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

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

Kelowna Fire Department. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Farm animals safe after Kelowna barn catches fire

The fire was started after animals knocked over a heat lamp; the barn was consumed

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News file)
Update: Glenmore Rd reopens after ‘serious’ high-speed collision

Collision occured at 2910 Glenmore Road North, at approx. 2:30 p.m.

Cantina closed due to COVID. Instagram.
Cantina Kelowna closes due to COVID-19 case

The restaurant will be closed until Dec. 10

Friends with Dorothy opens in Victoria.
LGBT2Q+ lounge Friends with Dorothy opens second location in Victoria

The Kelowna-based lounge plans to open in Victoria mid-December

Leighton Allen Labute faces charges of animal abuse and allegedly has a string of social media accounts depicting disturbing content.
Accused Kelowna hamster killer has trial date set for 2021

Leighton Labute’s three day trial is scheduled for Aug. 16, 2021

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Parents are urged to be on alert after a potential child abduction attempt took place near Armstrong Elementary School Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (amsas/neden photo)
Possible child abduction attempt at North Okanagan elementary school prompts warning

A letter from the school’s principal urges parents to be on high alert

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COLUMN: Anti-maskers’ message misses the mark

Following COVID-19 restrictions now could determine just how happy our holidays are

The Interior Wildfire Rehabilitation Society is looking for 10-15 acres to house a rehab centre for injured and orphaned wildlife like deer and moose calves. (Black Press file photo)
Okanagan group look for property to house wildlife rehab centre

The Interior Wildlife Rehabilitation Society is looking for 10 acres for injured/orphaned animals

Addie Pafiolis with her son, Theo, who died just five days after his birth due to a heart condition in 2017. For the past four years, Addie and her husband Chris have been supporting local families around the holiday season in Theo's memory. (Contributed)
Okanagan couple supporting local families in son’s memory this Christmas

Theo Pafiolis was five days old when he passed away due to a heart condition; now, his parents are supporting others in his name

Dentice di Frasso, a member of Italian nobility, once owned land in Summerland. (Contributed)
Italian nobility family once lived in Summerland

Dentice di Frasso and his family owned land in the Prairie Valley area

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read