Canada edition / June 29, 2019

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This week on the podcast
Strains, Shrooms and Stoners with Ophelia Chong



Ontario saw sales double in the first month of REC retail. Even with only 22 REC stores in the province, it's seems clear the public wants to buy legal REC in physical stores rather than online.
MJ Biz Daily

  • April REC sales totalled $19.6M, compared with $7.6M in March and $7.5M in February.
  • April sales made Ontario Canada's number one spender on REC, though Albertans still buy more cannabis by volume.
    Global News
  • The Ontario Cannabis Store lifted its weekly cap on purchasing nine products for which they have "enough inventory."
    Globe and Mail
  • The products in question have low THC and CBD, while high-THC cultivars are most popular.
  • Twitter commentators interpreted the move as a prelude to the OCS getting rid of products that aren't selling and won't get ordered again. "Could literally happen to hundreds of SKUs once license bottleneck eases and we have way too many LPs pumping out product," lawyer Matt Maurer said.
  • Cannalyst "GoBlueCdn" imagined the OCS will "1. Slap a low price online and undercut their new retailers 2. Return product to LPs for a credit. 3. Wait it out and sell stale inventory slowly."

The OCS, according to the Ontario Ombudsman, is "the single most complained-about government organization of the fiscal year ending March 31."

Quick Hits

  1. The Cowichan Tribes, the Vancouver Island Coast Salish community that is the largest First Nation in British Columbia, accused the province of a conflict of interest over cannabis retail. The provincial government, which has delayed their REC retail licenses for six months, is also competing with the Cowichan Tribes for shopping-mall real-estate In Victoria, where they wish to open a BC Cannabis store. BC's cannabis minister signalled the government is willing to stand down.
    Vancouver Sun
  2. BC's first Indigenous-owned REC retailer, Kure Cannabis Society, opened on National Indigenous Peoples Day in the Skwah First Nation, near Chilliwack.
    The Tyee
  3. Okanagan, home of BC Bud (according to some, mainly Okanagans), finally got its first REC retailer, eight months in.
    National Post
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Public Domain

The Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program said between September and December of last year, there were 16 cases of "serious adverse events" in children and teenagers caused by REC. All cases required critical care, though the data was split between 10 children who accidentally consumed cannabis-infused products, and six cases of "intentional exposure" in which teenagers consuming cannabis had too much. Globe and Mail, CBC Health

"While the numbers may be higher, to understand if we are now seeing an elevated risk of poisonings post-legalization this needs to be calculated as a population-level risk, not just 'there are more than there were before,'" Haines-Saah argued. "For example, in Colorado there were reports that peds poisonings 'increased 5 fold' post-legalization. Yet this was an increase of 38 cases over 6 years FOR THE ENTIRE STATE. Again, a significant number, but is this meaningful at the population level? Or for health services?" Twitter

  • Epidemiology scholar Stephanie Lake noted it is "important to remember this represents a change from 0.008% --> 0.026% of ALL hospital visits in that age group. Something to look for? Yes. [Public] health crisis? No."
  • One of the study's lead investigators, Dr. Richard Bélanger, said "This is a small number."
    The Leaf
  • The main causes of pediatric poisonings, Haines-Saah stressed, are laundry pods, wiper fluid, and OTC medication. The Globe's André Picard referred to a study in Clinical Pediatrics that found children visit the ER after consuming cosmetics every two hours in the United States.
    Twitter, Clinical Pediatrics

Quick Hits

  1. The demographic group increasing cannabis use more than anyone else is middle-aged men, followed by middle-aged women.
    Global News
  2. Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said if his party wins power in October, they will not recriminalize cannabis, and "we do support the idea of people having [cannabis possession] records pardoned."
    CTV News
  3. Fat-activist and women-in-weed advocate Amanda Scriver challenged the "judgmental, all-or-nothing" attitude many cannabis enthusiasts express toward those who use prescription medication.



