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High hopes for Canada’s legal cannabis, despite shortages

In this edition of his Urban Cowboy column, Owen Roberts talks to an expert who predicts more cannabis licenses are coming
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Cannabis users and curious first-timers are shaking their heads about the projected long-term shortage of legal cannabis in Canada.

But consumer frustration and production shortfalls might open doors for farmers and for alternative small-scale production that can fill the gap, says a major supplier.

Maor Shayit, Chief Marketing Officer for Toronto-based Weed Me, predicts new licenses will be granted to craft, micro and boutique growers to help address the shortfall plaguing legal cannabis channels now and further, is predicted to last for years.

It’s a lucrative market - recent sales figures show $54 million of cannabis was sold in Canada in November, the first full month of its legal availability.

An unaddressed shortage leaves much tax revenue on the table, let alone opening the door for more underground activity.

“Common sense dictates that it’s better to have the market demand filled by skilled professionals such as greenhouse producers or conventional farmers who already know how to grow horticultural plants,” says Shayit. “It’s one thing to talk about the agricultural angle of cannabis production when it’s not a legitimate business, but now it’s no longer just in the hands of home producers and the illegal market.”

The changing market includes a drive towards better genetics and growth facilities, which have likewise been an underground pursuit. Now, well-established researchers and labs at institutions such as the University of Guelph are engaged in improving cannabis production.

In fact, a $20-million fundraising effort is percolating to develop a Guelph Centre for Cannabis Research. The prospect of a new state-of-the-art facility licensed to address the full scope of issues related to medical and recreational cannabis, from policy to horticulture, is considered an exciting development at home and abroad.

In addition to breeding, the University of Guelph program proposes to address the fine tuning of controlled environment “recipes” for cannabis. The goal is to standardize the profile of medical compounds in specific strains.

Prof. Mike Dixon, director of the university’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, says this approach promises to significantly enhance medical cannabis applications’ efficacy, and reduce the variability of results in clinical trials. The university is working closely with industry partners on these research objectives.

And that’s music to the ears of one of the world’s most established cannabis companies, Dutch Passion Seed Company – located in Amsterdam, one of the world’s most established cannabis cultures.

Dutch Passion has sold cannabis seed out of its Amsterdam headquarters since 1987. Company CEO Eric Siereveld says now that Canada has legalized cannabis, the industry worldwide has its eyes on our country. It’s a young legal market, but things are moving quickly with investment, if not product. Siereveld has high hopes for Canadian cannabis genetics development.

“Canada has surpassed the Netherlands in being ahead of the game in legal cannabis production,” he says. “Your government’s mandate has good foresight into where this industry could go.”

In January, Weed Me started distributing Dutch Passion products to licensed producers and retailers in Canada. The products were grown in Weed Me’s Toronto-area facility, from seed supplied by Dutch Passion.

This is big news in the cannabis world. Dutch Passion has operated in The Netherlands’ curious cannabis culture since the late 1980s. The company is world renowned for producing some of the best cannabis seed on the planet, even though technically cannabis has never been legal in The Netherlands like it is now in Canada.

Shayit sees further genetics development on the horizon in Canada.

“It’s much harder to do proper research or genetic development when the product is illegal,” he says. “It takes several generations of plants to make a change, and even once you do, in a black market you won’t want to publish your results, so it’s hard to prove or track. Now, we have the opportunity to go back to the drawing board, create better genetics and really make some progress."