Canadian cannabis sector leaders urge feds to include them in $82B stimulus package

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Cannabis industry leaders in Canada are asking the federal government to assist in restoring economic damage caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. As of April 2020, the COVID-19 strain of Coronavirus had claimed the lives of almost two million people around the world, with the disease virus infiltrating 210 territories and countries.

Upon discovering the severity of economic collapse that is now permeating Canada’s cannabis industry, leaders were prompted to request for help from feds. They are unhappy about the fact that an $82 billion stimulus package does not include cannabis companies.

Why? Because Canadian cannabis companies employ too many people to be deemed “small businesses”. In addition to this, it seems that companies operating in the legal weed space have been neglected by financial institutions; meaning that they cannot access essential funds from the stimulus package.

“It’s not just an issue of the size of the company, it’s just that cannabis companies appear to be shut out completely from Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) support, Export Development Canada (EDC), and now Farm Credit Canada (FCC) also,” said SVP Global Government Relations for Aurora Cannabis Inc, Rick Savone. “Cannabis is the sector of 2020, it’s the sector of the future.

Savone – whose company has more than 3,000 employees – is optimistic that the stimulus package will include the cannabis industry in future. He says that there is no time to waste, considering the state of the economic climate amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Those measures the government has announced, albeit early measures, still don’t seem to exclude many people but they definitely exclude the cannabis industry,” he added, noting how the lack of banking services is likely a factor that has left cannabis companies with no access to the stimulus package; banks and organizations have been unwilling to work with cannabis companies, since they are deemed “high risk”.

Black market could thrive if $82B stimulus package fails to include Canadian cannabis companies 

Failure to include Canadian cannabis companies in the stimulus package means that it will be a long road to recovering from the economic destruction caused by COVID-19. Not only this, but Savone says that the black market could gain a competitive edge over the legal market if licensed cannabis companies are forced to fund recovery out of their own pocket.

Illegal dealers pose a serious threat to legal sellers because licensed vendors charge more. Moreover, consumers claim that the quality of street weed is better than the stuff they can buy from state-approved dispensaries. Let’s not forget about the fact that long-time buyers tend to maintain loyalty to their trust street dealers, too.

“If for any reason something happens to the cannabis sector where there are job losses or other things that happen to companies in our sector, then the increase of that space will be delivered directly to the black market and everybody loses in that case,” explained Savone, who aired his thoughts after the Chamber of Commerce sent a letter – on behalf of Canada’s legal cannabis industry – requesting that the stimulus package be amended to include “green” businesses.

Savone is hopeful that the government will pay some thought to legally-operating cannabis companies “sooner rather than later,” adding that, “we’re not at the end game yet and as this crisis gets more complicated every day we’ve seen the government has shown a great willingness to provide whatever is necessary for the economy and for society to barrel through this.”

Supply issues not a problem amid coronavirus pandemic 

Although the coronavirus pandemic has shaken up the cannabis industry – making the future look uncertain for the companies that have been affected – consumers shouldn’t see their supply drying up anytime soon. Delivery services are being made available to consumers, who can collect their goods from masked and gloved workers. 

“We’ve seen no impact from the licensed producers, they’ve been able to deliver exactly what they promised to deliver and they continue to make deliveries on a daily basis,” said Daffyd Roderick, of the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), which has experienced a surge in sales since Canadians have been for forced to stay indoors due to the COVID-19 outbreak. He explained how consumers are able to show identification through their glass door or window.

“Over the last week-and-a-half we’ve seen sales slowly ramping up to the point where we were essentially double the number of orders over the last six or seven days than what we’ve had historically online,” Roderick revealed to TheToronto Sun, confirming that orders soared to 7,200 orders on March 23 within just 24 hours — a record high since legalization was effectuated on October 18, 2018.

“We’re seeing a lot of first-time visitors and purchasers through the site,” Roderick added. “We’re seeing people who haven’t come to the site who are purchasing and then we’re seeing a fair volume of those first-time users come back and purchase again.”

He has reassured consumers that all orders are being processed speedily, despite the increase in demand.