A prominent not-for-profit cannabis corporation will establish what is believed to be Canada's first-ever cannabis accreditation program, just in time for legalization.
The National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education (NICHE) Canada will partner with long-time cannabis educator Adolfo Gonzalez and other sector leaders to create CannabisWise, a program that will provide Canadian cannabis retailers and producers with a way to give consumers a level trust when in their cannabis products.
"The CannabisWise accreditation program that we're looking at has really come about because we recognize that many people talk about wanting to have certainty when they are dealing in the cannabis space," NICHE President and CEO Barinder Rasode told the Straight earlier this week.
"We're really hoping that people who are going to be including cannabis in their wellness regime or in their treatment of a medical ailment, that those people can have a certain level of confidence in what they are buying."
Gonzalez is a local educator who has helped train hundreds of budtenders and dispensary staff across the country. In a separate phone call, he told the Straight he'd be providing NICHE with general academic oversight, and assisting in shaping some of the program's methodology and content.
Rasode and the team at NICHE intend for CannabisWise to be a recognizable and trusted way for consumers to identify products that are created with quality control, legality, and responsible cannabis use in mind.
NICHE will also be working with pharmacists and medical personal who are familiar with VIPPS, a program used to accredit websites offering pharmacy services.
"It's a simple comparison, but it's like OceanWise: When you buy seafood products, you can be certain of the quality assurance and the ethical standards, so those are the types of things we're looking at," Rasode said.
The national program will consist of partnerships between producers and CannabisWise. It will be up to producers and retailers to seek out accreditation.
Rasode said NICHE will be ready to "press go" on CannabisWise as soon as Bill C-45 has been passed and each province has laid the groundwork for its retail and distribution framework.
"We'll be ready to go on day one of legalization," she said.
CannabisWise will require retailers and producers to pledge to follow a list of 12 specific metrics, including compliance with standards and regulations at all levels of government, enhanced safety measures, inclusive hiring practices, social responsibility, and more.
NICHE is also looking to collaborate with government partners, education institutions, community organizations, and industry players as they finalize the details around the program.
While Rasode knows that other quality assurance programs already exist on a broader scale, NICHE recognizes that cannabis shouldn't be lumped in with other products.
"This is a very unique program because we believe cannabis is a very unique product, and we don't ever want to think that it will fit into something that already exists," she added.
"The fundamentals are based on other programs, but this is really a very uniquely Made-in-Canada approach."
Rasode said that as Canadians and all levels of government go through what is one of the biggest policy shifts this country will ever experience, she hopes that CannabisWise will provide consumers, both new and old, with confidence.
"What we want to do is build patient and consumer trust with the product, and we feel that this is the best way to do it."More