Treat us equally like craft beer breweries and wineries – Canada’s craft cannabis growers in richest province plead.
The approval of license applications for craft cannabis growers in Canada is so slow that, micro-cultivators say, for 150 license requests submitted by March 2018, only two were granted by this point in 2019, and none of the licenses are for growers in Alberta (arguably the country ́s richest province), and the only province where rules forbid growers from selling directly to retailers.
“The micro community is very discouraged — it doesn’t seem a priority (for government license grantors),” moans James Welbourn of the Alberta Micro Cannabis Licensing Association, a cooperative of growers in Alberta province, in Western Canada, near the Pacific coast.
At the heart of moans from micro-growers and processors is the goal of selling their wares directly to consumers and retailers, just as craft breweries and wineries do. The Alberta province rule bans this direct selling while other provinces of Canada permit it.
For now, the laws are stifling and strict. In Alberta province, small craft growers are mandated to sell their harvest to the regulator (who is also the wholesaler). The province ́s regulator is called the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC).
All licensed pot producers follow must abide by these rules of selling. It is easier to do on paper than practice because obstacles are numerous. Municipal zoning laws, in-line with Canada government law, stipulates that cannabis growers cannot exceed 2,152 square feet in canopy space.
Slow granting of licenses, foot-dragging if you will, does not help efforts to eradicate black market pot industry “By making the transition as difficult as possible, it’s keeping these guys doing what’s worked well for them (in the black market),” says James. Additionally, craft growers face further bumps along the license stage. Authorities require cannabis growers to build facilities out to completion before a permit is given. Some hopeful growers stop at this stage.
It is a financial risk to plough dollars in building processing/growing facilities before licenses are granted, says Welbourn.If licensing roadblocks are overcome, Welbourn and his association plan to roll out their business just like craft beer and wine players. “We’re looking at getting unique (customer) access to micro growers modelled after the beer and wine industry,” says Welbourn.
In neighboring British Columbia province, right on the Pacific coast, Julian Smith, a licensed cannabis producer who hopes to launch his own micro cultivation nursery business wants Alberta to copy other liberal provinces of Canada that permit craft growers to sell their harvest and merchandise directly to retail and jump the wholesale middleman.
“You can build your relationship with the dispensary . . . your product is almost sold out before it gets to the store,” he says, talking about rising demand for higher-quality craft cannabis.
But that creates another reverse dilemma. He says large corporate producers would likely see small craft growers as being favored. They will demand similar treatment.
The province authorities appear not too keen to change their stance. Smaller pot growers operating like wineries while also enjoying direct sales to retailers aren’t part of Alberta province laws.
This creates a curious situation where small growers must sell to the regulator/wholesaler and buy back their own product to sell it themselves. “(Alberta province) is open to working with small craft producers on that time when they get federal (countrywide) license,” said Heather Holmen, spokesperson for the regulator, The Alberta Province Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis. “We are open to working with stakeholders in the province to ensure a balanced approach that protects the health and safety of Alberta (province).” This is the federal license that craft growers complain is slow to be given. The cycle continues.
Written and Published By Ray Mwareya In Weed World Magazine Issue 143
Image: Washarapol D Jundang