Looking at how the cannabis sector has performed during the harsh business conditions of the pandemic makes me immensely proud of the resiliency and heart of our sector. Deemed essential and with frequently shifting circumstances, our sector—from seed to sale—has kept our workers safe, all while serving a growing cannabis clientele.
That recipe, channeling the same collective spirit in favour of sustainability, can help our sector lessen the impact that we have on the environment while improving the impact we have on society.
To me, the word sustainability means leaving things better than you found them.
Building a Sustainable Industry
To me, the word sustainability means leaving things better than you found them. When we fully apply sustainability principles, we will be addressing not only all aspects of our seed-to-sale supply chain, but also the culture and values that are the foundation of our cannabis community.
While some aspects of sustainability are not visible to the consumer and depend upon the development of best practices and transparent reporting to encourage companies and to inform the public, the packaging burden in our sector is far too obvious to all of us.
First off, as a consumer of adult recreational cannabis, I am very conscious of the distinct differences in packaging between the legacy cannabis marketplace and the regulated adult recreational cannabis marketplace that has emerged since legalization took effect in October of 2018.
Properly protecting our kids from active ingredients is a definite public policy requirement that we can all get behind, and there is no doubt that it drives some of the packaging realities that our sector is facing, but we cannot pretend that it is the whole story. That is where collective actions can power our sector forward to a smarter and sustainable tomorrow.
To make that point, I have saved nearly every bit of packaging from my cannabis purchases since the inception of the legal market, and for comparison’s sake, I kept a few of the ubiquitous zip-lock bags and a smell-proof pouch provided by my previous cannabis supplier. They both serve as a strong motivation for me to help improve the situation because I know many cannabis consumers are frustrated.
Recently, the Cannabis Council of Canada (C3), working with five licensed producers, launched a Vape Recycling Pilot program that rolled out to more than 200 stores in Canada. This is just the latest in a big list of industry-leading actions to gather up cannabis packaging, as we want to promote more unified industry action.
C3 has launched a Sustainability Caucus as a platform where the entire cannabis sector and community can come together and harness strengths to address sustainability.
A strong motivation to get started on proactive sector-wide initiatives can be found in various Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) mandates pertaining to packaging that are currently emerging across Canada. We have the ambitious goal of developing strong national standards and programs that align with the individual objectives of provincial and territorial regulators.
Omar Akeileh is C3’s policy lead on Sustainability and joined C3 following the completion of his studies as part of the inaugural cohort at the Max Bell School of Public Policy within McGill University. He earned his Masters of Public Policy (MPP) and worked with his team on a Policy Lab for Health Canada as a client on incentivizing environmentally-friendly packaging in the cannabis sector.
We encourage you to take part and to contribute to our goal of having the cannabis sector lead in rates of consumer participation and advancing Canada’s global positioning on legalization.
If we play our cards right, and successfully, we can encourage a strong community connection that will enable us to achieve a collective impact with a dramatic reduction in our current burden and for generations to come.
George Smitherman is the president and CEO of the Cannabis Council of Canada, the national organization for licensed cannabis producers. His memoir, Unconventional Candour, published by Dundurn, highlights the ups and downs of his life in politics.