Launched officially on Tuesday, the Association québécoise de l’industrie du cannabis (AQIC) also wants to have a voice in the debate around the legal framework of the substance, the recreational consumption of which has been legal since last October.
Cannabis Business president Michel Timperio, who also directs the cannabis division of Neptune Wellness Solutions, believes there is still a lot of stigma surrounding the industry.
“People have to realize that the cannabis industry is not only what is sold at the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC),” he explained in an interview with Presse Canadienne. “There is a long way to go.”
The association wants to play an educational role to help the public see the difference between tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which does not contain psychoactive elements and offers medical benefits.
With a clearer distinction, Timperio believes a greater number of private investors, and perhaps even organizations such as the financial arm of Investissement Québec (IQ), would be willing to loosen their purse strings.
“Until this notion is understood, it is clear that we will be facing challenges,” he said. “We are talking about all that can be done in terms of molecule development, intellectual property and all the global spinoffs on offer.”
Currently the AQIC has eight members, including Hexo, Quebec’s largest producer which is active in the medical and recreational sectors as well as being the main supplier to the SQDC.
The company, founded in Gatineau, has turned to the stock market to amass capital, which, according to Timperio, would be complicated for certain startups.
“Initially, not everybody has the means to be a public company,” he said. “It is perhaps better to have an institutional fund to launch the first phase. Just applying for a licence through Health Canada is very expensive.”
Institutional investors such as the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec have already indicated they don’t wish to invest in the cannabis industry. The National Bank has shown little enthusiasm while the Mouvement Desjardins has opened the door by modifying its policy last fall, offering financing to members interested in cultivating marijuana for therapeutic purposes.
WIth only 12 of the 147 federal licences issued, Quebec is late to join what is already a flourishing industry, the president of the association says.
“It would be surprising to see IQ help out a company that wants to specialize in selling to the SQDA,” Timperio said, adding he thinks the state investment agency might be interested in something else.
“When we are talking $50,000 jobs in a company that leans toward pharmaceutical development and products that don’t have the goal of replacing alcohol, for example, I think they (in government) will be more receptive,” he said.
He acknowledged that some producers wanted to get together because the approach of Premier François Legault’s government, which increased the legal age of cannabis consumption to 21, is so strict.
Six months after the legalization of marijuana in Canada, the early data and interviews with users show that a large number of Canadians have tried the drug.
More than 14 per cent of cannabis consumers interviewed by Statistics Canada from mid-November to mid-December said they had smoked cannabis for the first time in the three previous months.
With the legalization of edible marijuana products expected in Canada by Oct. 17, the AQIC wants to position itself to make its point of view known in Quebec, Timperio said.
Members of the AQIC include: Great White North, Hexo, Mtl Cannabis, Neptune Solutions Bien-Être, Origine Nature, Rose ScienceVie, Terranueva, Verdélite Sciences.