The second coming of cannabis legalization in Canada


Three years ago we celebrated legalization in Canada with the first legal 420. Huddled under tarps, tokers lined up in the rain to sample the wares on offer from the first legal cannabis retailers in Ontario. Still, it felt like two steps forward, one step back, as lounges and cannabis events remained illegal, and cannabis edibles wouldn’t be available for another year. In the green rush to scale quickly, Licensed Producers unfortunately also forgot about quality.

Before legalization, we interpreted Health Canada’s new cannabis regulations as a blueprint for the great arrival of craft cannabis. While many new offerings have arrived on the legal market, the majority of the cannabis on shelves across Canada is a collection of dusty, aged mids. Retailers complain about being stuck with inventory that’s months old, while some growers suggest that some of the flower on the shelves now could be pre-legalization. There’s no requirement for LPs to list an expiry date on the packaging of legal weed, but it’s not uncommon to be sold a product that’s been packaged six months earlier.

In order to rebuild consumer trust, SKU rationalization is happening from coast to coast as provincial distributors realize that not all cannabis is created equal. Unfortunately, retailers are still being burdened with aged inventory. With billions of unpackaged grams (and counting) stacking up, there’s no point growing weed unless you have the fire.

But that’s all about to change. Luckily for consumers, micro producers are finally hitting the legal market and provinces are starting to adapt distribution for this new market. 

From exploring farmgate sales to distribution on consignment, provincial distributors are taking a page from craft beer and wine to develop new routes to market for producers. LPs are also paying attention, with some of them abandoning growing their own weed altogether in favour of partnering with craft producers.

But what to do with all of that aging inventory? Perhaps a giant Burning Man smoke-out on Canada Day on the Hill? 

While we burn our mountains of mids, we can set higher intentions on where we want cannabis culture to go next in Canada and embrace the craft future.

Lisa Campbell is CEO of Mercari Agency Limited.




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