December 15, 2018 9:00 am

How one simple change let a province sell residents live pot plants

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The last thing that happens before a live marijuana plant is sealed up to be shipped from Eve & Co’s sprawling greenhouse in Strathroy, Ont., is that a worker switches on a little LED light inside the package.

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The plant will take three days to get to a customer in Newfoundland (and up to seven to reach the remoter parts of Labrador), But since customers are paying $35 for shipping, as much as the plants themselves cost, they have to arrive in good condition. Hence the supply of private sunshine in a closed box in the back of a truck.

“This past year, we’ve done a lot of testing, shipping citronella plants across the country in different packaging to see what works the best,” explains Eve & Co’s Kelsey Jobson.

“We shipped to the Yukon in the dead of winter, just hoping to get the coldest temperatures we could. We optimized our packaging based on those trials.”

READ MORE: Smelly, fussy, humid: Why you may not want to grow your own legal pot

Selling Canadians live marijuana plants has been one of the more complicated problems of legalization. Provincial monopolies, with a lot on their plates already, haven’t wanted to deal with the headache of keeping plants healthy in busy distribution centres.

So it was nearly two months after legalization that Cannabis NL became the first provincial retailer to offer customers live plants. Their approach bypasses the problem by letting licenced producers send plants straight to customers after the sale is processed on their site. All the province has to do is take the order — and collect the taxes.

“Newfoundland has a great framework for this setup because we are allowed to ship direct to customers,” Jobson says.

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“It seems to be the model that works the best. It’s the quickest, and the least amount of handling by the provincial distributors, who don’t have to touch the plants.”

There have been about 10 orders a day since sales started this week, the company says.

Jobson says the company is hoping to expand the concept to other provinces.

“We would love to. We’re in talks with a number of them. We just need to work out that framework.”

Once the four-week-old plants arrive, they will be ready to harvest in about three months, depending on the strain and light conditions in their new home.

Would-be legal home growers have been caught in a legal paradox since legalization: federal law allows four plants per household, but only if they’re grown from legally obtained seeds. There aren’t any legal paths to buy seeds, so nobody can start to grow plants, at least legally. (One loophole: being given — not buying — seeds or plants from a licenced medical grower.)

READ MORE: Can you legally grow your own pot? Yes – but no. At least for now. Here’s why

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Eve & Co. is drawing on experience with the flower trade, which has long experience in shipping live plants long distances and having them arrive healthy, explains CEO Melinda Rombouts.

“We’ve received [flower] clones from Ethiopia, Mexico, Costa Rica — it’s actually very typical to get your young plants basically through the mail.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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