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

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

General voting day for the Terrace trustee by-election is Saturday, March 6 at the Terrace Sportsplex Multipurpose Room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Black Press file photo)
Terrace trustee by-election: Meet the candidates

General voting day is March 6 at the Terrace Sportsplex Multipurpose Room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Terrace RCMP arrested two men on Feb. 17 after they were told to leave the Sunshine Inn and then became combative with police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace RCMP arrest men visiting a person in COVID-19 isolation

Men attempted to strike police with a chair, threatened to kill officers when told to leave

The Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual all candidates forum for the Coast Mountains School District trustee by-election on Feb. 23, 2021. (Screenshot/Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce Facebook)
Terrace trustee candidates lay out top priorites during virual all candidates forum

All candidates forum was held virtually on Feb. 23, 2021

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Beginning late Tuesday, anti-pipeline protesters blocked the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver. (Instagram/Braidedwarriors)
Demonstrators block key access to Vancouver port over jail for pipeline protester

They group is protesting a 90-day jail sentence handed to a fellow anti-pipeline protester

Most Read