thirty 1-gram joints in one package, but the typical packaging only holds not more than a total of 5 grams per package of joints.

NORML Canada would like to see the approval of combined cannabis products that contain both dried cannabis and inhalable cannabis concentrate, up to a combined weight of 2 grams of cannabis per package. They would also like to see the limits on cannabis joints (or “discrete units” of inhalable cannabis) increase to 2 grams weight of cannabis product, dried or combined with inhalable concentrate.

This change will bring credibility to Canada’s move to legalize cannabis products among heavy consumers of cannabis. It will also reduce packaging costs since consumers would no longer need to purchase 2 separate products to combine them. Product development would be opened for processing licence-holders, allowing them to bring familiar product forms to heavy consumers.

(3) Allow medical seller storefronts, subject to local zoning

Companies that wish to sell medical cannabis to registered clients must obtain a license through Health Canada. The license does not allow them to sell in-person. Instead, the medicine must be delivered to the patient’s residence via courier. Despite the extra work and costs associated with obtaining the license, provincially authorized stores that sell non-medical cannabis are able to offer same day pickup/delivery, and they often sell it at prices equal to or lower than medical cannabis purchased from federal medical sales licence-holders.

The ramification of this is that the federal medical sales licence is losing its value and appeal. As consumers choose speed and ease over the need to purchase as a registered medical cannabis patient, provincially authorized retailers are increasing in dominance and popularity. Health Canada may potentially face lawsuits from those federal medical sales-licence holders for lost profits.

NORML Canada believes a solution would be to enable federal Medical Sales licence holders to establish storefronts. These storefronts would be subject to local zoning, contain a secure storage room, and offer the sale of products to their registered patients via both in-store transaction and delivery by direct employees.

(4) Ensure professional oversight for Cannabis Health Products

At present, “Natural Health Products” cannot contain cannabis. Instead, Health Canada is proposing a separate category of products that will be labelled as “Cannabis Health Products”. The proposal is that these new products could have health claims attached to them and will likely be sold by federal Medical Sales licence-holders and provincially authorized retailers.

NORML Canada has concerns about the negative interactions between the Cannabis Health Products and a consumer’s other medications. Many medical practitioners and pharmacists in general practice are not trained, or are not comfortable providing advice on the effects and interactions of cannabis products with other prescriptions. Provincially authorized retailers and call centers provided by federal Medical Sales licence-holders are often staffed by young non-medical-professional employees that cannot advise on the interactions of cannabis health products with a consumer’s other medications.

To reduce the risk of complications occurring when consumers ingest Cannabis Health Products, customers should have an opportunity to consult a Cannabis Regulations-defined pharmacist or medical practitioner. This option could be made available to the consumer in two ways: (1) at the point of sale or (2) after purchase but before use. Sellers can have a medical practitioner/pharmacist on staff at all times for in-person or telephone consultation, or the consumer could be handed a “Consumer Information – Cannabis” document that offers free a 24/7 consultation over the phone.

(5) Increase cannabis product limitations

At this time, edibles can only contain up to 10 milligrams THC total per unit and package. There is no limit on CBD. While this is typically adequate for a novice consumer, the limitations do not take individuals with higher tolerance levels into consideration. To trigger the desired effect, seasoned consumers must take on significant costs by purchasing multiple packages.

NORML Canada would like existing safeguards on edibles to remain intact, but supports increasing the THC limit. It would be reasonable to increase the limit from 10 to 25 milligrams of THC per unit, and increase the allowance to 10 units per package. This means a total package size of up to 250 milligrams.

(6) Eliminate Cost Recovery Fees for non-profit co-operatives

All federal licence-holders must pay an annual Cost Recovery Fee. The purpose of the fees is to offset the tremendous cost the Government of Canada incurs in facilitating the cannabis licensing program. There is a reduction of this fee for micro-cultivators/processors and for licence-holders that produce their cannabis products purely for the medical stream.

NORML Canada would like to see the elimination of Cost Recovery Fees for not-for-profit co-operatives that cultivate and process cannabis products and exclusively sell them to 1 or more class of the co-ops membership. This will ensure that cannabis consumers have access to medical cannabis that is high-quality, small-batch, and cheaper compared to similar products produced by for-profit ventures.

(7) Eliminate offences for youth possession of cannabis

The federal Cannabis Act prohibits youth under 18 years of age from possessing more than 5 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent. Since the introduction of the Act, every province has passed legislation with provincial offences that limits youth access to cannabis, with the age limit in line with the province’s minimum purchase age.

NORML Canada points out that the federal offence is duplicative considering it is unlikely that a person would be convicted under both federal and provincial law for the same transaction. Eliminating the federal offence will conserve judicial resources, while ensuring that youth are not subject to a criminal record for simple possession.

