Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Let me begin by saying what a privilege it is to appear before the committee today. I would like to say that the Cannabis Council of Canada would be well aligned on significant portions of the previous witness testimony, and thank you for that. As an industry that enjoys so many regulatory relations with Health Canada and CRA, we feel very at home amongst those who focus on Canada's growers.
Cannabis and cannabinoids are a value-added agricultural crop contributing billions to a sector that is rapidly leveraging research and technology to create innovative products for millions of adult Canadian consumers. Through the leadership of the government and parliamentarians, including so many of you, our products are trusted globally and we are quietly exporting millions in medicinal cannabis products to welcoming nations and patients. That global market for cannabis exports is rapidly expanding and is estimated to reach $100 billion U.S. by 2030. At least 55 countries currently have or are considering purposeful cannabinoid regulations. Canada's remains the most consequential global cannabinoid legalization initiative, but first mover advantages are proving perishable.
Considering that there are more than 800 licences issued under the , Bill C-45, it's fair to say our licence-holders can be found in all of Canada's regions, and with more than 3,000 retail stores and a truly diverse ancillary services sector, our industry is everywhere, just like our consumers and our community. During our industry lobby day we met with parliamentarians and focused on five key asks where we need to see change if the fuller potential of the goals of legalization are going to be achieved. I want to draw your attention to the threat of the very sustainability of many licence-holders of all sizes posed by unsustainably high taxes, fees and markups that leave almost nobody cash-flow positive. Undercapitalized micros are the most vulnerable.
Just as a quick reminder, licence-holders—sometimes referred to as “LHs”, especially by Health Canada—come in various sizes of operations. Prior to the Cannabis Act, the medical cannabis regulations in place created a very high bar for facilities and operators, and were an important element that made the legalization of adult recreational cannabis possible following 2015. The regulatory model did not create avenues for historic or legacy producers to find their way into the new legal cannabis supply chain, and in response the micro category was introduced. The trade-off was simple: in exchange for a very small footprint, micro cultivators or throughput micro processors were born with watered down regulations in areas ranging from internal and external security, through to the requirements to have a quality assurance individual on staff.
Previously, it was presumed that the legacy grower with the micro licence would produce cannabis and sell it up the food chain to a larger scale licensed producer with brand and market reach. That marketplace, dominated by a few large players, has not emerged and the numerous micros, including C3 member HRVSTR, led by Ashley and Michael Athill, have fought for the direct-sale-through-distributor model to the provincial boards. In response, Health Canada recently shifted approaches and proactively provided sales licence status to all applicants, including micros, which implied an understanding that micros would be directly involved in sales to distributors, namely, to the provincial boards.
Here are some of the current challenges that micros are facing even beyond the overall burden of taxes, fees and distribution markups that fundamentally impair our ability to compete with the unregulated market.
The micro scale makes it difficult to generate enough revenue to support some of the services implied by a direct sales model. Our organization is on the record as favouring an increase in the footprint or processing volume of micros.
Quality assurance stands out as an area where our coordinated plan to build capacity through shared services and best-practices models should be developed with support from AAFC.
Financial services access, and especially very expensive requirements for boutique recall insurance from the provincial distributors, requires special attention.
The smallest players in a nascent agricultural sector need nurturing support, and a cannabis lens should be applied to current programs to ensure fairness. For instance, a micro cultivator with an outdoor grow would not enjoy the same protection from weather-related risks as adjacent crops, because cannabis is not on the list.
Finally, Mr. Chair, achieving the objective of eliminating the illicit market includes the need for the integration of legacy growers into a sustainable environment that includes support for BIPOC communities that have historically borne the greatest price for cannabis legalization.
Thank you for the time. I appreciate the opportunity.