Atlantic Canada Can’t Miss This Cannabis Opportunity

As the New Brunswick Cannabis Coordinator, I’ve spent the last year speaking to a cross-section of stakeholders in the cannabis sector from government, industry, and academia. There is a massive prosperity opportunity sitting in front of us, but even more significant roadblocks in the way. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

Those who truly know cannabis forget that the majority knows little more than what they have learned through dated anti-drug programs and popular culture. As an industry, we need to recognize the ramifications of this. Now that cannabis is legal, those who understand the benefit want to run with it and build businesses, but there are significant headwinds. The biggest among them: policies and regulations.

Forested hills rising behind a small farm near Waterford, N.B.E. Otto/Comstock

The Problem With Cannabis Legalization in Canada

One of the motivations behind fully legalizing cannabis was to develop a system of harm reduction for the population by providing a safe supply of cannabis. The other motivation was to reduce revenues that support the illicit market and redirect as much as possible to the Canadian government through taxes. 

The policies and regulations are stringent by design. This system drew inspirations from other jurisdictions who went far too broad in their policymaking. It wasn’t easy to put the horses back in the barn once they were let loose.

In Canada, the regulations and policies in place to legalize cannabis require entrepreneurs to go through expensive, rigorous, and risky processes before finalizing an application for a license. After this, there is no guarantee that it will be successful on the first try, a fact few people in the general population understand. Legal operations must abide by very stringent and costly rules. This current system provides barriers to entry and barriers to growth, thus impairing the economic opportunity.

The New Brunswick Cannabis Office Is On the Case

Over the next year, the New Brunswick Cannabis office will use our podcast, website, and social media to highlight several perspectives on the implications these current policies have for the cannabis industry. More specifically, we will explore the impact here in New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada.

We will explore innovation in the sector by talking to entrepreneurs, businesses, researchers, and government agencies through conversation. We will discover the plant itself and its past relationship with human civilization. Most of the population knows very little about this marvelous and sustainable plant.

What the Public Doesn’t Understand About Cannabis

Cannabis has a reputation problem. The public has a particular understanding of the uses of cannabis, without any knowledge of the vast benefits. The fiber’s tensile strength rivals pound for pound that of steel’s. The seed is a highly nutritious foodstuff with several health benefits, and the flower (bud) contains bioactive compounds discovered to have medicinal and therapeutic applications. Although cannabis does require care and considerate growing practices, it grows, well, like a weed. Pun intended.

Over the centuries, cannabis has played a significant role in human culture, and we have just forgotten about it. For example, hemp (or industrial hemp) is cannabis without the bioactive compounds present in the flower (bud) that give the euphoric “high” sensation when consumed. However, hemp does contain some interesting bioactive compounds that impart the ability to grow tall and produce a lot of fiber and grain. This characteristic makes it useful for textiles, construction material, bioplastics, and more. The significant difference between what we commonly refer to as “marijuana” and “hemp” are bioactive compounds and chemicals. The bioactive compound levels for hemp tend to be naturally lower.

Only in the last century has there been a “dark age” regarding the study and use of cannabis. Before that, cannabis use used to treat illness, fashion ship’s sales, and everything in between.

Seizing the Cannabis Opportunity in Atlantic Canada

There is no doubt that we must build up our confidence about what we know about cannabis and disseminate it to a broader audience. Ironically, in the digital age, access to information has never been easier. How we digest and interpret that knowledge, and how we initiate positive change, is the question. So, join us as we talk to leaders and experts tap into their network to discover opportunities and challenges from their perspectives. Let’s make New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada a place for balanced dialogue and a testing bed for new economic policies and regulations as the cannabis industry evolves. Let’s find out what we know about cannabis.

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