Over the past year, the cannabis industry has progressed at an exciting pace. Licensed Producers have been building community in some areas and sprouting up in others. Here, we take a look at some of the trends the industry is nurturing — including craft cannabis, hemp-based products and eco-friendly accessories — and where it’s thriving.
See the cannabis trends sprouting up all across the country
Location: Creston, B.C.
Craft cannabis producers rely on traditional, slow and careful production practices, focusing on quality over quantity. While the methods vary among growers, craft cannabis is typically produced with a hands-on approach: It’s hand-trimmed (versus machine) and hang-dried. The small size of each crop allows cannabis producers to try out new techniques and unique cultivars.
There’s also a focus on sustainable production methods, specifically using organic products (instead of pesticides) and maintaining a low energy footprint. Of course, the hot spot for this small-batch product in Canada is British Columbia: “B.C. bud” has a deep-rooted history in the province going back generations, bolstered by an ideal Mediterranean-like growing climate, with lots of rain and mild temperatures.
Along with brands such as Simply Bare and Broken Coast, Qwest in Creston, B.C., is one of the producers committed to maintaining craft cannabis’s legacy. “We treat each room and batch as bespoke,” says Adam Coates, chief growth officer of Decibel Cannabis Co., which owns Qwest. “We take a very hands-on approach, keeping things intimate so we’re able to monitor progress, adapt and adjust to the plant’s specific needs quickly.”
Craft is all about dedication, precision and a lot of heart. Watch the Qwest experience here.
Sustainable Homegrown Accessories
Location: Calgary, Alta.
The eco-friendly approach is permeating nearly every corner of the market, so it’s no wonder the cannabis industry is investing in it. With everything from sustainable bamboo rolling trays to unbleached organic hemp rolling papers, there are lots of choices for environmentally conscious consumers. Check out the Dewbie, a cannabis rehydrating stone that requires just tap water to rehydrate dried out flower. It’s handmade in Calgary using locally sourced clay and is said to be reusable for 1,000 years!
Hemp and the CBD Gold Rush
Location: West and Central Canada (B.C., Sask., Ont.)
The buzzword in everything from supplements to body care products is cannabidiol, or CBD, which is celebrated for the non-psychoactive body effect it can produce.
While CBD can be extracted from THC-containing cannabis plants, the hemp plant is also a great source. Licensed Producers are increasingly using Canadian hemp-sourced CBD for their products: High Park sources all of its CBD distillate and isolate from hemp grown in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario to produce its Everie teas and sparkling beverages, Irisa oils, and Chowie Wowie and Goodship chocolate.
Until the implementation of the Cannabis Act and Regulations, including the Industrial Hemp Regulations, in October 2018, farmers were only able to harvest the plant’s grain for making food or fibres. “Whole plant harvest” opened up the opportunity for full-spectrum CBD products to be made from the flowers and leaves, which contain other cannabinoids and aromatic terpenes. While CBD remains the same on a molecular level whether it’s isolated from hemp or cannabis plants, this new market gives farmers a much-needed boost.
Did You Know? The federal government estimated in 2018 that the “whole plant harvest” change could generate up to $10 billion in economic activity over the next decade.
The Rise of Local Edibles
Location: Smith Falls, Ont.
Once known as the Chocolate Capital of Canada, Smiths Falls has returned to its roots — only now with a cannabis twist. Canopy Growth has repurposed the former Hershey factory, which closed in 2008 after a 44-year run, to bring visitors back to the small Ontario town and to produce cannabis-infused edibles under the Tweed and Tokyo Smoke brands. With a self-guided tour at the Visitor Centre, guests can glimpse how the products are made, observe the cannabis grow rooms and learn some history about the plant.
To produce its homegrown chocolate, Tweed has partnered with Hummingbird, an award-winning bean-to-bar chocolatier from Almonte, Ont. Furthering its dedication to engaging local and national communities, Canopy has launched the Tweed Collective, which gives grants to non-profits, registered charities and business improvement areas that promote connection, opportunity and the environment within their communities. “We are dedicated to developing programs that educate and support every neighbourhood we operate in,” says Kriti Sehgal, associate innovation manager for Canopy Growth Corp. By returning chocolate production to the once-thriving town, the company is providing local jobs and creating new products that the community can be proud of.
Looking for something sweet to bite into? Watch how Tweed makes cannabis-infused chocolate here.
Location: Gatineau, Que.
With the advent of Cannabis 2.0, which includes topicals, edibles and beverages, the number of innovative smoke-free options on the market has grown immensely.
While producers have figured out how to infuse cannabis into everything from chocolate to soda, extracts are a bit more difficult, as the oily substance does not readily mix with liquid. Enter Hexo, a Licensed Producer that has teamed up with MolsonCoors Canada to create Truss Beverages Co., in Gatineau, Que. Its innovative new brand, Veryvell, is a water-soluble cannabis concentrate mixed with extracts such as chamomile and passionflower, that is ready to drop into your favourite glass.
Indigenous Licensed Producers
Location: Lower Sackville, N.S.
Over 13,000 years ago, long before the Europeans came to this land, the area now called Nova Scotia was Mi’kma’ki, home to the Mi’kmaq. Today it’s also home to one of Canada’s few Indigenous Licensed Producers: All 13 Indigenous groups in N.S. invested in Atlanticann, a licensed cannabis production facility based in Lower Sackville, to become majority owners.
Its brand, Msiku (pronounced: “m-see-goo”), which is the Mi’kmaw word for “grass,” captures the Mi’kmaq language, culture and appreciation for humour. The terpene-rich small-batch products are non-irradiated, hand-trimmed and hand-packaged to prioritize quality and freshness. Forgoing an automated production process also means the company can create job opportunities and revenue for Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq people.
“We ventured into the legal cannabis market as a means to address health and safety issues in our communities made present by the illegal-market drug trade, and also to participate in the main stream economy and create own source revenues for our people,” says Chief Michael Sack, Lead Chief Cannabis File, Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs. “Our success reflects the rapid advancement of Indigenous people across Canada in the world of commerce, offering hope for the future.” The Msiku brand is set to launch on OCS.ca this summer.
Alternative Growing Methods
Location: Brooklyn, N.S.
Just like other farmers, cannabis producers are exploring alternative growing methods to reduce energy and water use. Aqualitas, based in Brooklyn, N.S., has embraced aquaponics, a process that combines hydroponics (growing in water) with aquaculture (raising fish), to produce organically grown cannabis that's available to recreational consumers under the brand Reef. The company worked for years with universities and scientists around the world to develop its proprietary ecological system.
Aquaponics is an engineered, integrated ecosystem: The fish produce waste, which adds nutrients, especially nitrogen, to the water, which feeds the cannabis. The plants absorb the nutrients and filter the water. “In a normal hydroponics system, you don’t have this constant infusion of beneficial bacteria,” says Myrna Gillis, Aqualitas CEO, “and the plants are entirely reliant on (usually) synthetic nutrients.” The company says the beneficial bacteria living in the soil and the large number of nutrients make the cannabis grow healthier and larger at a faster rate.
Because of this integrated system, Aqualitas is the first Canadian Licensed Producer to have its cultivation and sustainability practices certified by Clean Green: It uses 50% less energy and up to 90% less water than other indoor operations. Another benefit is found in the resulting crop. “We have compared various growing methods and have concluded plants grown using fish water produce higher yields, superior bud density, terpene profiles and potency compared to plants without,” says Gillis.