(This story has been updated with additional comments from Global Affairs Canada.)
Medical marijuana companies in Canada interested in exploring business opportunities overseas are eligible to receive financial aid and other forms of support from the federal government through Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service (TCS).
The network of trade commissioners reaches more than 160 cities around the world and offices across Canada, helping Canadian businesses reach new markets.
A spokesperson for Ontario-based Global Affairs Canada said the TCS can provide services to Canadian companies involved in the medical cannabis industry if they are seeking to do business in jurisdictions that:
Are parties to the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
Have a legal framework for the medical or scientific use of cannabis.
“Canadian medical cannabis companies are eligible for federal government funding,” the Global Affairs Canada spokesperson told Marijuana Business Daily.
“Subject to certain conditions, trade commissioners can only serve requests related to cannabis for medical or scientific purposes.”
The medical cannabis industry has been pushing for more government support for years.
The Trade Commissioner Service’s “full menu” is available to medical cannabis companies, including:
Financial support such as advice for small- and medium-sized companies in their applications for grants.
Linking up companies to potential foreign partners.
Facilitating access to the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada.
Helping companies pursue new business opportunities abroad by joining government-led trade missions and trade events in Canada and overseas.
TCS offers business support via Canada’s Trade Accelerator Program, Canadian Commercial Corp., Futurpreneur Canada, Innovation Canada and Startup Canada, among others.
The Global Affairs Canada spokesperson said the Canadian government does not assist medical cannabis businesses that lobby foreign governments in a way that could be perceived as influencing domestic policies, laws or regulations governing medical cannabis.
Trade commissioners also do not provide any service related to the nonmedical use of cannabis overseas.
The companies must also have appropriate permits and authorizations.
Robyn Rabinovich, new lead on international business advisory for the cannabis sector at Toronto-based Hill+Knowlton, said the Trade Commissioner Service could be beneficial for emerging companies and those looking at this opportunity for the first time.
“Having a credible federal government entity like the Trade Commissioner’s Service support the cannabis sector in seeking out international opportunities will support the long-term viability of the industry and will help take advantage of the unique position Canada is in to export medical cannabis products globally,” she said.
“There are lot of steps and nuances involved in being licensed to export medical cannabis, and then additional steps are required to bring those products to market. Having an option for additional support from a trusted source would be a welcomed layer of support to the process.”
Long time coming
Cameron Bishop, vice chair of Cannabis Council of Canada, said members of the Ontario-based industry group had been pushing Global Affairs Canada to assist medical marijuana businesses for years.
He called support from the Trade Commissioner “an excellent step forward.”
“We’re pleased that the federal government has taken steps to ensure that regulated cannabis companies in Canada can now use the Trade Commissioner Service offered through Global Affairs Canada, as many of our members have been advocating for this support for a number of years,” he said.
Bishop is urging the federal government to take steps to seize Canada’s first-mover advantage in medical cannabis and develop an export strategy.
“Further, the CBD and hemp market in particular are quickly emerging as areas where the leadership of our sector is sought worldwide – we look forward to working with our federal partners to ensure the success of medical & wellness cannabis export,” he said.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is putting its weight behind the business prospects offered by Canada’s fast-growing cannabis sector.
Ryan Greer, senior director and cannabis policy lead, welcomed support from the TCS, but he cautioned that it’s a first step.
“The National Cannabis Working Group is really pleased that medical cannabis companies are eligible for support from the Trade Commissioner Service through Global Affairs.
“Eligibility for services is only the first step, and it is crucial that they be accessible for the industry,” he said.
The industry organization has a National Cannabis Working Group, which is comprised of nearly 80 companies in the marijuana industry.
“We have been asking for several federal departments to become engaged in supporting the creation of jobs and economic growth in the cannabis industry and this is a step in the right direction,” Greer said.
“These services can support the global ambitions of an industry where Canada has a rare first-mover advantage.”
Matt Lamers is Marijuana Business Daily’s international editor, based near Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected].