The Cannabis Council of Canada hosted a webinar panel discussion on September 14, 2022 to explore some of the top-of-mind issues most significantly impacting the cannabis industry and its many players.
Titled ‘Save Our Sector: Call to Action for the Future of Legal Cannabis’, the panel was moderated by Rod Elliot, Senior Vice-President at Global Public Affairs, and included Dan Sutton, CEO, Tantalus Labs; Alison McMahon, Founder and CEO, Cannabis at Work; and George Smitherman, President and CEO of the Cannabis Council of Canada.
The conversation, which was lively, focused on advocacy efforts on behalf of the industry that are currently underway, the issues that are in most need of attention, as well as the importance of a unified voice among players operating within the unique cannabis ecosystem.
Sutton started the discussion with a bit of an overview concerning the significant contribution that effective advocacy can make toward ensuring a fair and profitable sector. He also provided a brief tutorial of sorts, advising industry players of the steps that need to be taken when lobbying and advocating change to government and the way in which these efforts should be carried out, suggesting that any work done be supported by the offer of constructive solutions.
Sutton goes on to explain that the efforts of individuals within the industry over the course of the past number of years since legalization have been immense, pointing out the added burden that’s involved in this work for the owner or CEO of a business. He says that it’s one that business owners have to embrace if they are looking to influence positive change for the industry.
“I knew right out of the gate that it was going to be challenging for small, independent, non-publicly-traded companies like Tantalus Labs to be able to get and maintain a voice in government without expensive lobbying or a ton of infrastructure,” he asserts. “And so, I made it my personal mandate to create relationships at Health Canada and other places within the federal government, as well as the provincial and municipal governments. It can feel like it’s burden-plus for a CEO who’s got a lot of stuff out there, but it has allowed for a new voice.”
It’s a voice that Sutton’s used to raise awareness of issues impacting the sector, most recently vocalizing his thoughts concerning an excessive excise tax that’s placed on licensed producers within the country. And, although it’s an issue specific to licensed producers, directly effecting their cost and operations, Cannabis at Work’s Alison McMahon suggests that the issue of excise tax should be seen as one of significance by every player operating within the industry.
“While we as an ancillary, service-oriented business don’t have to pay excise taxes, these types of constraints within the industry obviously effect us all,” she says. “If LPs can’t pay their excise tax and get their product to the market, that creates a significant amount of trickle-down cash flow issues that effect every player within the industry. It’s a challenge that needs to be addressed, and not just by LPs. Everyone within the industry needs play their part and show some leadership, connecting with government and playing a role in advocacy.”
Education is Key
Dealing with government officials is, of course, nothing new to George Smitherman, the President and CEO of Cannabis Council of Canada. The former Canadian politician is well-versed with respect to the work that’s required on the part of the industry in order to create an advantageous landscape for its players, citing education as the top priority and point of leverage moving forward.
“Our industry is in a bit of a bad spot insofar as we need urgent attention, and we’re dealing with a government at the national level that really doesn’t know enough about us,” he says. “That’s the downside, like the glass half empty view of it. But I’m exceedingly optimistic about our prospects if we actually activate our license holders and others in the sector, because unlike a lot of other sectors, we’re practically everywhere. And that means that we have the prospect of relevant relationships with members of parliament, from all political persuasions. And that’s what I’m trying, as much as possible, to reinforce.”
To access the webinar in full, visit https://cannabis-council.ca/events.
Image credit: Sharonannajacob, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons