Joint venture: Manitoba cannabis growers team up to package and distribute their own products


Jesse Lavoie wanted to sell Manitoba-grown cannabis in his home province, but first he had to ship it.

Working with seven local businesses to produce non-profit joints to help fund a legal challenge to provincial pot laws, he quickly found the process to be unnecessarily complex and expensive, taking up a big chunk of the funds he was trying. to lift .

Lavoie said the price of shipping two kilograms of flower to Ontario to be processed and returned to individual cannabis stores in Manitoba was around $1,000…and that didn’t include the cost of transformation.

“That’s when we all decided – instead of doing this separately in other ways, let’s unite. Let’s form a union,” said the Winnipeg entrepreneur.

Starting next week, five independent Manitoba cannabis companies will do the packaging and delivery themselves, and they’ll do it locally.

The TobaRolling Syndicate will package cannabis — in pre-rolled joints and jars, for example — at a single facility and deliver it together to cannabis stores across the province.

Small producers join forces

This will save every business money, create new jobs and reduce its environmental footprint, they say.

“We all have similar issues where we pay a lot of money for shipping or we pay a big company to do our processing and maybe it gets deprioritized, maybe not,” Lavoie said.

“There’s a bunch of different issues that we’re trying to get rid of by doing it ourselves, and I couldn’t think of better partners to do it with.”

His company, TobaGrown, is joined by four independent cannabis growers: Alicanto Gardens, Cypress Craft, Kief Cannabis and Natural Earth Craft Cannabis.

Prior to this arrangement, “when you ship to a dispensary, you must ship to each individual dispensary,” Lavoie said. “There are over 150 in this province. If you think about 150 packages leaving Ontario to come here, that’s crazy money.”

Before cannabis can be sold in retail stores, it must be processed by a licensed company that will weigh the product, label containers and apply tax stamps, among other duties. (Richard Vogel/Associated Press)

Lavoie predicts stores will enjoy placing an order and getting products from five companies.

Alicanto Gardens, based in the Morris area, considered becoming a license processor to save time and money.

But it wouldn’t have been cheap, said co-owner Waldemar Heidebrecht.

“Just to create this treatment room and all the licensing…we’re talking $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 there, not even blinking an eye.”

In fact, he once told his family that Lavoie should create some kind of processing and distribution cooperative with other small producers.

“It was kind of an inside joke and I never thought about it again, but then Jesse called me and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this idea,'” recalls Heidebrecht, who has everything immediately jumped on board.

Lavoie is well known in the Manitoba cannabis industry. Under the TobaGrown banner, he sued the province for banning the production of local recreational cannabis, even though the federal government allows it. He is awaiting a decision from the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Natural Earth Craft Cannabis owner Tim Doerksen, left, and Alicanto Gardens co-owner Waldemar Heidebrecht laugh while chatting with founding members of the TobaRolling Syndicate. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Lavoie said this latest collaborative effort is a vote of confidence in Manitoba’s cannabis industry.

“It symbolizes our commitment to this province, the cannabis consumers of this province, the dispensaries of this province and the brands of this province,” he said.

Focus first on Manitoba

“Of course, our partners aspire to go beyond here. Manitoba will be our focus, but eventually we will get there.”

The local market is the driving force behind Natural Earth Craft Cannabis, a Winnipeg-based processor that initially produced cannabis for other companies to sell elsewhere, before obtaining a sales license to sell under its own brand.

“We wanted to be part of the local cannabis community, which means having our products on the shelves of local cannabis stores,” said manager Tim Doerksen.

He said the TobaRolling opportunity was “almost impossible to say no to”. By aligning with other producers and minimizing or sharing costs, he expects to save 20% on this part of his business.

The extra income will help businesses like hers grow and hire eight new workers to do things like flower weighing, joint rolling and container labeling. Lavoie said the union could hire more people if more companies sign on.

Cypress Craft Cannabis, operated by the Municipality of North Cypress-Langford, hopes the new relationship will bring its products to more Manitobans.

As a small business run by the family farm, master grower Bryce Oliver says there’s sometimes little time to focus on the distribution part of owning a business when you’re busy producing it.

“One of our issues is that we don’t leave the farm too often. So if (TobaRolling) builds a lot of relationships across the province, that will help us.”

Jesse Denton, founder of Kief Cannabis, said his facility will be the primary location where the syndicate packages its cannabis. (Ian Froese/CBC)

This arrangement is possible with the participation of a licensed producer like Kief Cannabis, who has the power to be a processor. The Selkirk producer has a dedicated room for packaging and another room in case of expansion.

But Jesse Denton, the founder of Kief, said TobaRolling could not have come together without the five parties.

“From what I understand, we’re the first of its kind,” Denton said.

“I think that says a lot about how well-connected we are as a province and how well-connected we want to be as an industry, especially at the local level.”


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