(8) Eliminate simple possession offence of illicit cannabis

The federal Cannabis Act prohibits individuals from possessing any amount of illicit cannabis, even 1 gram. Those in possession of even 1 gram or less of cannabis are subject to a hybrid offence that upon conviction could lead someone to a jail sentence of 5 years, subjecting individuals to pre-trial fingerprinting by local police and therefore inclusion into the national CPIC police database.

NORML Canada supports removing the simple possession offence of illicit cannabis up to 30 grams. The current law can be selectively applied and enforced, which does not bode well considering historic trends of marginalized communities facing disproportionately harsh punishments.

(9) Include terpene percentage on product labeling

Cannabis products must state the THC and CBD content on labels, but there is no such requirement for total terpene percentage.

NORML Canada would like labels on dried cannabis products to include total terpene percentage. Because packages are sealed prior to the consumer taking possession, they cannot assess the quality of a product by strength of the smell and taste profile. By mandating the total terpene percentage on packaging, consumers will have a quick and reliable metric to better determine each product’s subjective “quality” and the strength of its smell and taste profile.

(10) Test for other cannabinoids in products

Apart from THC and CBD, there are no requirements for testing of cannabinoids that may be present in cannabis products. Health Canada has left it up to the processor’s discretion as to whether to promote or even label the cannabinoid or its levels.

The demand for, and the production of non-intoxicating Cannabinoids, other than THC and CBD, is increasing. NORML Canada is surprised that Health Canada has not yet concerned with the lack of testing and labelling. It is suggesting that Cannabis Regulations be amended to reflect this new reality, and that testing of THCV, CBN + CBG be mandated. If levels are higher than 0.3% or 3mg/ml, products should identify this on labels.

CanMar Global Conference and Expo 2020

Cannabis, a plant of many names, identities and diversity, much like the global landscape of this present time. 2017 saw the birth of CanMar, Canada’s top staffing and business solutions provider for the cannabis industry. CanMar, through its brand and services into HR, recruitment and now events, always aims to bring people together; be it candidates to their dream jobs, companies to their star candidates, communities of like-minded thought leaders, businesses seeking partnership and growth opportunities and much more. At the core of everything, CanMar is bringing people together and changing lives for a better future.

CanMar Events, a subsidiary of CanMar Recruitment, launched as a result of the massively successful virtual CanMar Career Day on July 10th 2020, now presents “CanMar Global Conference and Expo 2020.”

This virtual event will redefine community engagement and collaboration. It will feature 200+ exhibitors, 100,000 attendees, 20 expert panels and the unique Canexions Social Lounge, spread across five days from October 23 to October 27, 2020.

The event is formatted to give companies and individuals worldwide the stage to showcase their brands, network with industry peers and highlight opportunities in cannabis across the globe. It opens the platform for thought leaders and industry experts to share their insights and foresight, demystifying many aspects of this predated yet ever-evolving cannabis plant and industry. Most importantly, this event aims to bring to the front stage budding cannabis entrepreneurs and artists of the many facets that this plant has to offer, connecting them to some of the most brilliant and successful business investors of present and future times. Last but not least, in fact the very reason that launched CanMar, is the global arena created for drawing the crème de la crème professionals, job seekers as well as aspiring and next generation of professionals to find not just their next job, but find and live the dream of their lifetime.

The most unique aspect of this event is the true “giving back and taking care of the community,” as CanMar will be donating $4.20 of every ticket sale to charities relieving the most hurting areas of humanity at this present moment.

Across the first three days, as a global community, we will orbit the time zone of North and South Americas at GMT – 6. Day 4 will see us travel all together into the time zone for Europe, Russia, Middle East and Africa and Asia at GMT +3. The final day of our travel around the world will have us with our mates in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia Pacific at GMT +8. A question asked many times, why the different time zones if it’s all virtual? A key aspect of true collaboration lies in walking in other shoes or seeing from another perspective. That is what CanMar is aiming to achieve here. As we time travel across the globe, we would like to see the sunrises and sunsets with our fellow community members on the other side of the planet.

Like the dawn that follows the dark, the Virtual collaboration space of conferences, expos, networking and meetings, is our new normal, as we emerge from the dark clouds of the global COVID-19 pandemic. For many people and businesses, the technology space has been that distant, alluring yet apprehensive and, at times, suspicious realm. It is time for us, not just as a cannabis community but as an entire human species, to use the power of our unknown fears as the trajectory into our highest success. The CanMar Global Conference and Expo 2020 will be hosted on two tried and tested technology platforms that are being used every second of every day by billions across the planet, as we strive to fulfill one of our most basic human needs – the need for connection!

