Where are the seeds? Cannabis stores across Canada face shortages
Canadians the age of majority in their province can grow up to four plants a household, yet there is no legal means to obtain seeds.
A one-ounce (28.3-gram) bag of cannabis and a bowl of seeds rest on a table. As of Oct. 17, Canadians the age of majority in most provinces (19 in B.C.) gained the right to grow up to four plants per household. Photo by ROBERT MACPHERSON / AFP/Getty Images
Licensed cannabis producers have put filling Canadians’ pot demands ahead of their desire to fill pots.
With federal legalization of recreational cannabis on Oct. 17, Canadians the age of majority in most provinces (19 in B.C.) gained the right to grow up to four plants per household, yet there is no legal means to obtain seeds or seedlings. None of the online government cannabis stores for B.C., Ontario, Alberta have listings for starting materials, and it is unclear when they will.
Where are the seeds? Cannabis stores across Canada face shortages Back to video
The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, which controls all distribution of legal product in the province, confirmed that B.C. Cannabis Stores still hasn’t been supplied with any seeds, and licensed producers aren’t yet shipping their full product commitments to its warehouse.
“None of the (licensed producers) has been able to supply seeds, and we do not know when they will,” spokesman Viviana Zannoco said in an email.
A spokeswoman for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission said they, too, do not know when seeds will arrive.
“Right now, regular production is the priority for licensed producers so they are focusing on trying to fulfil market demand,” Chara Goodings said in an email.
Health Canada said in an emailed statement that supply arrangements are negotiated directly between licensed producers and the provincial or territorial agencies in charge of distribution. A new “nursery licence,” which allows licensees to propagate, cultivate and harvest plants and seeds for other licence holders, will help grow the starting materials industry, Health Canada said.
But licensed producers say they are focused on meeting Canada’s massive demand for ready-to-consume products first.
Just two of the 132 licensed producers of medical cannabis in Canada, Canopy Growth and CannTrust , are listed on Health Canada’s website as vendors of seeds for medical purposes, and both have made supply agreements with provincial governments for recreational cannabis products, too.
Jordan Sinclair, vice-president of communications for Canopy, explained that his firm made getting dried flower, pre-rolled joints and oil products to the market its top priority, but also determined that most home growers intend to plant outdoors, next spring.
“It’s just one of the things that will come a little bit later,” he said.
CannTrust said in an emailed statement that it is focusing on meeting customers’ immediate demand for dried flower and oil products.
“We will take a look (at) seed sales in the future to determine if it makes sense for our product lineup,” the company said.
Meantime, Rebecca Ambrose, owner of the Vancouver Seed Bank , which is not government licensed, said her sales for October have at least tripled, with many Canadians ordering her bank’s illicit seeds online because they have no legal option.
“I’m honestly confused as to why they don’t have seeds available online, as well as in retail, because my understanding, at least, is that the (licensed producers) had partnered with companies like DNA Genetics, Greenhouse, and House of the Great Gardener, and the whole point of that was that they would have seeds available from those companies,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose said producing seeds isn’t difficult and a single fertilized female cannabis plant can yield thousands. The biggest issue for her seed bank with obtaining seeds is that they remain illegal and can get seized by customs agents.
She said she’s disappointed that the government has established a possession limit of 30 cannabis seeds.
“I think the government’s making a mistake by classifying seeds at all,” she said. “There’s no basis in science for that, there’s no need to limit people’s seed possession.”
Are marijuana seeds illegal in canada
Ontario’s state-run cannabis retail company just announced plans to begin selling a wide variety of cannabis seeds in a bid to win back market share from illegal weed dealers.
The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) just signed deals with two companies and is currently negotiating with several other companies to further expand its collection of seed offerings. As of now, the OCS only sells one brand of cannabis seed, and that product is currently out of stock.
Legal pot seeds are actually a rare find anywhere in Canada because most large-scale weed companies choose to focus on selling flower, edibles, vapes, and processed weed products rather than raw seeds. As a result, few legal weed shops currently have seeds in stock, and customers looking to grow their own pot at home often have to resort to buying seeds on the black market.
Despite having the world’s largest legal cannabis market, the Canadian cannabis industry is still struggling to compete with entrenched black market pot dealers. Not only do many Canadians feel that black market weed is higher quality than legal grass, but legal pot products often cost twice as much as their illegal counterparts. Some companies launched discount weed brands to help them compete, but low prices and high quality continue to attract customers to illegal pot.
Ontario hopes that increasing the variety of legal seeds in its stores will provide customers an alternative to black market seeds. And while larger companies continue to turn their noses up at seed sales, their attitude has created an opening for smaller businesses to take control of this untapped market.
One of the two companies that’s agreed to provide seeds to OCS is ANC Cannabis, a micro-class license holder based in Alberta. “The addition of ANC has breathed life back into the category and opened people’s eyes to the potential of this segment,” said OCS Senior Category Manager Peter Shearer to Marijuana Business Daily. “The news of this has sparked a considerable amount of interest from other producers to come to the table with seed offerings.”
Shearer explained that dozens of micro-businesses are realizing the potential of the legal seed market, and are launching a wide range of new products. “I think it’s a great program for micro, and it’s a great way for us to support these small players,” he said. “They’re limited in the amount of production space, but seeds are really good because you can grow a whole lot of seeds within the space that micros are restricted to. It’s actually a great business model for micros.”
OCS is also in the process of creating a set of regulations for a new craft cannabis market, which they expect to release in the near future. “It is a priority for our merchandising team to understand what defines craft — and what the spirit and goals of that program is,” Shearer explained. “This program will help highlight smaller and producers that have very artisanal procedures.”
Out of all Canadian provinces and territories, Ontario currently boasts the country’s largest legal pot market. Unfortunately, OCS still has a long way to go before it can fully serve the province’s 14.5 million residents. Like many other provinces and US states, Ontario allows individual towns and cities to opt-out of allowing legal weed sales, and nearly 2.8 million Ontarians now live in areas where legal cannabis sales are prohibited.
Offering a new range of seeds will certainly help provide customers an alternative to the black market, but Ontario will need to find a way to reach these underserved pot customers if it really wants to put a dent in illicit sales.