Nova Scotia

Farmers' markets support sale of craft cannabis at market stalls

The executive director of an umbrella group representing about three dozen farmers' markets in Nova Scotia says craft cannabis should be allowed to be sold at market booths.

Craft cannabis producers are limited to selling through bigger processors

The Halifax Seaport Farmers Market in its new home, Pavillion 22, March, 2021. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

The executive director of an umbrella group representing about three dozen farmers' markets in Nova Scotia says craft cannabis should be allowed to be sold at market booths.

"The farmers' market could be the perfect place for that type of product to be sold in a safe and controlled environment," said Justin Cantafio, executive director of Farmers' Markets of Nova Scotia.

He was responding to a CBC story about the challenges facing cannabis micro-cultivators who have a Health Canada licence to grow their product, but not to process and sell it directly to consumers. 

Cantafio's non-profit group represents close to 40 farmers' markets provincewide, with over 1,500 vendors. He said farmers with cannabis micro-cultivation licences have expressed support for the idea of selling at markets.

"We've heard from some of the folks who sell at our farmers' markets that they are interested in using their micro-licences to sell the cannabis that they grow to people who are willing to pay a fair price for their product," Cantafio said. 

This cannabis greenhouse in the Annapolis Valley is part of a licensed micro-cultivation operation. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

One issue faced by licensed micro-growers is the low price they are being offered by licensed processors. Under the current rules, a micro-cultivator may only sell to individuals or companies that hold a higher level of Health Canada licence. These licensed processors are the only ones allowed to test and package.

Some micro-growers in Nova Scotia are being offered as little as 20 cents a gram, dramatically lower than what cannabis is selling for in Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation stores.

"There aren't any avenues right now in this province for folks with micro-licences to actually direct-market their products and get a fair market value for what it is they're growing," Cantafio said. 

"The only opportunity now is wholesale. You end up getting significantly less for the product. It makes it significantly less viable. It really isn't an economically viable crop." 

Cantafio calls it a missed opportunity. 

"It really could contribute to on-farm income and make it easier for us to viably grow local food here and support our small- and medium-scale farmers," he said. 

Alcohol sales offer successful template

Cantafio said 15 years of micro-breweries and distilleries selling at farmers' markets has proven the business potential. 

"We saw a massive surge in the ability for craft brewers and other craft alcohol producers to direct-market their product, connect directly with a target market, and the sales exploded," he said. 

Nova Scotia has 14 micro-cultivators of cannabis, four of which hold processing licences. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

"We saw a massive proliferation of micro-breweries, the jobs they create, the economic opportunity they create ... to the point that we have the most microbreweries per capita in Canada," he said. 

Cantafio said Farmers' Markets of Nova Scotia has written letters to Nova Scotia's agriculture minister and the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation about this issue, but has received no response.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

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