For years those growing pot in B.C. were forced to operate in the shadows, but now that it’s legal, two local entrepreneurs have found a way to give small-scale marijuana growers a state-of-the-art home in Sooke.
Ian Laing, along with a partner, has established Canna Park in the Sooke Industrial Park, where they will use about one-third of the 20-hectare property for growing marijuana.
“I was one of the owners and developers at the business park, and about seven years ago we started getting calls from marijuana people looking for a place to operate small grow operations,” Laing said.
“Recently, with legalization in place, I talked to Mike Hicks (Juan de Fuca Regional Area director) and asked for help in seeing if this could be done.”
Laing’s plan was to establish a series of buildings on the property to house both micro-cultivators and a production facility.
“We had a lot of interest and almost immediately sold out our first six units. The next offering of 28 units is 50 per cent rented and we expect to sell out within a month or so,” Laing said, adding another 28 units are on the drawing board.
Each of the units is about 4,500 square feet and augmented with a 20,000-square-foot production facility.
Hicks, who worked to ensure zoning requirements for the facilities were in order, remains an ardent supporter of the concept.
“This is great news for our community. These businesses have the potential to be one of the biggest employers in the region. Workers can live and work in our community and not have to commute to Victoria for jobs. The tax revenue from the businesses will be a welcome bonus,” Hicks said.
Laing likened cannabis micro-growers to micro-brewers whose products have increasingly captured the market share of the beer, wine, and spirit industries.
Laing said as one of the owners of Salt Spring Island Ales, he is aware of the challenges facing small-scale producers as they try to compete against the big players.
“In our facilities, each grower will be limited to 200 square metres of growing space, but they will be producing some of the best product anywhere. We’re just happy that we can help provide them with a safe location that’s fitted with state-of-the-art HEPA-filters and charcoal air handling units to eliminate the smell that’s been a problem with the big producers. We can also provide the security systems and some economies of scale for their purchase of lights and other materials,” Laing said.
In 2014, years before the legalization of cannabis, the Fraser Institute published a study that estimated that 18,000 growers were operating in B.C. to provide product for the province’s illicit marijuana market. Those growers, the study said, were producing about 400,000 kilograms of cannabis annually. That production had a value of $2 billion and represented up to 4.6 per cent of B.C.’s Gross Domestic Product.