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April 20 is always a special day for cannabis enthusiasts, but in Canada the 2019 celebration takes on a special shine. After all, Canada made headlines around the world when it legalized recreational cannabis in October 2018, opening the doors to businesses, communities and medical research that used to operate in the shadows.

Cannvas.Me wanted to take a 360-degree view of where Canada has succeeded and where it's faltered in bringing recreational cannabis to its citizens, with the hope that Canadians and government officials can learn from the hits and misses.

What Went Right

Variety: As of April 2019, Health Canada approved 164 licensed cannabis producers, which means a bevy of choice for Canadian cannabis lovers who want to try an array of strains and products. Thankfully, a single company doesn’t have a monopoly on the cannabis products available. That variety will also expand impressively come October 2019 when Canada ushers edibles and oils into the market.

Women and Weed: Along with rec legalization came community leaders, activists and executives from many backgrounds, including a swell of female-identified cannabis leaders who have been making a strong impact on the industry. From Barinder Rasode of NICHE Canada to brand strategist Rachel Colic to Hot Box Café owner Abi Roach, women have been leading the charge for inclusivity within the Canadian cannabis space, and will undoubtedly be integral voices in the national conversation on where recreational and medical cannabis progresses in the coming years.


Cannabis research: Many scientists and researchers interviewed by Cannvas.Me over the past six months have been optimistic about the potential for easier access to cannabis and thus more opportunities to study the plant. When recreational and even medical cannabis weren’t available in Canada, researchers were often stymied in trying to get over the bureaucratic red tape of studying a drug deemed too dangerous to hand over to academia. In 2019, we’re seeing licensed producers such as Tilray and Canopy Growth partner with hospitals and community organizations to better understand a plant with a large amount of health benefits…some of which are still unknown to the public.

What Went Wrong

Cannabis shortage, poor quality bud: While the majority of online stores and retail outlets fared OK when recreational legalization rolled out, we heard of several outlets – online and offline – that were clean out of dried flower, pre-rolls and CBD products. The latter is especially worrisome to medical patients who sorely require the therapeutic benefits of CBD. On social media, some consumers also revealed mouldy and seed-ridden dried flower, while others claimed they were “shorted” on some eighths purchased legally.

Draconian marketing restrictions: While we understand The Cannabis Act’s cautionary notes about ensuring LPs don’t market cannabis to youth, some of the restrictions on how to promote cannabis are head-scratching. For example, in Quebec any product showing cannabis-related symbols, even a leaf, have been banned. No TV or radio stations have allowed cannabis companies to promote their products. But executives in the industry are hopeful the tide will turn. In an interview earlier this year, May Nazair, head of licensing and communications at licensed producer Zenabis, told Cannvas.me: “As we progress and the industry starts to mature, some of the insecurities and fears we have towards cannabis may subside in some areas.”


25 stores in Ontario? Canada’s most populous province has far less bricks-and-mortar cannabis stores than Alberta, due to the Ford government’s wariness of going too big too fast. But to only launch 5 stores in Toronto will only create havoc at stores, perhaps resulting in those consumers turning back towards the black market. Also, many cannabis advocates voiced their concern about the lottery process to select those 25 store owners, since anyone could have put in a bid, even those with zero cannabis or retail experience.

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