Where are the seeds? Cannabis stores across Canada face shortages

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Canadians the age of majority in their province can grow up to four plants a household, yet there is no legal means to obtain seeds.

Licensed cannabis producers have put filling Canadians’ pot demands ahead of their desire to fill pots.

With federal legalization of recreational cannabis on Oct. 17, Canadians the age of majority in most provinces (19 in B.C.) gained the right to grow up to four plants per household, yet there is no legal means to obtain seeds or seedlings. None of the online government cannabis stores for B.C., Ontario, Alberta have listings for starting materials, and it is unclear when they will.

The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, which controls all distribution of legal product in the province, confirmed that B.C. Cannabis Stores still hasn’t been supplied with any seeds, and licensed producers aren’t yet shipping their full product commitments to its warehouse.

“None of the (licensed producers) has been able to supply seeds, and we do not know when they will,” spokesman Viviana Zannoco said in an email.

A spokeswoman for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission said they, too, do not know when seeds will arrive.

“Right now, regular production is the priority for licensed producers so they are focusing on trying to fulfil market demand,” Chara Goodings said in an email.

Health Canada said in an emailed statement that supply arrangements are negotiated directly between licensed producers and the provincial or territorial agencies in charge of distribution. A new “nursery licence,” which allows licensees to propagate, cultivate and harvest plants and seeds for other licence holders, will help grow the starting materials industry, Health Canada said.

But licensed producers say they are focused on meeting Canada’s massive demand for ready-to-consume products first.

Just two of the 132 licensed producers of medical cannabis in Canada, Canopy Growth and CannTrust, are listed on Health Canada’s website as vendors of seeds for medical purposes, and both have made supply agreements with provincial governments for recreational cannabis products, too.

Jordan Sinclair, vice-president of communications for Canopy, explained that his firm made getting dried flower, pre-rolled joints and oil products to the market its top priority, but also determined that most home growers intend to plant outdoors, next spring.

“It’s just one of the things that will come a little bit later,” he said.

CannTrust said in an emailed statement that it is focusing on meeting customers’ immediate demand for dried flower and oil products.

“We will take a look (at) seed sales in the future to determine if it makes sense for our product lineup,” the company said.

Meantime, Rebecca Ambrose, owner of the Vancouver Seed Bank, which is not government licensed, said her sales for October have at least tripled, with many Canadians ordering her bank’s illicit seeds online because they have no legal option.

“I’m honestly confused as to why they don’t have seeds available online, as well as in retail, because my understanding, at least, is that the (licensed producers) had partnered with companies like DNA Genetics, Greenhouse, and House of the Great Gardener, and the whole point of that was that they would have seeds available from those companies,” Ambrose said.

Ambrose said producing seeds isn’t difficult and a single fertilized female cannabis plant can yield thousands. The biggest issue for her seed bank with obtaining seeds is that they remain illegal and can get seized by customs agents.

She said she’s disappointed that the government has established a possession limit of 30 cannabis seeds.

“I think the government’s making a mistake by classifying seeds at all,” she said. “There’s no basis in science for that, there’s no need to limit people’s seed possession.”

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