The road to playing in the legal cannabis game in Canada is long, hard and full of surprises at the best of times. Throw COVID into the mix and it becomes downright unpredictable.
We started our first hemp company in 1995 and registered our first hemp variety with Health Canada in the early 2000’s. In 2013, we received a letter to build an indoor growing space under the newly formed MMPR medical cannabis regulations. Our plan, like so many others, was to build an indoor, legal grow-op…until fate intervened. Our first building fell through, but we were prepared. We amended our application towards the new building we had purchased for this very purpose. It was then that we learned a new building meant a new application. Needless to say, we were unceremoniously kicked to the back of the line.
The Road to Cannabis Licensing
This twist of fate led us to reevaluate the whole business of cannabis and its ecological impacts. We knew how well hemp grows outdoors so why, we asked ourselves, was the whole industry growing indoors or in greenhouses? Why wasn’t more attention being focused on the CBD potential of hemp?
We kept grinding and in 2018 were thrilled that Canada’s new cannabis laws allowed for outdoor growing. They also allowed for hemp farmers to sell the previously prohibited CBD-rich hemp flower to cannabis processors. By the end of 2019, after a long and arduous slog through the cannabis regulations and licensing process, WholeHemp received its processing licence. Game on!
Sorry, what’s COVID-19?
Three months prior to receiving our coveted licence, the lockdown began with the exception of essential businesses. What’s that? Cannabis? Essential? Indeed. It turns out that overnight, cannabis went from being illegal to legal and essential. In cannabis, however, things are never simple.
Next, we needed to produce two runs of one product for each product category. Think flower, extracts, topicals and the like. We had to then wait and see if we would pass through the “final” hoop; our licence to sell.
By this time, Health Canada employees were working from home, constant delays ensued and regulations changed on a seemingly daily basis. To top it all off, we were audited.
Fast forward to January 2021 – COVID showed no signs of letting up. Then in late February, magically it seems, we received our licence to sell. Game (back) on, right?
We had made good inroads with the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), the provincially run cannabis distributor, and felt pretty confident. Perhaps a bit too confident. The first round of WholeHemp submissions came and went with no listing. We patiently listened and learned. Topicals were in demand, at a minimum of 200mg. We could do that! Our shipment of shea butter had navigated the pandemic supply hurdles and was in-house. WholeHemp CBD oil was ready to go. We had a formulation and an order to be delivered within the month, knowing that failure to comply would risk losing the opportunity we had worked towards for years.
Production was slated to begin Monday, April 5. On Saturday April 3, we heard from our quality manager, her son wasn’t feeling well. Actually, it’s COVID. The entire staff entered immediate quarantine for two weeks.
Luckily, I was not in the office that week and hadn’t interacted with the staff. Post-quarantine, the staff were back and the first run of cream was complete. We packaged it, delivered it and this time, it really was game on!
Since then, we have been fortunate enough to increase the number of products listed. The second product we launched, WholeHemp Premium CBD Flower, sold out in two days. While COVID has thrown many obstacles our way, we have continued to learn, adapt, and thrive. We are now poised and ready to flourish in any situation, regardless of the obstacle.
Must be of legal age to partake in WholeHemp products. Please enjoy responsibly.
Feature Image: WholeHemp Cannabis