Alberta Cannabis Council Calls on Canadian Government to Provide Access to Relief Funds

As Canadian cannabis industry reels from limited access to investor funds, job losses and now the COVID-19 pandemic, federal disaster relief funds.

March 23, 2020

Update 3/25, 9:45 a.m. EST: This article was updated with comments from Tantalus Labs' founder and CEO Dan Sutton.

The Alberta Cannabis Council (ACC), a not-for-profit industry trade group serving the province’s cannabis industry stakeholders, shared a letter with the Canadian government calling for it to grant the same access to economic relief programs to the country’s cannabis industry.

The letter, signed by 74 industry members, calls for the “equal and fair access to significant supports for all cannabis companies working to keep employees employed, including access to wage subsidies as announced on March 18, 2020 by the Prime Minister and Finance Minister.”

Additionally, the letter asks that federal agencies offer “equal and fair access to funding through federal agencies, EDC [Export Development Canada] or BDC [Business Development Bank of Canada] as other industries have for credit instruments. Presently, for example, BDC has indicated that the regulated cannabis sector can not access the $10B in stimulus funding, part of which is available through that crown corporation.”

John Carle, the executive director for the ACC, along with the letter’s signatories, writes “We are not asking for special treatment, but rather equitable treatment.”

Dan Sutton, founder and CEO of British Columbia-based licensed producer Tantalus Labs, wrote in an email to CBT that, "the BDC and FCC [Farm Credit Canada] may be pushing us to choose between the safety of our employees and customers or the survival of our company. Beyond my desire to see the cannabis industry thrive, this is likely a threat to public health and safety."

The letter also highlights the recent, non-COVID-19 related challenges the industry has faced in recent months, including difficult access to investor capital and the loss of more than 2,000 jobs across the industry.

“We are asking that this industry, which has added a cumulative total of $8B to the Canadian GDP over the course of the last year, specifically and explicitly be included in all economic stimulus measures and provided the support that is being offered to every other Canadian business at this time,” the letter reads.

Sutton added in his statement that companies with "millions of dollars locked in biological assets currently in cultivation ... need the ability to ramp down and ramp back up over quarters, not months. We hope that our Government appreciates the cannabis economy’s contribution to our GDP, and can come to our aid so that we do not have to choose between employee safety or protecting their jobs."

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is developing and will be updated with comments.]

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