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Canada Makes Marijuana Farmers Eligible for Government Agriculture Programs

Canada, where marijuana will soon be legal nationwide, is now treating cannabis as just another crop.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Canadian officials have decided that the country’s cannabis farmers are eligible for federal funding that supports innovation and sustainability efforts in agriculture. The decision in Canada happened as the country gears up to launch a nationwide, regulated cannabis industry on Oct. 17.

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It’s yet another stark contrast to what is happening in the United States, where marijuana businesses still operate in a system where their product is illegal at the federal level.

Related: Just to Keep an Open Mind, What Are Some Arguments Against Legalizing Marijuana?

Farm Aid

The U.S. has similar programs to support farmers but, with marijuana still listed as an illegal Schedule I drug in the U.S., that cash is not available for those who grow cannabis. U.S. marijuana businesses can’t even get banking services.

Canadian politicians went the other way. In a meeting earlier this summer in Vancouver, British Columbia, agriculture ministers from various levels of the Canadian government formerly voted to allow access to federal funds for pot farmers. The decision will allow cannabis businesses the chance to apply for funds that supports innovation in farming practices and farmers who promote environmentally sustainable agriculture.

Cannabis farmers can make requests for federal funds. Such applications will need approval by both local and federal officials. Administration of agricultural programs in Canada are a joint responsibility of the federal government and the provinces and territories.

This oversight comes together in what is known as the Canadian Agriculture Partnership. The program, which is funded in five-year increments, currently has $3 billion in funding. The goal is to “strengthen the agriculture and agri-food sector.”

The partnership has streamlined the process for farmers making applications for federal funds. Lawrence MacAulay, the Canadian agriculture minister, told The Canadian Press that the group made its decision on allowing cannabis farmers access to partnership funds because marijuana is considered an agricultural crop.

Related: Facebook Has 'Shadow Banned' Marijuana Businesses

Some Exceptions

Canadian cannabis growers will not have access to two agricultural programs - AgriStability and AgriInvest. Both are designed to help farmers weather price fluctuations and sharp increases in crop insurance. These exemptions are practical reasons. Canadian officials said the new marijuana industry in the country is still too unstable for them to commit federal funds to support them in these specific areas.

However, they said the issue would be revisited as the Canadian marijuana market matures and stabilizes.

Canada has a long list of programs to support farmers. They include programs that support innovation, sustainability, marketing, diversity, debt mediation, research and development, and advanced payments on agricultural products.

Critics have argued that marijuana is not food, so therefore should not be eligible for federal funds. However, at least some of the marijuana grown in Canada will be used in the rapidly growing marijuana edibles market.

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