The Province must provide municipalities with the tools necessary to make a vibrant BC cannabis economy a reality

The BC Government Wants Local Governments to Lead the Legalization of Cannabis. The Province must provide municipalities with the tools necessary to make a vibrant BC cannabis economy a reality. With local support, we may see a bright future for BC cannabis that includes a BC craft cannabis product designation, farm gate agritourism, consumption lounges, and small-scale craft producers growing the finest cannabis in the world.

Up to federal legalization last October, BC led the country in innovative and adaptive licensing practices by municipalities with tacit approval from the Province. These approaches gave BC a tremendous advantage in the industry as first-out-the-door suppliers to Canadian markets with high quality products. But as legalization has rolled out, BC has fallen behind other provinces. We have ceded production and economic advantage to Ontario, leaving our growers and processors with no recognizable path to the legal marketplace for at least another year.

What actions can the BC government undertake to assert leadership in the cannabis industry? First, by implementing a provincial production licensing regime, BC could take control of the local industry, address backlogs in the current system, expedite the licensing and regulation process, and give more opportunities for willing and experienced grey and black market growers to get into the legal system.

We suggest a BC certification similar to VQA that recognizes the distinction of our product. It would recognize the terroir and the special care each individual grower provides to unique cultivars. Timing, however, is crucial. It is vital to capitalize on the currency of this brand now, while our existing producers still have a significant share of the marketplace.

Two other ways BC can provide leadership and expand the cannabis market is through farm gate sales and consumption lounges. Farm gate cannabis is similar to the small vineyards that offer wine tastings or host weddings, and should allow microcultivators the opportunity to sell their craft cannabis onsite. This would allow micro-cultivators and micro-processors the ability to distinguish themselves from large-scale industrial facilities. As microcultivation rolls out, BC should put its best foot forward and celebrate these craft producers.

Next, consumption lounges are a crucial answer to a growing problem of a lack of spaces where cannabis can be consumed. Although legal, many people have found themselves unable to consume cannabis anywhere except a private residence; this is problematic for renters who face restrictions imposed by landlords. By creating appropriate places that are regulated, consumption lounges solve this problem. They could also help cultivate cannabis tourism as way to further protect BC Bud. It is not a difficult stretch to imagine any number of beautiful locations in BC such as the Okanagan, Gulf Islands, Saanich Peninsula, or the Kootenays attracting domestic and international tourists to experience a BC cannabis economy that includes farm gate and tastings of premium products.

BC Attorney General, Mike Farnsworth’s goal has been to create a system where municipalities determine their own licensing regimes. This decentralization has increased the workload for city staff that are already stretched thin. The Province must follow this up with education to local government staff and politicians on zoning of micro-licenses to speed up the creation of local zoning rules for cannabis. Crucial to this education campaign is communicating the nature of these small scale licenses and their importance for local economies. The BC government ought to also provide municipalities the share of cannabis tax revenue that local leaders have requested (40-50% of the Province’s excise revenue). A combination of education and fair resource sharing would give municipalities the necessary motivation to develop the BC industry in a way that protects local jobs and strengthens municipal capacity rather than depleting it.

An NDP win on January 30th sends the message that the people of BC trust our government to be a champion for BC workers and entrepreneurs. The talent and drive to create a robust BC cannabis economy is alive and well. We just need to provide the necessary resources to local governments and allow BC’s latent potential to bloom.

– The BC Independent Cannabis Association