Canopy received a Health Canada license to grow outdoors and began planting in a 160-acre site in Saskatchewan—despite a longstanding opposition by the company and its CEO Bruce Linton to outdoor cultivation. In May of last year, Linton joined Allan Rewak of the Cannabis Council of Canada in asking the Senate to ban outdoor cultivation. Linton said then growing outdoors "may have a future sometime, but I don't think it's today."
Bloomberg, iPolitics

In May of last year, Linton joined Allan Rewak of the Cannabis Council of Canada in asking the Senate to ban outdoor cultivation. Linton said then, growing outdoors "may have a future sometime, but I don't think it's today."
Bloomberg, iPolitics

  • Following news they had received an outdoor license from Health Canada, Linton told Bloomberg, "We’ll take a licence for anything we can get, but we’re cautious enough to call it a pilot because there’s a possibility these things don’t work out as much as some people would like. We’re not sure this is going to be a long-term business for us but we need to try everything."
  • The move may potentially allow Canopy to produce lower quality bud for extraction, leaving its indoor product for the dry-flower market—though Linton himself expressed doubts about how easy it is to grow outdoors: "I suspect a lot of people are going to find out in the next three to four months it’s not a straightforward process to grow quality cannabis in Canada in an outdoor environment."
  • After absorbing 12 companies in a year, Canopy is finished buying smaller producers, and is focused on developing beverages. The company will also begin producing infused chocolates at their Smith Falls headquarters (the former Smiths Falls Hershey Chocolate factory that I and many other children in the Ottawa area visited on field trips in the 1980s). Financial Post, Ottawa Business Journal
  • The Globe's Jameson Berkow noted Linton told him explicitly that regardless of federal legalization in the US, passage of the STATES Act (recognizing and protecting state legalization) would trigger the closure of the $3.4B Acreage deal.
  • A number of Canopy insiders sold stock.
    Twitter—WeedStreet 420

Quick Hits

  1. At the Cannabis Europa conference, Aurora CCO Cam Battley called on UK doctors to hurry up and start prescribing MED. "What was the point of creating a medical cannabis system if patients can’t access it?" he asked.
    The Guardian
  2. Tilray made its first shipment of MED to the UK.
    Yahoo Finance
  3. Lift offered advice for new MED users getting used to the medical system. Lift also produced a very handy infographic to help break down the final regulations on new cannabis products, plus comparisons for all with dried flower.



RavenQuest BioMed CEO George Robinson courted controversy when he boasted on Twitter that after harvest, his company was yielding "55 grams per plant. Every RQB is exceeding our expectations." He enclosed a photo of harvested bud, and growers were quick to comment it looked harvested too early and that 55 grams per plant was not an impressive yield.

Quick Hits

  1. The Global Cannabis Partnership formally launched during the World Cannabis Congress in St John, NB last week. The body was established in order to set "social responsibility" standards for the sector.
    Financial Post, Cannabis Now
  2. Alberta, leading the country with 136 REC retailers, is celebrating its clear lack of supply shortage by speeding its licensing process up from 5 to 10 new stores per week. Albertan head shops worry they're going to be put out of business by an ever-growing number of stores that sell everything they do—plus the cannabis to consume with it.
    Globe and Mail—Paywall, The Star
  3. Customers lined up for the opening of Fort McMurray, AB's first REC store, which served 400 in two hours in the 66,600-person mining community.
    CBC Edmonton, GrowthOp



If even 15% of BC's illicit growers join the legal market, it would mean $3B in legal REC sales, according to a report from Grow Tech Labs. However , Grow Tech CEO Barinder Rasode argued the cost for craft growers to go legit is too great while production caps are too low.

  • According to Grow Tech's numbers, doubling micro-cultivation production caps would employ hundreds and generate $700M in tax revenue.
  • Lawyer Trina Fraser noted the responsibility for lifting the burden on craft producers isn't just Health Canada's, but also falls to the provinces to allow farm-gate sales, and to municipalities to stop passing bylaws that hobble cannabis production.

