Canada’s large-scale licensed marijuana suppliers are counting down the months until edibles are finally able to be sold in Canada, but it appears that many smaller entrepreneurs are looking to get into the industry as well.
From a baker in Grand Bay to a Fredericton restaurant owner who recently closed his business to get into the industry, entrepreneurs in the province are hoping to get a piece of the edibles pie. But it may not be the easiest road to get their products carried in Cannabis NB stores come October 17 this year.
Currently, people are allowed to make edible in their homes for personal use but it’s illegal to sell them.
The guidelines have yet to be approved, but under the proposed federal rules for edibles, a single serving would be limited to 10 milligrams of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Servings must also be individually wrapped. Pot edibles must be sold in child-resistant packages and must not appeal to youth nor advertise any dessert or confectionery flavours.
Then there is also the issue of licensing. All Health Canada approved licensed cannabis suppliers have applied for and received proper licensing. There’s a license for growing, a license for cultivating and another one for selling. Cannabis NB general Manager Lara Wood says something similar can be expected when it comes to legally producing and selling edibles.
“What I have seen up until now is quite rigorous. There’s a lot of components to the application process and a lot of rules that have to be followed … from a safety perspective,” says Wood. “I know Health Canada is very focused on how things have to be made and packaged. There’s a lot of rules that have to be followed. I would speculate for a smaller organization, some of those could be challenging, but not insurmountable.”
One way smaller businesses may look to make the licensing process easier is to partner with a bigger licensed producer.
“We don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like on the edible side. My sense is from the conversations that I’ve had, there will be another license for edibles that builds on the others,” says Wood.
“I think several organizations might be looking to partner with a producer or we’ve heard of some food organizations that are partnering with cannabis producers and working together so they fall under similar licensing.”
But say you do get approval from Health Canada, how do you get your products into the retail space? For Cannabis NB, Wood says they look at new suppliers by putting out a call for Expressions Of Interest (EOI) to companies looking to have their product carried in their stores.
“Several times over the past year, we’ve put out a public expression of interest that basically just says we’re always looking for new partners,” says Wood. “There are some specific products we’re interested in, but we’re open to hearing about any products that you want to put forward.”
From there, Cannabis NB will confirm the company’s license, and make sure everything is compliant with the Health Canada guidelines. They will then look at their product offerings, pricing and how it fits within its portfolio. If it does, they will then look at entering into a supply agreement.
“A supply agreement is a partnership where we agree on the terms and how we’re going to work together,” says Wood. “That’s what we’ve done with the producers up until now and it will be a very similar process going forward. We’ll put out similar product calls or expressions of interest that will be open for anyone to respond to.”
Wood says Cannabis NB has received a lot of calls from people interested in getting into the edibles market and are open to chatting with them, even if they’re not licensed yet.
“This is a new industry and so many players are coming to the table all the time. We’ve also been very open to just having preliminary meetings to share information,” she says.
“We’ve met with a few different producers who are not licensed yet, but they just want to know how it works and talk to us a bit about what their plans are and get on our radar. That’s really good for us too, because we’ve put them on our distribution list and we can keep them plugged in as we move forward and start looking for products for the stores.”
When smaller New Brunswick producers become licensed, Cannabis NB will be open to carrying their products.
“We’ve always said from the beginning whether it’s first phase or second phase, we’d love to work with New Brunswick companies as much as possible. The [licensing] process is really heavy, there’s a lot of requirements and the investment to get into that business is pretty big, so [the businesses] tend to be larger,” says Wood.
“But we are always open to talking to New Brunswick companies and local companies, it’s in everybody’s best interest. We will certainly have conversations with organizations that maybe aren’t big enough to supply our whole network of stores but we’re still open to see what they can bring to the table and see how they can incorporate those products into our portfolio as well.”
Wood says Cannabis NB stores are already equipped to store edibles.
“If you’ve been in one of our stores, some of that’s shelving units, but we also have tables in the stores that are currently being used for additional information and education materials. But we have units that go on those tables to display edibles. We have fridge setups and placements already in-place … so a lot of that thinking has been done,” says Wood. “Now we’re having the portfolio nailed down to know exactly what we will be bringing in and what will go where.”
With the regulations not even finalized yet, that makes now until October 17 a tight timeline. Wood says it’s important for consumers to manage their expectations when it comes to how many products are available come mid-October.
“Just given where the regulations are and the time that’s needed to get the packaging right and make sure everybody can meet the standards and be licensed,” she says. “I think it’s really important to manage expectations about how much will be available and what will be available right on the day. We’re watching very closely to see how the regulations roll out.”