Cannabis ice cream? Province prepares for B.C. Bud edibles

Mike Farnworth’s special police unit takes down dispensaries

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)

Third in a series on B.C.’s craft cannabis industry.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Finance Minister Carole James were the NDP’s point persons on pot a year before they formed a minority government with the B.C. Greens.

In 2016, Farnworth and James toured legal marijuana operations in Oregon and neighbouring Washington, where recreational cannabis has been legal since 2012. As they prepared the NDP’s election platform on how to handle legalization, Farnworth remembers visiting an Oregon store that offered cannabis-infused ice cream.

“I asked, what’s the dosage like?” Farnworth said in an interview. “They said oh, a tablespoon. And I remember thinking, who eats a tablespoon of ice cream?”

With Health Canada restrictions on products and packaging to keep cannabis away from kids and prevent overdoses, B.C. stores won’t be selling ice cream when edible products become available in the weeks ahead. Farnworth is expecting a limited selection of cannabis edibles will pass Health Canada’s 60-day approval process for new products.

“They’ve made it clear there is not going to be a full range of products that you might see, say in Oregon where you can get ice cream for example,” Farnworth said. “You’re not going to see that here. We’re looking at late December to mid-January, is the latest information about when you’re going to see [edible] product in stores and available online.”

Edibles and beverages, or “Cannabis 2.0” in industry jargon, are another challenge for B.C. in keeping its small-producer craft cannabis industry from being overwhelmed by big players. Anheuser-Busch Inbev, the international beer giant that owns Labatt’s and Budweiser, has launched a joint venture with B.C.-based multinational cannabis producer Tilray to produce drinks with the main active ingredients, THC and CBD, by the end of 2019.

Canopy Growth Corp. has unveiled the first of its line of soft drinks, chocolates and other edibles under its Tweed brand, and Molson Coors predicts that beverages may end up with 20 per cent or more of the Canadian cannabis market. Molson Coors took a controlling interest in a joint beverage venture with Quebec marijuana producer HEXO, which is launching a national discount dried marijuana product called “Original Stash” that sells for $4.99 per gram.

PART ONE: NDP gives cannabis business grant to Kootenay growers

PART TWO: Craft cannabis growers wind through layers of government

RELATED: Police raid 23-year-old cannabis compassion club

After amending a half dozen B.C. laws to allow recreational cannabis sales, setting up a monopoly wholesale system run by the Liquor Distribution Branch and struggling to get government and private stores up and running, Farnworth also faced the task of dealing with stores that had opened without licences and simply carried on.

Enter the Community Safety Unit, a division of Farnworth’s ministry that works with police to shut down illegal sellers that still hold the vast majority of the B.C. cannabis market. Its raids included the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, which operated for more than 20 years as a medical dispensary.

“We’ve had a good response,” Farnworth said at the end of October. “At last count, there have been 50-some-odd illegal operations that have either shut down voluntarily, or have had their product and the cash confiscated by the Community Safety Unit.”

Premier John Horgan says these challenges are unique to B.C., where illegal sales were allowed to proliferate for years. Dealing with that is one reason why B.C. stands to lose money on its first year of cannabis sales.

“We had a grey market that had to be shut down so that an above-board legal market could thrive in a fair way,” Horgan said as the B.C. legislature session wrapped up at the end of November. “We didn’t want people having an advantage because they had staked some territory illegally, and put those operators who wanted to be legal and above board at a disadvantage.”

Long-time grower Travis Lane, who supplied dispensaries and now has three applications in for recreational cannabis production on Vancouver Island, says there’s another reason B.C. has so far shunned legal marijuana marketed by big national companies.

“When you look at B.C., we have an educated purchasing populace,” Lane said. “We’re to the point where they’re going into these legal stores and trying it, and rejecting it for quality purposes or for cost. That’s where the market hasn’t caught up yet, is quality and cost.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

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

Just Posted

Telethon promotes Surrey Memorial Hospital COVID response funding

Entrepreneur Manjit Lit gifts Surrey Hospital Foundation, challenges others to join him

Stanley Cup win for Surrey-based NHL scout who coached in North Delta

Grant Armstrong is among 11 WHL alumni currently with Tampa Bay Lightning

Another death as COVID-19 outbreak at Delta Hospital climbs to 18 cases

Total of 12 patients and six staff in one unit have tested positive for COVID-19: Fraser Health

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Sept. 27

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Reincarnation, baby! Surrey singer and husband celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Most Read