Quick Hits

  1. Health Canada reported cannabis sales increased by 16% in the month of April, with combined flower and oil sales up 10%. The biggest growth was in MED dry flower (25%) and REC oil (20%).
    CTV News, Globe and Mail
  2. A Leafly survey found roughly 6M Canadians plan to celebrate Canada Day on Monday with some cannabis. Who will be the first to retire their Molson Canadian Rocks hat for Broken Coast or Tantalus swag?
    Twitter—Jo Vos, GrowthOp, Calgary Sun
  3. Quebec's dépanneurs (corner stores) and grocery stores are lobbying the provincial government to allow them to sell edibles and cannabis beverages. They note they're already trusted with selling alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets.
    Journal de Montréal—In French



Brett Vye, CEO of Molson-Coors/Hexo cannabeverage maker Truss, predicted infused beverages would ultimately represent between 20% and 30% of the total REC market.

  • Vye said Truss, with its Molson-Coors connection, was a company of "beverage specialists, not beverage generalists," as opposed to its principal competitor, the combined forces of Canopy and Constellation.
  • US markets, where beverages have been legal for some time, have seen nothing like that market share for beverages.
  • According to BDS Analytics, demand for beverages in 2018 in the California market (roughly the same size as Canada) was low, though beverages are growing in popularity year over year. Dry flower held 38% of Californian market share last year, concentrates held 33%, and ingestibles made up only 12% (that category was led by candy, tinctures, and chocolates, with beverages coming later).
  • "Is it possible? Well, even leprechauns are possible; but I don’t see it," said food-and-beverage consultant Brian Sterling, who noted beverages represented 1.1% of cannabis sales in the US in January and February.
    Globe and Mail

Quick Hits

  1. On St-Jean Baptiste Day, Quebec's "national" holiday, celebrants in Montreal were allowed to enjoy the city's municipal celebrations with a joint in hand. In Quebec City, the Commission des champs de bataille nationaux (The Commission of National Battlefields) has prohibited use of cannabis on its land, including the Plains of Abraham, where the party is held. It isn't just cannabis—they also banned alcohol, all liquids, cans and bottles, water-guns, studded clothing, balls of any kind, umbrellas, and musical instruments. That's why people come to Montreal to have a good time.
    Journal de Montréal, TVA Nouvelles
  2. In the frenzy of invoking closure to push through two controversial bills cutting immigration and banning those who wear religious symbols from a variety of jobs serving the public, Quebec's CAQ government ran out of time to raise the age for cannabis consumption. As a result, adults between 18 and 21 will still be legally allowed to buy and consume cannabis over the summer until the National Assembly reconvenes in August.
    Montreal Gazette
  3. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has established the National Cannabis Working Group with a variety of major LP and REC retail partners to "improve the sector's competitiveness," though with membership costing between $5,000 and $10,000, brand strategist Rachel Colic said small businesses would be kept out.
    MJ Biz Daily, Twitter


Joey Pena

A joint task force of police forces investigating illicit CBD from Owen Sound, Saugeen Shores, and Hanover Ontario announced they had used Cannabis Act search warrants to raid three sites, charging four with selling unlicensed CBD products. Charges include "unlawfully selling cannabis, unlawfully possessing cannabis for the purpose of selling it, unlawfully possessing cannabis for the purpose of distributing it and possessing property obtained by crime under $5,000."
Owen Sound Sun Times

Quick Hits

  1. The number of seeded-acres of hemp across Canada roughly tripled, driven by CBD trends, but lacking a benchmark hemp price, producers are forced to barter.
    Globe and Mail—Paywall
  2. Half of LPs have entered the US hemp market.
    Motley Fool
  3. Health Canada announced it has adopted "a public health approach to the legalization and strict regulation of cannabis" and announced $15.2M funding for 13 organizations across Canada doing public health-and-safety education about cannabis.


Jesse Staniforth

Namaste announced major changes to its web-based model. Previously, the company bought wholesale stock from LPs and resold their product, competing with them. Now, they will charge a fee to LPs who will now be able to sell their products directly through Namaste's CannMart MED e-platform. The goal of the program will be to encourage repeat purchases.

  • Interim CEO Meni Morim declined to say how many companies had agreed to work with Namaste.
  • "The change in model from wholesale to consignment has been quite recent. There’s been a lot of fear and doubt about Namaste since February," Morim told the Globe.

