Craft cannabis growers in B.C. sound alarm over survival of the sector

Open letter sent to federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and her B.C. counterpart David Eby

Jessika Villano sells a potent array of dried cannabis, oils, salves and even bud-infused bath bombs at Buddha Barn Medicinal Society — all grown and processed by small-scale British Columbia producers.

Villano doesn’t want that to change when marijuana is legalized later this year, and she’s among the proponents of local craft cannabis who are pushing the federal and provincial governments to ensure its survival.

“I believe in our sector,” Villano said. “Our elected representatives need to take immediate steps to protect it or face the consequences of letting B.C. craft cannabis collapse.”

Five groups representing small pot growers and sellers delivered an open letter on Friday to federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and her B.C. counterpart David Eby. The letter urges immediate action from both ministers ahead of legalization.

The federal government has signalled it will make room for craft cannabis in the recreational industry. It has proposed a micro-cultivation licence for growers whose crops cover less than 200 square metres, but it hasn’t created an application process.

The groups want the government to urgently establish a process so they can obtain licences and bid for provincial contracts to supply legal cannabis. Currently, large companies that already hold Health Canada licences to grow medical cannabis are exclusively signing those contracts, the groups say.

“It’s like starting the race 10 seconds late,” said Roxanne Judson, a small-scale grower and a member of the Ethical Cannabis Producers Alliance, one of the groups behind the letter.

“The smaller producers that have been the backbone of this market for decades aren’t even allowed to apply yet.”

READ MORE: Canadian marijuana companies search for workers ahead of legalization

READ MORE: B.C. universities, colleges offering more training for marijuana industry

The groups also say the proposed space limit on micro-cultivation is too small and should be increased to 500 to 1,000 square metres. They also want packaging and labelling restrictions to be loosened so craft cannabis can differentiate itself from mass-produced marijuana.

Under draft federal regulations, pot packages must be opaque and only display one brand element beyond the product’s name.

“They’ve made it so it’s really difficult for craft cannabis producers to distinguish themselves as being local or organic or sustainably grown, or whatever their particular advantage might be,” said Ian Dawkins of the Cannabis Commerce Association of Canada, which also signed the letter.

Neither Wilson-Raybould nor Eby immediately responded to requests for comment.

The letter calls on Eby to make a number of changes to B.C.’s proposed framework, including ditching a plan that would require producers to send cannabis to a provincially run warehouse for storage before it is shipped to stores. Cannabis begins to degrade in quality quickly if it isn’t stored properly, said Dawkins.

The groups are also asking the province to allow marijuana grow-ops on B.C.’s agricultural land reserve. Some municipalities have called for cannabis to be outlawed on reserve lands.

Finally, the groups want craft cannabis farmers to be permitted to sell their products on site, as craft breweries and wineries do. It would help drive marijuana tourism by encouraging patrons to visit pot-growing regions, just as they visit the Okanagan for wine tours, the letter says.

Many small producers hold licences under the medical marijuana regime that only allow them to grow for themselves or for specific patients. Selling to dispensaries is illegal, but this supply chain has become a part of the “grey market” in Vancouver and Victoria after the cities granted business licences to pot shops.

The craft cannabis industry employs thousands of people in B.C. and has revitalized rural communities where mining or forestry jobs have dried up, said Dawkins. B.C. is behind other provinces in creating regulations, and Eby needs to start championing the industry the same way Alberta champions oil, he added.

“We’re about to go off the cliff here,” he said. “This is a B.C. file that needs a made-in-B.C. solution and we need some local advocacy.”

Laura Kane , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

UPDATE: 5 injured in plane crash following Abbotsford International Airshow

One in critical condition in incident involving vintage plane

Shag Creek area under evacuation order, area expanded

93 properties are being told to evacuate immediately

B.C. Wildfires 2018: Thousands prepare to leave their homes at a moment’s notice

Northwest B.C. and Cariboo seeing most fire activity in province as crews battle 490 fires

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

More than 800,000people have been displaced by floods and landslides

IndyCar driver Wickens flown to hospital after scary crash

IndyCar said Wickens was awake and alert as he was taken to a hospital

Ex-BCTF president ‘undeterred’ after early release from pipeline protest jail term

Susan Lambert and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson released early

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

B.C. swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Victoria MS athlete Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights are misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Most Read