Canada edition / March 21, 2020
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1 PANDEMIC AND FALLOUT

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Public Domain

Like the rest of the world, the cannabis sector struggled to make sense of the widening chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic and the worldwide wave of individual isolation tactics and border shutdowns.
Globe and Mail

  • Canada Post will no longer deliver MED directly to consumers' doors to limit direct contact between mail carriers and the public. Carriers will instead leave a delivery notice card and ask consumers to go directly to the post office to pick up their packages.
    Leafly
  • MED advocates cried foul, noting this forces patients (who may be immunosuppressed and/or disabled) to leave their homes.

Tantalus Labs' Dan Sutton said that for LPs, the crisis will increase crop risks and lost purchase orders, and will eventually require ramping-up in order to make up for lost time. (Shoppify has a list of relief agencies for companies and people affected by the pandemic.)
Twitter--@Dsutton1986, Shopify

NORML circulated guidelines for how to lower COVID transmission risk while using cannabis. The Ontario Cannabis Store posted a similar set of guidelines.

While civilians race to Costco for toilet paper, cultivators are stocking up on grow supplies ahead of possible supply-chain disruption.
Twitter--@ChimeraGenetics

This is a weird time for a happy announcement, but this week WeedWeek added a new member of our reporting team: business columnist Dan Mitchell, whose first piece is about how San Francisco Bay Area businesses are adapting. Welcome aboard, Dan. Let's hope every week that follows is less terrifying than this one.

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2 DESPERATE TO CHILL, CANADA BUYS WEED

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Jesse Staniforth

In a rare piece of good news, the cannabis sector looked healthy for the first time in months as consumers facing isolation and lockdowns flooded into REC stores and provincial websites.

Not everyone wants to get cannabis in person: the Ontario Cannabis Store's online orders increased by 80% week over week on Saturday, and by 100% on Sunday. The OCS says it has enough inventory to meet demands.
The Star

Naturally, some doomsday-minded people are hoarding cannabis.
Vice

Though REC retail sales reports for January showed a continued upward trajectory, this panic-buying sales boost is good news for what Bloomberg called "an industry on the brink," left staggering after months of decline and poorly positioned for global financial meltdown.
Bloomberg, Twitter--@itsdgc

3 WILL OTTAWA SHUT CANNABIZ OUT OF STIMULUS?

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Bmpower

With markets plummeting, the sector opened the week to a report from Tantalus Labs CEO Dan Sutton that a senior official at the federal Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) told him they are "not authorized to do business with cannabis companies." This means cannabis companies will be shut out of national COVID relief stimulus funds for small businesses, which include $10B in increased loans to "qualifying" businesses from BDC and Export Development Canada.
Twitter--@DSutton1986, GrowthOp, Globe and Mail

The sector reacted with shock, anger, and talk of lawsuits and civil liberties.
Twitter--@TrinaFraser, @MarkHauk, @BeardedGreenly, @AaronWAnderson, @Nick_Laba

  • Auxly CEO Hugo Alves noted BDC is a Crown corporation but refuses to do business with an industry created by the federal government.
    Twitter--@HugoAlves1972 

Some federal funds are available--but only through federal agricultural lender Farm Credit Canada, which may only lend to those involved in growing. Processors and those involved in wholesale and retail worry they will have no access.
MJ Biz Daily, Twitter--@ms_janeen_davis

Organigram VP public affairs Cameron Bishop demanded the sector be recognized as a "legitimate economic driver" responsible for "thousands of jobs nationwide" and "hundreds of millions in investments."
Twitter--@Ottawa_Cameron

The three cross-party co-chairs of the  Parliamentary Cannabis Caucus, NDP MP Don Davies, Conservative MP Scott Reid, and Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith signed a joint letter to finance minister Bill Morneau demanding cannabis have access to COVID-19 stimulus measures.
Twitter--@DonDavies

PRE-ORDER "THE CANNABIS DICTIONARY!

4 IS REC RETAIL ESSENTIAL? ONTARIO: YES, PEI: NO

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As provinces grapple with shut-down orders, one decision no one in the sector ever considered has emerged: Is access to cannabis an essential service, particularly during a time of heightened global anxiety?

Ontario's Doug Ford Conservative government says it is: as part of the state of emergency his government exempted REC stores, the Beer Store, and the LCBO along with grocery stores and convenience stores. Hours may be restricted.
Twitter--@GOPdemocrat, Ottawa Sun, Global News

  • Prince Edward Island announced plans to close all PEI Cannabis stores with 24 hours "until further notice." (They also closed liquor stores.)
    Twitter--@PEICannabis, Global News
  • Three hours after this announcement, panicked Islanders to line up in large, dense groups for cannabis and alcohol, the province's chief public health officer Heather Morrison announced she was "disappointed in Islanders' response."
    Global News
  • The province is looking for alternate ways to allow the sale of alcohol and cannabis, such as online or drive-through, Morrison said, "Perhaps we underestimated that alcohol is considered essential for some people." 

BC's cannabis and liquor stores have no plans to close--for the moment, though that may change as the pandemic evolves. BC's provincially run stores are enacting social distancing measures for customers and cleaning more often. (Victoria compassion club the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club is reducing the number of days it's open, but extending hours, and offering care by phone.)
Kamloops Matters, GrowthOp

Quick Hits

  1. The O'Cannabiz trade show pushed its dates back from April to the last weekend of October.
    Press Release

  2. Youth cannabis consumption appears to have fallen since legalization in 2018.
    Calgary Herald

This week on the podcast
The WeedWeek Playlists

5 RETAILERS: SHOULD WE CLOSE?

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Jesse Staniforth

Retailers face a similar choice to provinces, except they have to balance potential revenue losses against the potential disaster of their workforce falling ill. Canopy announced on Tuesday it would temporarily close 23 of its Tokyo Smoke and Tweed stores across Canada.

