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

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

The street value of the more than one-and-a-quarter kilograms of cocaine seized by VicPD officers was over $150,000. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police seize fentanyl, more than $150,000-worth of cocaine

Charges laid against two Victoria men in months-long investigation

A byelection will be held in Victoria on Dec. 12. (Black Press Media file photo)
Nomination period for Victoria’s byelection now open

Prospective candidates have until Nov. 6 to get papers in

Items seized over four days of targeted vehicle checks Nanaimo and Victoria by members of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. (CFSEU-BC photo)
Gang enforcement team seizes drugs and weapons in Victoria and Nanaimo

Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. checked 33 vehicles over four days

Investigators seized sophisticated equipment including credit card embossers, credit card PIN machines, heavy duty printers and computers used to create fraudulent cards. (West Shore RCMP handout)
West Shore RCMP arrest two, find 1,000 pieces of stolen ID in Langford

Investigation began after fraudulent bank draft used to buy vehicle in Colwood

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Oct. 27

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Cowichan Search and Rescue set up near the Silver Bridge in Duncan on Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, 2020 to rescue a dog from the Cowichan River. (Citizen file)
Cowichan Search and Rescue save dog from icy Cowichan River

Search and Rescue’s swiftwater team was called in

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

The Calgary Zoo is aiding in recovery efforts for the Vancouver Island marmot, an endangered species. Pictured here, a marmot at Mount Washington. (Black Press file)
Despite challenges, 2020 good year for Vancouver Island marmot population

In 2019, the foundation counted 60 pups; this year, it reached 46

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

FILE – The Queen of Alberni ferry leaves the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal in Delta bound for Vancouver Island, Sunday, July 29, 2007. (CP PHOTO/Richard Lam) CANADA
Mechanical failure leaves nearly 200 passengers stranded on BC Ferries ship for hours

A tug arrived after dark to safely nudge the vessel into a berth so travellers could finally disembark

Ridge Meadows RCMP (Black Press)
Maple Ridge X-ray tech convicted of sexual assault dating back 30 years

Allen James Brooks is expected to be sentenced in January 2021

Most Read