Oh Cannabis: Canada's growing marijuana industry
This article was previously published for the Calgary Journal.
Canada is on the cusp of an exciting time as the cannabis industry begins to grow and the legalization of marijuana is on the horizon.
With the election of Justin Trudeau as prime minister, legalization of recreational marijuana is getting closer every day. Trudeau’s platform in the 2015 federal election promised to legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.
Canada will be one of very few countries to legalize marijuana — a promise that has led to the beginning of a growing industry.
Legalization is set to take place in less than a year on Canada Day — July 1, 2018.
A growing industry
There are strong indications that the marijuana business is beginning to take off. Colette Rivet, executive director of Cannabis Canada, fully expects an increase in the number of cannabis businesses in Canada. “There are over 400 applicants according to Health Canada right now and they’re actively reviewing some 180 companies,” she says.
Cannabis Canada represents only medical marijuana companies in Canada. The association currently serves “17 companies of the total of 36 companies out there.” When asked if they would begin to accept memberships from incoming recreational marijuana companies, Rivet said the association would continue their membership drive.
Companies and associations related to marijuana are beginning to establish themselves or expand operations in anticipation of increased demand — most will be ready to offer tools, information, and resources to people trying to enter the industry.
Edmonton company Cannabis at Work is currently Canada’s only marijuana staffing agency. The company began in 2015 to help educate and train people about marijuana at the workplace. According to their website, “changing cannabis laws require employers to reset expectations on cannabis use in the workplace.” This aspect of their business is still in progress, but in 2017 they launched their staffing division.
Alison McMahon, founder and CEO of Cannabis at Work, says, “I always had the staffing part in the back of my mind. But, two years ago the marketplace was not at the maturity that it needed to support a staffing agency. Now as we are approaching legalization and a firmer date around legalization, then it was time to launch the staffing division.”
McMahon has high hopes that legalization will be a strong and thriving industry in Canada. “The businesses in the legal-cannabis sector are already ramping up for legalization because existing licensed producers will be producers in the recreational market as well.
“We are seeing ramping up in the current market and once legalization hits and we are going to see a whole new retail market open and a whole stream of businesses that will start at that point.”
McMahon believes her staffing agency will be successful because there will be a wide variety of new jobs available — production, managerial, director of sales, chief financial officer, IT, HR, accounting and marketing. She encourages people that may want to “shake up their careers a little bit” to bring some of their experience into a new and thriving industry.
Cannabis expos: Preparing for an industry
Lift is a cannabis expo that began in Toronto and now has expanded to Vancouver. The idea behind creating a large-scale cannabis expo was that “there was a gap in the market,” says CEO, Matei Olaru.
Last year in Toronto, the expo hosted nearly 10,000 people. This year, there was a 50 per cent increase in both guests and exhibitors.
Olaru credits this increase to the fact that legalization in Canada is not far away. “Next year, legalization starts and presumably you’re going to have an extra four million people using cannabis.”
Lift is a cannabis expo that brings together cannabis businesses and clients. Attendance at the expo in Toronto last year was under 10,000 but increased 50 per cent this year. Photo courtesy of Matei Olaru
The goal of the expo is to help educate people about “maturing the industry.” Olaru believes the market is becoming successful, despite having a few obstacles — there is a lot of misinformation and lack of information about the cannabis industry.
“There is a stereotype of being a stoner. If there is a business that is stereotyped as a cannabis business then you probably can’t be too successful. Usually it is a lack of information that is impeding progression.”
Olaru says the business side has been seeing a lot of demand. At this year’s expo, they hosted a business-only day, which saw different panels and even a pitch contest — with celebrity judge Brett Wilson from the CBC show Dragon’s Den.
“[Some people] thinks it’s just a flower, that you just roll a joint and then smoke it — but there is so much more to it,” says Olaru.
Global News reported that construction of an 800,000 square-foot Aurora Sky cannabis production facility is currently underway in Edmonton. The $100 million project is expected to create 200-300 jobs in the Cannabis industry. Aurora also currently has a production facility in Cremona, Alta.
Getting to know the proposed Cannabis Act
All of this information is subject to changes in the proposed law. This information is from the Government of Canada and is only what the government is suggesting. Provinces will be able to decide on their own laws and regulations, such as the legal age limit.
If you are 18 years or older you will be able to...
• Possess 30g of legal cannabis
• Share up to 30g of legal cannabis with other adults
• Purchase cannabis from a province-licensed retailer (dried cannabis, fresh cannabis and cannabis oil)
Growing your own...
• You will be able to grow up to four cannabis plants
• Plants cannot be grown taller than 100cm
• Plants must be grown from licensed seed or seedlings
• You will be allowed to make cannabis products: such as food and drinks in your own home
Regulation and Criminal Penalties
Illegal distribution or sale
Tickets for small amounts or up to 14 years in jail
Possession over the limit (30 grams)
Tickets for small amounts or up to five years in jail
Production of cannabis beyond personal use for adults
Tickets for small amounts or up to 14 years in jail
Taking cannabis across Canada’s borders
Up to 14 years in jail
Government regulation and industry standards
• Strict requirements for producers (grow and manufacture cannabis)
• Monitor types of cannabis products that will be allowed for sale
• Packaging and labelling requirements for products, standardized measurements and serving sizes.
•Prohibiting the use of certain ingredients and restrictions on promoting cannabis and products