When Canada officially launches its recreational marijuana market later this year, the federal government will provide the nation’s cannabis farmers with some of the same funding opportunities as other green thumb industrialists.
Earlier this month, agricultural ministers representing every level of government decided during their annual meeting in Vancouver that the companies producing cannabis plants for both the recreational and medicinal sector should qualify for a portion of the agricultural support offered to traditional farmers.
Canada provides dozens of programs and partnerships intended to help the agricultural community stay innovative and prosperous.
But this consideration does not mean that cannabis farmers can expect to receive the same treatment as corn or dairy farmers, for example. Not all of the government’s safety nets will be made available to those who cultivate this feel good crop.
British Columbia Agriculture Minister Lana Popham recently told iPolitics that cannabis producers would not be eligible for two of the country’s more popular farming programs — AgriStability and AgriInvest. These subsidies were designed to protect farmers against unforeseen incidents like damaged crops and massive market fluctuations.
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Pot growers will not be considered for these programs because the industry is still too volatile, according to Saskatchewan’s deputy minister for agriculture, Rick Burton. But the situation could change once officials get used to the concept of this new agricultural crop.
“Governments agree to monitor this over the coming years as the cannabis industry matures and stabilizes,” a media spokesperson told the Western Producer following the meeting.
Ultimately, this decision will see that cannabis farmers qualify for funding related to the environment and innovation. The full scope of this development has not yet been revealed.
When it comes to farming in the Great White North, the federal, provincial and territorial governments all work together through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. This five year, $3 billion investment was created to make it easier for farmers to apply and gain access to available subsidies, as well as risk management and other services. The system was created for the greater good of economic growth in the agricultural trade. But cannabis farmers were not originally given consideration in the deal because the law was put on the books almost a year before the government legalized weed.
Although the United States has similar subsidy programs in place to assist farmers, cannabis producers are not among the eligible. Marijuana remains a Schedule I dangerous drug in the eyes of the federal government, so farmers connected to the business of bud are on their own.
Naysayers argue that cannabis growers should not be given access to agricultural subsidies since the crop is not a source of food. Others disagree, saying that cannabis crops will eventually be used in Canada’s marijuana edibles market. This sector alone, which is set to get underway at some point next year, is expected to generate an additional $15 billion in annual sales.
Canada plans to roll out its recreational marijuana market in October.