Cannabis Compliance Inc is a global licensing and regulatory company. Director, Quality and Regulatory, Brenna Boonstra explains that the consulting firm helps medical and recreational cannabis companies obtain licenses and achieve government compliance. While the bulk of Cannabis Compliance’s clients are located in Canada, the company is beginning to advise companies operating in the EU. In terms of the Canadian market, Boonstra identifies the evolving regulatory framework, from the MMPR, to the AMCPR, and finally the Cannabis Act, as one reason for licensing delays. Boonstra reveals that Cannabis Compliance has worked with one Ontario retail lottery winner during the entire process in preparation of the April 1 launch date. Boonstra emphasizes that the lottery period in Ontario is only in effect for one year and then is automatically repealed in December 2019. As a result, Boonstra is anticipating an open retail market in Ontario later this year.
James West: Brenna Boonstra joins me now. She is the Director of Quality and Regulatory at Cannabis Compliance, Inc. Brenna, welcome.
Brenna Boonstra: Hey, thanks for having me, James.
James West: Brenna, tell me about your role at Cannabis Compliance, and give me an overview of what Cannabis Compliance actually does.
Brenna Boonstra: Yeah, so we are a global licensing and regulatory company helping everyone in the cannabis industry achieve their goals. So born from licensing under the MMPR, ACMPR, now the Cannabis Act, and operating on a global scale now.
James West: Wow, fantastic. And where do you conduct most of your licensing activity?
Brenna Boonstra: Our head office is in Toronto; the bulk of our clients are in Canada for the time being, but starting to move towards doing a lot more work in the EU, as well.
James West: Right. And what about in the United States?
Brenna Boonstra: Not a lot of work in the US – of course, cannabis not legalized there on a Federal level yet, so it’s a real patchwork. CBD is coming to the forefront, of course, with the passage of the Farm Bill recently, but not a lot of work in the States for the time being.
James West: Right. And so, is the fact that the United States is this fractured sort of closed internationally market off to the side there, doing their own sort of wonky thing – is that representative of the huge opportunity for Canadian companies to sort of seize the global opportunity?
Brenna Boonstra: Absolutely. Canada is at the forefront of the legal cannabis market, of course. The second country to legalize cannabis on a Federal level, so it’s a real opportunity for Canada to push forward here.
James West: Right. And so, what is the typical sort of engagement that a company would look for from Cannabis Compliance? Is it strictly licensing, or is it the whole ball of wax?
Brenna Boonstra: The whole ball of wax, yeah. So right from business planning to license applications through to operational readiness, auditing, we have a full recruitment department to staff cannabis operation. So it’s the full gamut of services.
James West: Wow, fantastic. What is the biggest hurdle to company getting licensed? I mean, we’ve seen that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of companies that have been in the application process for years; no real clear sign of when they will ever get a license. What is the biggest cause of that?
Brenna Boonstra: Yeah, it’s hard to say just one thing. It is, there are companies who applied three years ago under the MMPR, whose licenses, when the ACMPR was enacted, had to transition to the ACMPR, so a new set of regulations, a new format for the application, and then when the Cannabis Act was passed a few years later, again another transition, another update. So that’s one thing, is keeping your patient and your business plans current with the regulations as they change around you.
Security clearance is another big thing. So it can take anywhere from three months to three years for a person to pass security clearance, and so, in such a dynamic industry where there’s a need to raise funds continually, companies are adding key investors all the time; and a key investor is someone who requires security clearance with Health Canada. So any changes like that, that go on under this understandably long assessment period, can push an application further and further back in the queue.
James West: Right. Wow, that’s fantastic. Now, what about other markets globally? So the EU is doing the EU thing; stuff takes a long time there. Lots of companies are trying to get in there, but what other countries do you see, from where you sit, are going to join sort of the global marketplace sooner rather than later because they’re a little bit more advanced, a little bit more organized?
Brenna Boonstra: Yeah. Germany is coming onboard, Israel, other markets in the EU. It’s going to be an exciting time moving forward. So we’re watching it as all the dominoes start to fall, right? And all of these countries are doing it under the same initial banner that Canada did, right? So we bring cannabis to market under the medical use banner, so these are countries that as they’re coming online are doing this, of course, for medical use. And I would expect recreational use to follow.
James West: Right. Okay, and now, in Ontario, with the retail storefront licenses, is that something that you guys are sort of participants in? Do you provide a service where you help those people, or can you tell me anything about that process?
Brenna Boonstra: Absolutely. So we’ve been involved with that from start to finish with one of the retail lottery winners in Ontario; he’s received his retail store authorization and his retail operator’s license, so we’re really excited to see his store opening on April 1st. And I think something that a lot of people have forgotten about in this whole lottery drama is that the lottery period is only in effect for one year. It came into effect on December 13th, and that, the lottery regulation, Ontario 468-18, that’s automatically repealed on December 13th of this year. So it’s not that far away now, and we don’t know for sure the AGCL’s plans, but it could be that the open market that was expected in December of last year will be coming to us now in December of this year.
So that’s, if the number of submissions in the Ontario lottery process is any indication, that’s thousands of applications coming for retail cannabis stores in Ontario, and we love doing those. It’s a lot of fun to put these business plans and these floor plans and these applications together; we love it.
James West: Yeah, fantastic. All right, Brenna, well, let’s leave it there for now. We’ll come back to you very soon. That’s a great disclosure on the process, thank you very much for joining me today.
Brenna Boonstra: Thank you, James, thanks for having me. Have a great day.
James West: Thanks, you too. Bye-bye.
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