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Cannabis Professional spoke with Zara Munir, operational compliance manager at Cannabis Compliance Inc., and Brenna Boonstra, CCI’s director of quality and regulatory consulting, to understand how nursery licences work. CCI, the most prolific consulting company in the cannabis space, has around 20 clients who are currently seeking nursery licences.

As of March 31, Health Canada had received nursery licence applications for 13 sites, according to a Health Canada spokesperson. The first nursery licence was issued last week.

What can nursery licence holders sell, and where can they sell it?

Nursery licence holders can sell young cannabis plants – in a pre-flowering stage – and seeds to other cannabis licence holders (LPs, micro-cultivators, etc.), as well as to provincial wholesalers.

It’s to provide starter material or genetics of certain plants to allow companies or individuals to produce those plants either at a commercial scale or just needing the four plants per person, if that’s authorized in your province," explained Ms. Munir.

What is the purpose of nursery licences?

As with nurseries for other agricultural products, cannabis nurseries will provide starting material for new growers. More importantly, they will be places to acquire new genetics.

“For a really long time, the plant genetics that were available on the commercial side were very limited, because there was only authorization for genetics to come in during the MMAR days. After that, if you were licensed under the ACMPR, you could only get [new genetics] from international sources, or you could get it from other licence holders. This created an environment where the genetics were really limited, and you saw a lot of companies offering the same type of product,” said Ms. Munir.

After Oct. 17, Health Canada introduced a “genetics amnesty” program, allowing new licensees a one-time chance to bring black or grey market genetics into the market.

"If you are tackling the nursery licence, it’s usually because you access to a large variety [of genetics],” Ms. Munir explained.

Nursery licences also enable research and development activity, which could lead to new strains and genetic profiles.

Related: How Canada’s first cannabis nursery hopes to nurture growth

Who is the intended customer for nurseries?

Licensed cultivators typically have their own strains and propagation processes, so they’re unlikely to be buying baby plants from nurseries for each crop.

“I can see a nursery having a role whereby a nursery has a set of mothers that have these desirable genetic characteristics... then selling clones from [those mothers] to a licence holder who wants to introduce a new product, a new genetic to their offering," Ms. Boonstra said.

Nurseries can also provide starting material for individual growers, looking to grow four plants at home.

"At this point, I don’t think the OCS, or whatever the province is, is prepared to have live plants in the stores. It might always be shipped from a warehouse,” Ms. Munir said.

"But I think in the future it’s definitely something that will be challenged. Why can’t I go to my local cannabis retail store and pick up plants, which are not flowering and which meet the requirements?”