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

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of North Island conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

Braden Holtby’s new mask designed in collaboration with Luke Marston and David Gunnarsson. (Mike Wavrecan photo)
QUINN’S QUIPS: Art is more than simple expression in First Nations culture

Indigenous artwork has a connection to its people, and vice versa

The Rogers Creek Trail main trailhead is located on the Redford Extension in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Hiker rescued after cold few hours in the bush outside Port Alberni

Alberni Valley Rescue Squad said they receive frequent calls for people lost on this trail

Helma Swinkels, left, from Bibi J’s is all smiles as she makes her first donation under the new business name to Ellen Frood from Alberni Community and Women’s Services (ACAWS). In 18 sales days, Swinkels was able to donate $3,000 to the transition house. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Bibi J’s in Port Alberni makes first donation to non-profit

Alberni Women and Community Services to benefit

Alberta premier Jason Kenney announced that Red Deer and other rural locations would soon be getting doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. (photography by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
EDITORIAL: Leading by example

Those in leadership roles need to follow the restrictions they impose on others

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns after searing report into workplace culture: reports

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

RCMP officers provide policing for 63 B.C. municipalities under a provincial formula based on population. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. communities warned of upcoming RCMP unionization costs

Starting salaries for city police officers are 30% higher

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pxhere)
B.C. nurse suspended after using Tensor bandage to trap long-term care patient in room

Susan Malloch voluntarily agreed to a three-day suspension of her certificate of registration

Abbotsford’s Skully White (left), who donated his kidney in December, has started a campaign to find other recipients and donors. The first candidate is retired police officer Gavin Quon. White owns and operates a hotdog stand, Lullys Food Experience, out of the Abbotsford Canadian Tire parking lot. (Facebook photo)
After donating his kidney, Abbotsford hotdog king starts donor campaign

Skully White donated his kidney to customer Tim Hiscock in December

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Most Read