This will be an event that will change the landscape of how the cannabis industry comes together and in one voice, yet a plethora of ideas sets a new direction of growth. 

We encourage you to stay tuned to the CanMar Events website and social media channels in the coming weeks for event date releases, additional information and partnership opportunities for CanMar Global Conference & Expo 2020. Don’t forget to engage with us across social media using the hashtag #CanMarExpo!

Register for the CanMar Global Conference & Expo 2020 online now. For more information or partnership opportunities visit https://canmarevents.com/.

Q&A with Calyx and Trichomes:
Cannabis Retail in COVID-19

Jack Lloyd and Jennawae McLean

Jennawae, you are the owner of Calyx and Trichomes in Kingston, Ontario, a licenced cannabis retail outlet that by all accounts is doing great in the regulated market. What was the hardest part of the licencing process for you?

The lottery was excruciating.  We began preparing for private sale before Doug Ford was even elected, so to have our dream put on hold indefinitely (and seemingly for no reason) was really difficult for us.  We participated in both lotteries, and like most, lost both lotteries.  We were worried because the second lottery had some stiff requirements.  We worried if there were a third lottery the bar would be even higher.

The silver lining there was we did have more time to prepare.  We saw how other stores were operating and decided we needed extra space so as soon as the lottery was dropped, and our friend Erin Goodwin, who had a far more illustrious activist career than us got her licence we knew we would eventually.  We began the expansion doubling our space.

And not knowing for sure if we will ever be approved:  We worried that our unregulated history would impact us more than what the province had let on.  Being so close but so far away from our dream and seeing other people forced to close while waiting was especially scary.  Plus, coming from the unregulated market we were afraid any criminal history would still be an issue (even though they said it wouldn’t). It was 12 weeks of waiting before we were finally approved for 1/3 licenses we would require, the Retail Operator Licence.

What would you tell other individuals who are looking to open their own cannabis retail store in Ontario?

Get ready for some long days and very little sleep for a while.  We work 12-14 hour days.  For the first 8 weeks we didn’t even take a day off.  A new cannabis store is a new fussy baby.  The more care and attention the better it will all be.  What goes along after that is have a caring and trustworthy team in place.  We are lucky to have some gems working with us.

How long did the process take to get your store open?

Depends on what you’re counting from.  We started 420 Kingston in 2010, and we’ve been waiting since then for the opportunity to sell cannabis.

We started developing the Calyx + Trichomes brand in August 2018, when we signed the lease for our current space.  The store was built to AGCO guidelines by December 2018 and we opened in January 2019 just selling accessories.  We also started building our team then.

With both lotteries we wouldn’t be able to apply officially until January 2020.  We had the application in by 12:01 AM.  A couple of days later the AGCO made first contact and from there it was 12 agonizing weeks until we would receive our ROL.  Then Covid hit and we had to shut down our expansion for a few weeks.  We were finally able to reopen with cannabis June 2020. 

How do you decide what products to stock at your store?

We used to be a seed bank and base a lot of our decisions for purchasing cannabis based on what we know sold well for seeds.  Most of our products are good value and recognizable varieties (not renamed or generic named) and some are just good value and some are just recognizable names.  There are so few 2.0 products and seeds on the market that we just stock everything available at the time of buying.

What is the process of ordering for your store like? Do you find the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) to be a reliable wholesale supplier?

Every Wednesday morning at 7 am an Excel spreadsheet becomes available for us to download. My partner Lorenzo and I sit at our kitchen table and go through item by item and see what to add (based on current inventory and how popular an item is).  It’s different every week (which makes planning difficult).  There are also high and low probability items.  High probability means lots of stock available and it’s very likely we will receive what we’ve asked for.  Low probability means stock is limited to fewer than 1 case per store (a case is 6, 12, but usually 24 units). We only get to order once a week so we have to make it count. With limited allotment and varying availability planning is very difficult.  Sometimes we get everything we ask for, sometimes we don’t.  We don’t know for sure what’s coming until it arrives.

The OCS is going through some growing pains with the expansion to over 3x what they were used to after the lottery phase ended.  Each individual we work with is usually in problem solving mode, and they have a tough job keeping us (the retailers) happy.  I can be a nightmare to work with at that level so their empathy and effort go a long way. 

What was your experience of delivery and curbside pickup during the (albeit brief) period in which it was allowed in Ontario? Should it be allowed again?

Click and Collect as the only option is very difficult during a pandemic and hard on people with mobility issues or children.  We were averaging about 30 deliveries a day, and hired some friends of ours to help us out with it.  As far as I’m aware no store in the province mishandled the responsibility of delivery so it’s hard to understand why this service was discontinued.  Curbside is also a good public health measure that should have been allowed to continue. Some of our customers were very disappointed this ended.  Some people still don’t feel safe being in public spaces.  Doing this only allows the unregulated market to flourish and seems counter intuitive to the point of legalization in the first place.

