Canada launches forum to discuss cannabis industry challenges

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Canada’s federal government quietly announced the long-awaited creation of the Cannabis Industry Forum to help the struggling sector address key issues and opportunities – almost two years after first embarking on the initiative.

The forum will provide advice to the government on the next steps for the industry, according to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), the federal department responsible for the forum.

But while the announcement of the all-industry forum came last Friday, ahead of Canada’s long Family Day weekend, the group had its inaugural meeting last year, sources told MJBizDaily.

ISED hasn’t said why the government took so long to confirm the inaugural meeting or the selection of the group’s chair.

The ISED also did not say how the members were chosen, or how it ensured the forum was representative of large and small business, and entrepreneurs who are Black, Indigenous or other people of color.

The forum is chaired by Auxly Cannabis Group CEO Hugo Alves.

The members are:

  • Philippe Dépault, president of Quebec Craft Cannabis.
  • Taylor Giovannini, president of Oceanic Releaf.
  • Beena Goldenberg, CEO of Organigram Holdings
  • Raj Grover, president of High Tide.
  • David Klein, CEO of Canopy Growth Corp.
  • Miguel Martin, CEO of Aurora Cannabis.
  • Rosy Mondin, president of Soma Labs Scientific and director of Cannaworld Ventures.
  • Tyler Robson, president of cannabis at SNDL.

“For Canada to be a leader in this global economy, we require the ability to adapt to new industries and sectors that benefit Canadians,” Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement announcing the forum.

“The Cannabis Industry Forum helps create innovative solutions to barriers that exist in this industry. Through active collaboration, Canada is working with industry leaders to become an innovator and leader in this changing economy.”

In its announcement, the ISED said the forum had a preliminary meeting in spring 2023.

Champagne did not attended that or subsequent meetings, sources told MJBizDaily.

Members engaged with Morris Rosenberg, chair of the expert panel leading the legislative review of the Cannabis Act, the announcement also said.

Since the Canadian government announced its intention to create a forum almost two years ago to help address systemic issues plaguing the industry, business failures have snowballed and companies have accumulated unpaid tax debt.

A review of insolvency filings by MJBizDaily also found that the Canadian government is commonly among the biggest unpaid creditors of insolvent cannabis companies.

Emails obtained by MJBizDaily via Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy law showed that the senior bureaucrats involved in the creation of the forum appeared to believe it was on schedule as far back as June 2022 – and even produced a list of proposed members.

Matt Lamers can be reached at matt.lamers@mjbizdaily.com.