What You Need to Know to Become a Legal Cannabis Grower in Canada

growing cannabis
(Nastasic/iStock)

Growing cannabis is easy, selling in a government- and corporate-dominated environment of post-legalization isn’t. But it’s not impossible. And Western Canadian Cannabis Consultants (WCCC) is trying to help growers and would-be growers navigate the intricately complicated world of government regulation to get their product to market by holding a free Craft Cannabis Micro Cultivation Licensing Workshop in Surrey, B.C., on October 30.

The Vancouver-based firm specializes in helping cannabis growers with regulatory compliance, marketing and branding.

Room to Grow

The government is offering micro cultivation licenses, which allow for up to 200 square meters (2,152 square feet) of canopy space and an up to 600 kg annual output for qualified growers. But getting a growing license is not like showing up to the Ministry of Transportation to get a learner’s permit.

Health Canada will only accept professionally drafted applications that detail the potential facility’s floor plan, location, physical security design, security clearances, risk management programs, standard operating procedures, and corporate structure summary.

Applicants must also file a site survey, quality assurance reports and other administrative forms to local authorities. The government’s choice of using canopy and output limits instead of the area under cultivation as a limiting factor exists to prevent growers from using vertical farming to increase yields.

The Surrey workshop, the WCCC said, will help growers get over the many hurdles the government has put in their way to sell cannabis legally. “You might have been growing for 25 years, but that doesn’t mean you can grow and sell now,” said WCCC vice-president Fabrizio Rossi. “It’s a different world now, but a very exciting one.” One in which you can make a lot of money growing and selling cannabis and not face jail time.

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Rossi acknowledged that the process is far from easy or intuitive; and said that was why he maintained that the workshop was important. It will feature guest speakers who will guide attendees on how to get their own licenses.

“It’s really no different than a retail license, but much harder to get,” Rossi said. “The government will look at each case individually; we’re comparing it to the immigration process.” And, like the immigration process, there is a considerable wait for action. Most applicants should expect to hear about their license status about 18 months after application.

The federal government has not given any details about what would disqualify an applicant, but Rossi thinks that common sense should be a reliable guide. “I don’t think a mere possession conviction would be a problem,” he said. “But a major trafficking one would probably be.”

Growers in High Demand

Is it worth all the red tape? It might well be. With cannabis shortages hitting several provinces, Rossi said that licensed distributors are actively seeking new reliable sources of high-quality cannabis and that the recent rise in popularity has encouraged users to seek out more and better strains. “They treat it like fine wine,” he said. WCCC’s own ad for the workshop refers to “authentic craft cannabis,” a nod to the incredibly picky beer industry.

And it could make economic sense. When Leafly asked Rossi about how much it would cost to properly equip a cultivation operation that complies to regulations, he laughed. “That’s the magic question everyone wants to know,” he said. “You could probably start at $250,000 or go up to $1 million.” While that sounds like a lot of money for an initial investment, 600 kg is a lot of product. If sold at a sweetheart wholesale price of $2 per gram, that output would be worth $1.2 million and could be repeated year after year.

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And it would appear as though the concept of educating Canadians on how to make money from legal cannabis cultivation has the government’s blessing, at least tacitly. After all, the workshop is being held at Surrey’s city hall.

For many Canadians, the prospect of investing in a career that allows them financial independence and an ability to succeed on the merit of the product they create is appealing. Ricky (real name withheld), grew cannabis in Coquitlam, B.C., for years before giving it up when he saw legalization coming, told Leafly that he was fascinated by the concept of being able to grow again—this time, legally. “I really liked growing; it was a calming activity and I was proud of my product,” he said. “If I could do it legally, I would jump at the chance.”

Indeed, when told about the workshop, he replied with interest, but he was cautious that “it might all be about them trying to sell me something, you know, like a time share thing.”