There could soon be more shops selling New Brunswick-grown cannabis products.
Cannabis N.B. has announced a new farm-gate program, in which licensed cannabis producers will be invited to apply for permission to sell their products onsite, where they are grown, the Crown corporation said in a news release.
The program is meant to give local producers a higher profile, as well to “educate customers about their products” and create tourism opportunities, CEO Lori Stickles said.
Rod Wilson of the New Brunswick Craft Cannabis Association said he expects it will be similar to the way wineries can give tours and sell their wine onsite.
“It’s an encouraging step in the right direction,” Wilson said, noting cannabis producers will be able to market themselves directly to consumers and build brand loyalty.
“It makes the small-scale local cultivators and processors a more viable small-business opportunity,” he said.
A number of details remain to be worked out, Wilson noted.
“There will certainly be requirements, such as insurance and security measures” and age verification procedures, he said.
“I imagine it will be very strict.”
In addition, Wilson suggested current federal regulations may prevent some craft producers from taking part in the program.
Cannabis N.B. has stipulated that everything sold in farm-gate shops must be grown, produced and packaged onsite.
But those who hold micro-cultivation licences are not permitted to do their own packaging, said Tom Devost of Golden Peak in Dieppe.
Golden Peak currently sends its flowers to another small, local producer called Crystal Cure, for processing.
Crystal Cure’s licence could potentially allow it to open a farm-gate shop, said Devost. But he’s not sure if it could sell Golden Peak products.
According to a recent report on economic opportunities in the cannabis sector, there are 16 licensed cannabis producers in the province.
Wilson classified about a dozen of them as craft producers. It’s not clear how many of them would potentially qualify for the farm-gate program.
Currently, small producers sell their products through Cannabis N.B.
As to when these shops might open, Cannabis N.B. vice-president of operations Lara Wood said it could be as soon as a month or two from now.
“The timeline really depends on our partners, the conversations we have with them, and what kind of timeline they need to set up in their location,” Wood said in an emailed statement.
And the shops may end up looking more like breweries than vineyards.
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There’s only one licensed outdoor producer in the province, Solargram Farms near Saint-Antoine.
And while some producers have agricultural-type properties, many are in industrial parks.
According to the regulations, said Wilson, cannabis production facilities have to be on land that’s zoned industrial.
Wilson started a craft operation on agricultural land in Lakeville, called Hidden Harvest, but said he is being forced to move and is in the process of doing so.
The New Brunswick Craft Cannabis Association has about 50 members, said Wilson.
Large producers are also on board, he said.
Small producers currently rely on them to get their products to market.