Travis Lane, founder of The Internet Dispensary and long-time grower, and Courtland Sandover-Sly, a financial and insurance advisor, are directors of the B.C. Independent Cannabis Association. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. marijuana dispensaries form independent group

‘Canada could run out of legal cannabis next July’

Canada is going to run out of legal marijuana soon after recreational sales are legalized next year if it depends only on federally licensed medical growers, say directors of the newly formed B.C. Independent Cannabis Association.

The association released its submission to the B.C. government Friday, as the NDP government consults local governments and the public about the looming federal deadline to legalize retail marijuana sales. It recommends that B.C. “avoid the central warehousing of fresh cannabis” and “make space for private distribution and retail within the legal framework.”

The “best actors from the current illicit industry” should be invited to operate under the new regulations, which B.C. has to have in place by next July 1 to control wholesale distribution and retail sales, says the submission.

After talks with other provinces and the federal government, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said he is leaning towards a combination of provincial control and incorporating some of the locally licensed dispensaries that have popped up in B.C. communities. B.C. is crucial since it produces an estimated 70 per cent of Canada’s cannabis.

Two of the association’s directors spoke to Black Press. Travis Lane, founder of The Internet Dispensary and long-time grower, said B.C.’s “craft cannabis” industry is world renowned, and communities would soon feel the hit if the federal and provincial governments force supply to be centralized in a few industrial operations.

Lane said it’s clear that if underground producers are shut out, “there’s not going to be a gram of legal cannabis left in Canada at the end of July.” He doesn’t expect the home of B.C. Bud to do that. He predicts it will follow the example of VQA wines and B.C. craft breweries in its licensing system.

“I expect the B.C. government to come up with public-private partnership similar to what’s been happening with the loosening of the liquor laws,” Lane said. “I think we’re going to see, where there are cities with a long-standing dispensary economy, those good-acting dispensaries are going to be allowed into the retail marketplace.”

Courtland Sandover-Sly is chairman of the new association. He is a financial advisor and insurance broker for a dozen dispensaries, and says he was the first in North America to arrange a benefits plan for cannabis dispensary employees and management.

“We know that the NDP government here in B.C. appreciates the size of the industry,” Sandover-Sly said, citing a Fraser Institute estimate of a $7 billion value to the economy. “I’m hopeful that they are aware of this and know that not protecting the industry could be devastating, particularly to rural communities.”

Other directors are:

• Alex Robb, general manager of Trees Dispensaries, one of the first to receive a business licence from the City of Victoria

• Jamie Shaw, a government relations specialist who served as a director of the B.C. Compassion Club Society and president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

• Robert Laurie, a lawyer who worked in finance in London and New York before starting a practice focused on the business of cannabis and criminal defence

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