Cultivating the Future of Craft Cannabis in Canada

craft cannabis
(Yarygin/iStock)

The build up to the legalization of bud in Canada has been dominated by headlines surrounding mass scale growers and the multi-million dollar deals that have been completed in order to meet the country’s cannabis demands.

But in amongst the big money investments, the ever-expanding greenhouse space, and the rush to become the recognized brand in the legal market, what is happening to the craft growers who have been the backbone of this market long before legalization was even on the horizon?

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The Challenge of Legalization

“Craft growers embody the genesis of this industry,” says. David Robertson director of the Craft Cannabis Association. “Craft growers are the fountain from which modern knowledge and cultivars have issued forth to reignite the world’s love of cannabis and we would not have any of these world changes without them.”

But despite the vital role that small scale producers have played in getting the industry to its current point, many craft producers fear that they will be left behind in the newly legalized landscape, which Robertson believes has favoured large corporations so far.

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As part of the legalization process, Health Canada has designated a subclass of licenses that are specifically targeted at micro cultivators. These came into effect on October 17th and allow craft producers to grow cannabis within a certain sized footprint provided they meet the requirements stipulated.

Those stipulations, however, could prove prohibitive for those craft growers who have been responsible for the development of Canadian cannabis as we know it today. They will also add to the cost of production for small scale producers who will struggle to compete with the price and scale of larger growers.

“If we don't support craft all we will have is big box, what would you rather buy?”
David Robertson, Craft Cannabis Association

“The way the system is set up will exclude most smaller operators,” says Robertson. “The danger of losing valuable cultivars and talented growers is very real.”

By squeezing out craft producers the industry doesn’t just run the risk of losing the skills and expertise of these cultivars, it will also impact consumers who could find that the quality and variety of product they have access to will be limited as a result. “Ultimately, this is like so many other industries,” adds Robertson. “If we don’t support craft all we will have is big box, what would you rather buy?”

You need only look at Canada’s beer industry for an example of what can happen if big box products take a hold of the market.

The recent explosion of craft beer has been a direct response to the homogenization of the industry, thankfully offering consumers the variety and choice they were crying out for. But the beer industry’s struggles beforehand should serve as a warning for what the cannabis landscape could become if craft growers are squeezed out by legalization.

Cultivating Craft Growers

It’s not all bad news for Canada’s craft cannabis producers, however. Indeed one BC cannabis company is taking steps to ensure that they don’t get lost in the crowd by launching an industry first Craft Grower Program to help craft growers legally bring the province’s very best bud to the market.

“BC is full of fantastic craft growers who have the skills, experience, and knowledge to produce some of the best cannabis in the world,” says Philip Campbell, Co-Founder, Director and CEO of Ascent Industries Corp.

“We’ve launched our Craft Grower Program to enable small scale cultivators and producers to successfully participate within the legal, regulated market by giving them access to our experienced management and scientific teams, our Canadian and global distribution network and to our sophisticated genetic/propagation techniques. In return, the program provides Ascent with access to a steady supply of premium, craft cannabis to offer to its customers.”

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The innovative scheme will enable small scale growers to leverage Ascent’s network to distribute their product to British Columbia, Canada, and eventually the world. Ascent intends to build a network of more than 50 of the very best craft producers to champion BC bud with the long term aim to create a cannabis network that promotes collaboration to help craft growers successfully enter the legal market.

This collaboration between craft growers and licensed producers points to a future where cultivators work together in order to bring the very best cannabis products to consumers. “Since the very beginning we’ve focused on championing the very best of what BC cannabis producers have to offer,” added Campbell. “Our province is home to some of the best growers in the industry, and we want to make sure that their efforts at the grassroots of this growing industry do not go unrewarded.”