Are your customers largely from the neighborhood, or do they travel from far and wide?

We are located next to the highest traffic LCBO east of Toronto.  We are busy all day long.  From what we can tell a good portion of our customers are local to Kingston.  We have had some folks come from Quebec though, which was lovely!

How large is your store? Do you find it challenging to operate it during COVID-19? 

We started with 1300 ft2 and expanded to 2600 ft2.  We made the decision to expand in December, just before Covid hit, because we felt it would be way too difficult to operate in such a small space.  Since we opened during Covid we have been enforcing social distancing measures and limiting people in the store.  Luckily because of Covid people are used to queuing.  Because we opened during peak pandemic we really don’t know any other way, but yes, this is the most demanding, challenging job I have ever had (and wouldn’t have it any other way, because as soon as I really get things under control I will have conquered a mountain!)

What is your most popular product?

Of a single SKU old habits die hard, because our most popular product is Randy’s Black Label bong cleaner!  Of cannabis products in units we have sold the most Bhang THC Milk Chocolate bars (followed by Tweed Houndstooth and Soda, then Bakerstreet and Ginger).  Good Supply Royal Highness is high on the list too.  A lot of this has to do with consistency in quality and availability.  Other products would have come in higher if we were able to get them most of the time.

BC Farmers Paving the Future of Canada’s Craft Cannabis Sector

BC Craft Farmers Co-op

What is it?

 A positive movement to accelerate the participation of BC’s legendary craft cannabis sector into the legal market. Its Mission is:

Purpose and Code of Conduct

To maintain a reliable standard of ethics co-op members and community stakeholders can rely on in their interactions with the public, the co-op and each other. By joining the BC Craft Farmers Co-Op, you promise to:

  1. Treat people with respect at all times.
  2. Respect the cannabis plant at all times.
  3. Respect the planet at all times.
  4. Be truthful and a good neighbor.
  5. Be an advocate for the association and its mission in any instance where I feel comfortable within my own personal and professional networks.
  6. Contribute to and encourage open, respectful and thorough discussion.
  7. Protect citizen privacy and confidential information.
  8. Not proactively recruit staff of other co-op members.
  9. Collaborate with other co-op members to:
    • promote safe farming, processing and retail practices
    • promote facts, public education, health and wellness
    • adopt inclusive hiring and procurement practices
    • respect each other’s independence
    • respect each other’s intellectual property

How the does the Co-op work in assisting craft growers to enter the licit market?

The Co-Op provides access to a range of resources including:

What are the biggest obstacles for these small farmers?

Canada’s Cannabis Act includes a regulatory approach designed to allow for a range of large and small producers and processors within a competitive industry. Despite this goal, tens of thousands of these Canadians have been unable to enter the legal market

The cost and other limitations in the Cannabis Act and regulations for standard licenses in particular but also in regard to micro licenses are prohibitive and designed to fail. Canada Day marked Day 624 of Canada’s cannabis legalization project.  Days earlier, BC confirmed only 10 BC craft farmers have been approved by Health Canada during that time – or one approval every two months. The current Health Canada micro-production and processing regulations are so burdensome that thousands of B.C. cannabis farmers cannot afford to transition. Most need $200,000 to over $1 million just to be eligible.

Of the 1,200,000 million+ square meters of legal indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation space approved by Health Canada across the country over the past two years, craft cannabis farmers account for less than 1%.  Moving just 30% of the 6,000+ BC micro-farmers already approved to produce medical cannabis into the legal market  will create thousands of BC jobs, divert millions from the illicit market and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue for all levels of government. Of the one million-plus square metres of legal cannabis cultivation space approved by Health Canada across the country as of Feb. 1, craft cannabis farmers account for a microscopic 0.17 per cent.

As the Canadian province with the largest number of craft cannabis farmers, not to mention a well-recognized international brand, BC has the most to lose if these innovators are not provided with an opportunity to fully apply their skills and experience.

Should other provinces form their own co-ops for the purpose of bringing the ‘grey’ market growers into the licit market?

Absolutely. A co-operative is a legally incorporated business, owned and operated by and for members. Co-ops are businesses based on established international values and principles. Check out https://bcca.coop/ BC had one of the most vibrant co-op communities in Canada, with 2 million members, 700 businesses and close to $50 billion in total assets. Nearly twice as many BC co-ops remain in operation after 5 years compared to other forms of enterprise. Co-ops create jobs at nearly 5 times the rate of the overall economy and are more accountable than publicly traded corporations.