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B.C. lines up legal weed suppliers

B.C. lines up legal weed suppliers

The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch is aiming to put 150 different strains of cannabis into its wholesale inventory when recreational weed becomes legal Oct. 17, the agency said Wednesday, and that is only a start.

Other provinces have lined up more limited options, but the LDB has signed 31 licensed cannabis producers from across the country, 12 of which are in B.C., to memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to supply its wholesale operations, essentially all that responded to its bid process.

The goal, said LDB spokeswoman Viviana Zanocco, was to have the “right mix” of cannabis quality and selection at prices that users will be accustomed to once legal recreational sales get under way.

“The B.C. marketplace is very sophisticated, very knowledgeable,” Zanocco said. “Customers are used to having a lot of selection, so we wanted to make sure we have a safe, reliable supply.”

The list of suppliers includes local, smaller-scale producers such as Whistler Medical Marijuana Corp. (which will brand its recreational product under the Whistler Cannabis Co. name) to major producers such as B.C.-based Tilray, Canopy Growth Corp. and Aurora Cannabis.

Zanocco added that the LDB will continue to make product calls and sign up additional producers as they become licensed.

Producer MOUs include agreements to supply specific amounts of cannabis, but Zanocco wouldn’t disclose the LDB’s forecast for volumes it expects to distribute.

However, the branch expects to deal in a “volume, variety and quality” of cannabis that “(speaks) to the LDB’s commitment to working towards eliminating the illicit market,” LDB CEO Blain Lawson said in a news release.

Marijuana activist Dana Larsen, a critic of the government’s legalization program, said he remains doubtful that the LDB’s wholesale system will be able to provide enough cannabis to fill the market, although he thinks they are headed in the right direction when it comes to selection.

“I do think, probably for the first year or two, there will be shortages,” Larsen said. “A lot of varieties won’t be available, and they’ll probably sell out a lot of what they do have.”

However, Larsen said it looks like the LDB is moving in the right direction.

“It looks like they’re trying to get as many (licensed producers) and as many strains on the shelves as they can,” Larsen said. “And I think that is the right goal.”

Larsen said it is likely that a lot of casual cannabis users now are likely to step into new, legal stores to buy weed for the novelty at first, but “unless it’s better, a lot of those people will go back to dispensaries, or their friend, or the open market in whatever way.”

Still, Larsen believes the heavier users, the ones who have connections to suppliers and can get price discounts, will be unlikely to step into the more restricted legal system.

The province’s now-renamed Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch still hasn’t started taking applications for private cannabis retailers, but last week did publish regulatory requirements that prospective retailers will have to meet using the online web portal they will use to submit applications.

The branch expects to open for applications in early August.

Also on Tuesday, the LDB unveiled the location it has selected to open its first B.C. Cannabis Stores-branded retail location, Kamloops’ Columbia Place Shopping Centre. It expects to apply for municipal approval in September.

Canopy Growth, under the brand-name Tweed, is one of Canada’s biggest growers on B.C.’s list, which has begun producing cannabis at massive greenhouses in Delta, said company CEO Bruce Linton.

Entering the legal B.C. market is a big deal, Linton said, because it makes Canopy the only licensed producer that is selling into every province that has made deals so far.

Linton said he expects the market will remain layered between the legal and illegal for the first few years, but the biggest unanswered question in B.C. is how the retail market will develop.

Licensed producers also face challenges with plain packaging rules and restrictions on marketing, said Sophie Rivers, spokeswoman for Whistler Medical Marijuana Corp.

“It’s definitely entering into a brand new arena where no one knows your brand,” Rivers said. “It’s definitely interesting.”

Rivers said Whistler Medical is expanding its growing operations in Pemberton and being able to jump into recreational sales is “absolutely huge for us.”

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The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch has signed MOUs with 31 licensed cannabis producers to supply its wholesale distribution operations once recreational weed is legal in October. Those producers are:

• Acreage Farms Ltd.

• Agrima Botanicals Corporation

• Aphria Inc.

• Aurora Cannabis Enterprises Inc.

• Bloomera Inc.

• Broken Coast Cannabis Ltd.

• Canna Farms Ltd.

• CannTrust Inc.

• Canopy Growth Corporation

• Cronos Group Inc.

• DOJA Cannabis Ltd.

• Evergreen Medicinal Supply Inc.

• Experion Biotechnologies Inc.

• Hydropothecary

• Maricann Inc.

• MedReleaf Corp.

• Natural Med Company

• Redecan Pharm

• Seven Oaks Inc.

• Solace Health

• Starseed Medicinal Inc.

• THC BioMed Inc.

• The Flowr Corporation

• The Supreme Cannabis Company/7 Acres

• Tilray Canada Ltd.

• United Greeneries Ltd.

• UP Cannabis Inc.

• WeGrow BC Ltd.

• WeedMD RX Inc.

• Whistler Medical Marijuana Corp.

• Zenabis Ltd.



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