Cannabis buds lay along a drying rack at the CannTrust Niagara Greenhouse Facility in Fenwick, Ont., on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

B.C. VIEWS: Cannabis challenges hurt B.C. economy

It’s a mishmash of rules for cannabis sales in B.C.’s municipalities

It’s been 15 months since the sale of cannabis was legalized in Canada, but challenges remain.

The slow rollout in B.C. is squandering B.C.’s built-in competitive advantage, says former Surrey councillor Barinder Rasode. She now heads Grow Tech Labs and founded the National Institute of Cannabis Health and Education.

The pre-legalization industry contributed $7.1 billion to the economy, Rasode says. People in the pre-legalization industry have plenty of knowledge and skills. Most have been shut out from participating in the legal industry. The government’s been slow in addressing the lack of retail outlets. The net effect is some of the business operates outside the legal framework, and this drastically reduces revenues to the three levels of government.

One reason for the retail drought in some places is that local municipalities have the power to decide if cannabis retailers are allowed in their communities. Some cities have said “no” and some have said “yes.” Many remain somewhere in the middle, studying zoning and other issues. The lack of outlets means cannabis consumers, used to a source of supply, continue to get product from their dealers and pay no taxes of any kind.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the eastern part of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. There are no retail outlets from New Westminster to Abbotsford, the fastest-growing area of the province. There are three outlets in Chilliwack and one more in Maple Ridge.

The first government-operated store opened in Kamloops on the day cannabis became legal. Others have since opened, but none are in the Lower Mainland.

Another challenge has been distribution. Licensed producers sell product to the Liquor Distribution Branch, which then sells to stores. Unlike liquor, cannabis has a short shelf life. This method of distribution also adds considerable costs.

Many large companies entered the industry before legalization and raised billions through share sales. Some have had a lot of challenges, and stock prices have tanked. This has led to credit issues. Some have had to destroy a lot of product, while others have encountered cultivation problems and neighbourhood opposition to large greenhouses which emit a strong odour.

Rasode says small growers would be able to bypass many of these problems. They are familiar with cultivating small crops. They are experts in raising specific types of cannabis. They know how to get fresh product to market.

READ MORE: Gap between cost of legal and illegal cannabis keeps growing: Stats Canada

Her organization is setting up a Craft Farmers Co-op which would allow small growers to use this expertise. The co-op suggests using cannabis parks where a number of small growers could produce their crops on one parcel of land. These would not be large-scale operations.

More than 150 growers are interested in this concept. The model calls for security and minimal impact on the neighbourhood. The co-op has already looked at potential properties in Mission, Chilliwack, Trail, Delta, Salmon Arm and Langley Township. More details are available at bccraftfarmerscoop.com.

The model also calls for a separate distribution and retail setup for craft growers. It suggests consumption lounges, similar to what wineries and craft brewers are able to do.

Rasode believes the province should consider these changes. Top-quality product from experienced growers would enter the market, and relieve the shortage of supply. Legal medical producers holding MMAR licences could play a key role in this.

The ball is in the government’s court.

READ MORE: ‘B.C. bud’ cannabis still underground, John Horgan hopes to rescue it

Frank Bucholtz is a columnist and former editor with Black Press Media. Email him at frank.bucholtz@blackpress.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

cannabis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Local liquor store raising funds for food bank

On May 30, a portion of sales at JAK’s Beer Wine & Spirits will be donated to the food bank

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

City of Campbell River re-opening most park amenities and outdoor washrooms

Splash park, playgrounds, sports fields, outdoor volleyball courts, indoor facilities not yet

First Nation’s guardians ‘take matters into their own hands’ and organize environmental clean-up

Mamalilikulla guardians step up to clear abandoned boats after no response from natural resource officers

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Most Read