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

Surrey boy living with congenital heart disease to speak at local Tedx event

Mason Vander Ploeg will be speaking on saving the oceans

Racist graffiti sparks Cloverdale man to renew calls for City to clean up street

Hate message the latest garbage dumped at the end of 176th Street

Survey suggests 83 per cent of Surreyites ‘favour a referendum’ on policing transition

Survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights on behalf of the National Police Federation

Brand new Tesla crashes into Surrey store front, mounts gas line

Driver was heading to the Autoplan store, straight off the lot

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

VIDEO: Giants winning streak now stands at 11

Team erased a 5-2 deficit by scoring every five minutes

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Most Read