Fire & Flower quickly followed Canopy's lead and announced closures at seven Alberta locations and reduced hours at other stores. The next day the company announced stores in Ottawa and Kingston will only have products available via click-and-collect: online order and pickup.

Independent REC retailer Ryan Roch, of Alberta's Lake City Cannabis, discussed his fear and uncertainty for his store on Twitter and called for the AGLC to allow REC retailers to temporarily move to delivery to reduce transmission risks.
Twitter--LakeCityCanna

Quick Hits

  1. Edmonton police have cracked down on illicit online REC sales and said they have seized and taken down 100 websites. Critics noted that won't do much to prevent illicit online sales.
    CBC Edmonton, Twitter—@WhatsMyPot

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6 NEW ONTARIO STORES OPEN INTO CRISIS

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ED McIntosh / Wikimedia Commons

This was supposed to be an exciting time for REC retail in Ontario. The provincial regulator is hurriedly approving a new wave of stores at the same time as long delayed licensees from the second August REC retail lottery were finally ready to open. The sector excitedly anticipated the surge of new stores to begin this week--now in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis.
BisNow, Twitter--@MattPMaurer

Quick Hits

  1. Want to work for the first micro-cultivator to bring REC to market? North 40 Cannabis in northern Saskatchewan is looking for a trimmer willing to relocate. NB. "Own RV an asset or be willing to sleep on cots. Must have the desire to sever all ties with the outside world. TP and benefits included. Preference given to those who like wild game and fish."
    Twitter—North 40 Cannabis

  2. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada) representing WeedMD workers in Ontario has called the LP to the bargaining table to hammer out a contract with 250 workers at WeedMD's Mount Brydges production facility.
    Street Insider

7 MED CONCERNS RAMP UP

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There are nearly 400,000 MED patients in Canada. Organigram's Cameron Bishop called on Health Canada to designate MED an essential service nationwide.
Twitter--@Ottawa_Cameron

Even before the pandemic became the singular focus of the entire country, MED advocates were sounded the alarm that patients were being ignored in the rush for REC profits.
Inside the Jar

Rocker Bif Naked launched an unlicensed CBD company, Mona Lisa Healing, which dangerously claimed its products "help your body defend against COVID-19 Coronavirus."
Business In Vancouver

8 CRONOS GETS SEC INQUIRY, HEXO DELAYS FILING

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Public Domain

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Division of Enforcement told Cronos Group to preserve all records dealing with recognition of revenues from bulk-resin purchases and biomass wholesale for a "confidential and non-public inquiry."
MarketWatch

Marlboro parent company Altria owns 45% of Cronos stock and former Altria CFO Jerry Barbato, who became Cronos CFO last April, may be forced out. (C-suite leaders continue leaving their posts at other LPs.)
Twitter--GoBlueCdn, MJ Biz Daily

Separately, Hexo announced it would again delay filing its interim financial statements and related documents for Q2 2020.(It did the same thing in October.)

Hexo CEO Sebastien St-Louis received a 30% raise to roughly $500,000 last year, giving him $8.8M compensation, up from $1.5M the previous year.
Twitter--@matt_lamers

  • Hexo had three CFOs in 2019, one of whom was paid $840,000, another more than $700,000, and a third paid $150,000 plus monthly $20,000 bonus for being an interim figure.
    Twitter--@matt_lamers

BMO downgraded Hexo to "underperform" and suspended its target price.
Twitter--@matt_lamers

9 AURORA FOUNDER SELLS OFF STOCK & SECTOR TIDBITS

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Aurora co-founder and ex-CEO Terry Booth sold 12.16M shares of company stock for roughly $13.6M. They represented two-thirds of his stake in the company.
NewsWire

  • Aurora said the sale was part of Booth's departure from the company, which he announced in February.
    The Star
  • Booth told BNN Bloomberg he sold his shares in order to free up cash and reduce volatility during the COVID crisis, and would consider reinvesting, "once the dust settles."
    BNN Bloomberg

Elsewhere in the corporate world:

Last week Tilray offered deeply discounted shares (USD$4.76 per share) and was punished for it by shareholders. MKM analyst Bill Kirk warned while Aurora and Hexo have financing requirements coming due, they won't have an easy time of raising money and may have to endure "substantially dilutive terms at below current pricing levels." That is, if they can get funding at all.
MarketWatch

Toronto LP Pure Global Cannabis was granted creditor protection.
MarketWatch

Lift & Co announced it had temporarily laid off staff due to the pandemic, though company reps wouldn't say how many layoffs or how many staff they have. (Lift laid another 13 workers off from its Toronto office in May.)
Twitter--@itsdgc, MJ Biz Daily, Puff Puff Post

10 BAD REVIEWS CONTINUE

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Coldbourne

The licensed sector has yet to solve its endemic quality problem. After a grim last week for the Green Organic Dutchman, grower Travis Lane tested one of TGOD's organic living soil cultivars and described it as "brutal and tragic."
The Guardian, Inside the Jar

Legal dry flower is still far too dry. Couple reviewers WhatsMyPot announced they'll quantify dryness on receipt as part of reviews, and attempted to set minimum standards for acceptable moisture levels.
Twitter--WhatsMyPot

Quick Hits

  1. The Ontario Cannabis Store advertised a sale on products with a picture of a cannabis plant seemingly infested with powdery mildew. They later changed the photo.
    Twitter--@ArkhamSmoke