Quick Hits

  1. Supreme Cannabis launched London, UK–based Supreme Heights, an investment platform aimed to service the UK and European CBD boom. It also partnered with Wiz Khalifa and Khalifa Kush Enterprises Canada to launch a line of high-THC REC oils. This marks Khalifa and Khalifa Kush's entry into the Canadian market.
    NewsWire, Press Release, The Straight
  2. Organigram, which does not plan to develop its own infused ingestibles, is looking for a beverage-production partner with a global distribution footprint.
    MJ Biz Daily
  3. Cannahorse, "Created for horse people, by horse people," billed itself on its launch as "the world's first-ever legal cannabis brand dedicated to horse health." Quality horse puns followed on twitter, as did someone who remembered, "Purity Hemp in Mt Pleasant, Ontario has been doing hemp based equine products since 1999. 'CannaHorse' is not the first to market."



Edmonton police reported an increase in drug-impaired drivers—as police elsewhere in the country continue to report impaired driving isn't going up in their areas.

  • Of the 53 drug-impaired drivers they caught following cannabis legalization, 19 (36%) were believed to be impaired by cannabis. Over the same time period a year earlier, there were only three arrests for drug-impaired driving.
    The Star
  • The numbers were in a report by the Edmonton Police Commission which Police Chief Dale McFee says will not be used as an argument for additional funding, though it will likely present an argument for keeping its new funding (as of May 2018).
  • The report argues it takes far more longer to process suspected drug-impaired drivers and costs more money.
  • The report argues without evidence that "As the supply [of legal REC] increases, these numbers will rise."
  • Edmonton Councillor Scott McKeen expressed skepticism at the numbers and the argument that legalization created an increase in impaired driving, saying he suspected they have increased only because police have gone looking for cannabis-impaired drivers, adding the number of cannabis users hasn't changed dramatically since legalization.
  • Police chief McFee said the increase was the product of both increased use following legalization and increased police attention.

Quick Hits

  1. Between 2011 and 2017, Canadian cannabis use by those aged 15 and up increased 62%, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's 2019 World Drug Report.
    Business In Vancouver
  2. Cannabis activist Dana Larsen is pushing for the legalization of psychedelic mushrooms, and has opened an online mushroom dispensary selling psychedelic mushrooms only in micro-doses. Vancouver police said they're aware of the business, but "Magic mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs are not typically an enforcement priority for the VPD, given the ongoing opioid epidemic, unless there are aggravating factors such as trafficking to children, or near schools and playgrounds."
    Vice, CTV News
  3. Vancouver updated its zoning laws to allow for REC sales in the impoverished Downtown East Side.
    The Straight
  4. Leafly announced it would bring its Pickup service to Alberta and Saskatchewan, allowing consumers to reserve products online and pick them up the same day from local retailers.
    Globe and Mail


Jesse Staniforth

Licensed REC retailers in Saskatchewan complained of illicit cannabis being sold with Health Canada–compliant packaging and warning labels, though without Health Canada–compliant lot numbers and percentage of cannabinoids.

  • Retailers—and media—claimed this was "illegal cannabis disguised to look like the legitimate product."

Quick Hits

  1. Prohibition may ironically lead to increased cannabis consumption—and legalization may force consumption down.
    The Street
  2. The Liberal government passed its record-suspension legislation last week—but since most people with criminal records have more than a single cannabis possession charge, experts don't expect there will be much demand for pardons under the new law.
    CBC Politics
  3. Quebec was never as lenient toward illicit dispensaries as Ontario or BC, quickly cracking down on dispensaries as soon as it became aware of them. In 2017, I wrote about the high profile raid that took place at Quebec City's Cannoisseur, the third MED dispensary in the city to open and quickly get raided in 2017. Its owners pled guilty this week to trafficking and possession with intent to traffic.
    Leafly, Journal de Montreal—In French
  4. In an opinion piece bemoaning Health Canada's legalization 2.0 regulations, Dalhousie University cannabis food distribution professor Sylvain Charlebois described Canadian legalization as offering the equivalent of "some dingy bingo hall playing lousy music."
    Chronicle Herald