NICHE Canada: The non-profit supporting cannabis policy for public safety

Jan 12 2018, 5:42 am

Everyone’s talking about cannabis right now, for reasons that should be obvious.

Last year, the federal government passed Bill C-45 (more than half of Canadians support this) to move towards legalization of weed in July, 2018, with the enactment of the Cannabis Act.

That means anyone who’s over the age of 19 will legally be allowed to grow, purchase, and possess limited amounts of cannabis products. So it’s natural that people want to know how quality control is going to be maintained, what will determine responsible cannabis use, and how will it comply with new laws.

The National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education (NICHE Canada) is a not-for-profit organization that has been created for this reason. The organization’s aims are to support the development of public cannabis policies that prioritize the health and safety of
Canadians, and promote a collaborative, transparent, and fact-based approach to legalization.

To do this, NICHE Canada works with all levels of government, a wide range of stakeholders, academic leaders, public safety, and health officials. And they’re doing this so that they can develop public education and employment training programs to help prepare communities for cannabis legalization and the post-prohibition marketplace.

One of the biggest things the organization has done to-date is that they introduced the first-ever national cannabis accreditation program. On December 12, 2017, NICHE Canada revealed the first phase of CannabisWise.

“The goal of CannabisWise is to create a recognizable and trusted brand that provides reassurance for cannabis consumers and regulators that retailers and producers are committed to quality assurance throughout their day-to-day operations,” Barinder Rasode, CEO of NICHE Canada said in a press release.

The first stage of the program is a consultation period with government partners, education institutions, community organizations, reputable producers, municipally-approved dispensaries, and prospective retailers in Canada, as a way to seek input on specific priorities.

An advisory committee of subject matter experts will be set up to guide the development of accreditation and audit criteria for the CannabisWise program. It’s a voluntary program that’s set to feature a pledge of performance from retailers and small producers regarding 12 metrics:

  1. Compliance with all federal and provincial standards and regulations as well as compliance with municipal licensing and by-laws.
  2. Implementation of enhanced safety and security measures.
  3. Maintaining rigorous workplace safety standards.
  4. Establishment of training programs for staff.
  5. Secure and integrated technology systems, particularly related to the protection of customer data.
  6. Professional financial controls and oversight.
  7. Established program to ensure age verification.
  8. Maintenance of current website and/or social media platform that provides customers and regulators basic information about the organization and products.
  9. Developing community engagement, corporate social responsibility, and public education programs.
  10. Established referral relationship with health care practitioner.
  11. Inclusive hiring practices.
  12. Annual renewal.

The consultation phase of the program is expected to be finished early this year, with the CannabisWise program officially launching in spring.

In all, the goal of the program is to create a recognizable and trusted CannabisWise brand as a way to reassure consumers and regulators that retailers and micro-producers are correctly focused on quality control, promoting responsible cannabis use, and complying with new regulations.

“In collaboration with our industry partners, we will develop nationally recognized standards and best practices that will advance health and safety, and drive continual improvement in the cannabis industry,” Rasode added.

For more information, visit NICHE Canada. Check out the non-profit on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to get the latest updates.

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