‘Shortage’ of marijuana seeds may delay legal Canadian home grows

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Image of a cannabis sprout

The vast majority of Canadian consumers who had hoped to start legally growing their own cannabis for recreational use as early as Wednesday will be out of luck.

Wholesalers in the country’s two largest cannabis markets – Ontario and British Columbia – confirmed to Marijuana Business Daily that they will not have recreational marijuana seeds or clones ready for purchase when Canada launches its recreational industry.

Most provinces plan to sell seeds through their government-run online cannabis stores as they become available from licensed producers.

British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia said licensed producers were not able to provide seeds in time for legalization.

Until those products are available through a legal channel, the illicit market is expected to continue feeding demand for home cultivation.

(The Cannabis Act stipulates that, “unless authorized under this Act, it is prohibited for an individual who is 18 years of age or older to cultivate, propagate or harvest, or to offer to cultivate, propagate or harvest, (a) a cannabis plant that is from a seed or plant material that they know is illicit cannabis …”)

Alberta has said it will offer a variety of seeds on the first day of legalization, as will Newfoundland.

Any significant delay in selling seeds and clones could be a concern for companies gearing up to capitalize on the legal niche market – from sales of equipment, genetics and other supplies.

In the meantime, companies such as British Columbia’s Green Planet Wholesale and Pacific Northwest Garden Supply say they will continue servicing the legal homegrown medical market, which has experienced impressive growth the past few years.

Justin Cooper, co-founder of the two companies, said he sees home cultivation being a popular alternative to buying finished product for cost-conscious consumers and those who want to avoid product shortages.

New licenses

A new license could help alleviate demand for homegrown cannabis starting materials, but there is no timeline for when those companies will be up and running.

Health Canada will start accepting applications for nurseries, micro-cultivation and micro-production licenses on Wednesday.

Provinces, for their part, have tools at their disposal to provide consumers access to clones and seeds.

Nurseries can grow seeds and clones and, just like other producers, be approved for farm-gate sales by their respective provinces, which means people could go directly to a facility to buy those products.

Under the Cannabis Act, provinces and territories also have the ability to allow cultivators to sell nonmedical starting materials directly to consumers.

Deepak Anand, vice president of Toronto consultancy Cannabis Compliance, said nurseries will still need to be licensed by Health Canada, “so it’s a bit of a chicken-and-an-egg situation. And it’s certainly going to take time in provinces that have not considered this for that to come online.

“Clearly, licensed producers have these (starting materials) available, and they have for a long time,” he said. “I think it hasn’t been a priority for provinces. People have forgotten about this whole other element, which will be quite significant.”

Nurseries will also be allowed to grow clones and seeds for sale to other licensed producers and provincial wholesalers.

So far, only Newfoundland has given a licensed producer the green light to open its own on-site store.

Matt Lamers can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com

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