Employees at licensed cannabis producer Tantalus’ large-scale greenhouse in Maple Ridge B.C. (Black Press Media)

B.C. launches cannabis ‘navigator’ to help small growers, processors

B.C. business still dominated by big producers and black market

Growers of the world-famous “B.C. Bud” cannabis who want to go legal still have a long, uphill path through three layers of government, but the B.C. government’s latest effort to help them is getting high marks.

B.C.’s public safety, agriculture and jobs ministries have launched an online navigator, a step-by-step guide for marijuana growers and processors working through the regulatory maze that starts with Health Canada and extends down to skeptical and sometimes hostile local governments. It’s the latest effort by Premier John Horgan’s government to regain the province’s economic impact that accounted for half of Canada’s production before legalization in October 2018.

The B.C. Independent Cannabis Association was one of the groups consulted over the past year on what the craft cannabis industry needs to move from the darkness to the light in a province still dominated by black market sales. The association’s president, Courtland Sandover-Sly, said he was “quite thrilled” to see the result, a realistic guide to the task ahead.

“As a former consultant for cannabis startups, it comprises a lot of our initial conversations we would have with potential clients,” Sandover-Sly said in an interview with Black Press Media. “Very basic questions like, what is your zoning, what does the city say about cannabis, what does the regional district say about water usage, all these things.”

The biggest obstacle remains for smaller, craft growers trying to compete with big national producers that supply most of B.C.’s retail cannabis stores. That is the requirement to finance and build their facilities for inspection before they can even apply for a Health Canada licence.

Statistics Canada tracks legal cannabis sales by province. The latest figures show a steady rise in B.C. retail sales up to March, but B.C.’s legal sales remain well below Alberta’s. That’s partly because Alberta has more retail stores, but the key reason is the continued dominance of B.C.’s black market that retains a long-standing reputation for better and cheaper product.

The B.C. government reports that as of June 15, the province has 66 standard cultivation licence holders, 10 micro-cultivation licence holders, five licensed cannabis nurseries, 51 standard processing licenses and two micro-processing licences. Meanwhile the black market in B.C. has been estimated to hold onto as much as 80 per cent of B.C. sales.

RELATED: B.C. cracks down on unlicensed cannabis dispensaries

RELATED: B.C. Bud still underground, Horgan hopes to rescue it

Sandover-Sly says the anecdotal evidence he hears is that the COVID-19 pandemic may have strengthened the B.C. black market.

“People are buying their cannabis in parking lots and parks, to the point where if you bring it up at a house party and ask people where they’re getting their cannabis, you might be surprised that everybody’s buying from a personal connection as opposed to a retail store,” he said. “That’s not good. Everybody wants to see the legal market succeed to a degree. I think it’s only the extremes that want to see the legal market fail.”

Other industry associations have formed to develop local and small-scale production. The Nelson-based Craft Cannabis Association of B.C. is headed by Teresa Taylor, daughter of former Grand Forks mayor Brian Taylor, an early advocate of legalizing industrial hemp production.

Nationally, the Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers is advocating for licensed stores to be able to sell online and deliver directly to customers. B.C.’s wholesale monopoly is run by the Liquor Distribution Branch, which retains exclusive rights to legal online sales delivered by Canada Post.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislaturecannabis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Brown Derby’s Mysterioso was one of three entries in the 2020 Armstrong Professional Grilled Cheese Sandwich competition held Tuesday, Oct. 20. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Bakery gets judges’ attention in Armstrong pro grilled cheese sandwich event

Country Bakery’s German Kase Pretzel Grilled Cheese oozes past Brown Derby, Wild Oak Café

A power outage caused by a vehicle crash affected 2,178 BC Hydro customers in Enderby Wednesday night, Oct. 21, 2020. (BC Hydro image)
Vehicle crash in Enderby knocks out power for more than 2,000

BC Hydro crews are expected to arrive by 6:30 p.m.

Ahead of the provincial election on Oct. 24, Enderby residents put their questions to the Shuswap riding’s three candidates: Greg Kyllo for the BC Liberal Party, Sylvia Lindgren for the BC NDP and Owen Madden for the BC Green Party. The candidates recorded their answers in videos distributed by the Enderby and District Chamber of Commerce. (Salmon Arm Observer image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Shuswap candidates answer Enderby’s top election questions

The candidates submitted video responses for an all-candidates forum ahead of the Oct. 24 election

Coldstream Meadows Retirement Community announced Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, The Lodge will close by February 2021. (Coldstream Meadows Retirement Community)
Coldstream retirement community to close Lodge

Staff to work with residents of the Lodge to find new accommodation

Judy Mallett, a Butcher Boys employee for 44 years, known for her fun-loving nature and fundraising abilities, died of cancer Oct. 4 at age 70. (Photo submitted)
Fun-loving Vernon grocery clerk fondly remembered

Judy Mallett, who worked for Butcher Boys for 46 years, died Oct. 4.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Kelowna Capital News)
B.C. Labour Board orders Peachland cannabis company to reinstate laid-off employees

The B.C. Labour Relations Board determined the employees were laid off due to their plan to unionize

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Two pigs roam the Salmon Arm Walmart parking lot during a prior visit photographed by Danielle Burgi. (Danielle Burgi photo)
Pigs trot over for a visit at Salmon Arm shopping centre

Employees say this was the second drop-in from the temporarily free-range porkers

Penticton law courts. (Black Press file)
Osoyoos man in court for alleged shooting

The Oct. 11 shooting left a man with non-life threatening injuries

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Princeton man on motor scooter refuses to provide breath test to police

The scooter did not have a license plate and was not insured

Most Read