One BC cannabis sales program aims to help Indigenous growers

Published Oct 2, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Oleksii Liskonih

The Provincial Government of BC has made an interesting move. One day before the BC Government announced an early election, they revealed a new cannabis sales program favouring the BC Craft cannabis community and Indigenous cannabis producers. If you are a small scale cannabis business owner, do you believe it, or is in another of those pre-election promises?

The current regulations regarding sales and production of cannabis products are deemed as heavy-handed and possibly unnecessary. The principles are modelled after the sales of alcohol. Currently, prospective licensees have to choose one of the following options for licensing. You can select a license for producing cannabis products, growing cannabis, or selling recreational products, and they must pick only one of them.

Legal or illegal?

The Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club (VCBC) has been making cookies for the past 25 years for their medical members. The product is sourced from local growers, and each cookie has a price tag of $2.50. However, as it stands, this is an illegal transaction. There are some things that need to occur for VCBC to comply with the current licensing system. Some of these include:

  • Obtaining a Micro Grow Production License to grow the cannabis in the cookies
  • Obtain a micro-production license
  • Obtain a retail license in order to sell the cookies
    The BC government will be launching three cannabis programs over the next couple of years that are intended to help the Indigenous growers.
  • Growers would legally sell their products at stores located at their production sites under the farm-gate program.
  • Small cannabis producers who are licensed by Health Canada would be able to deliver cannabis directly to authorized retailers.

These programs are currently expected to be launched in 2022, one year after the province starts an initiative that is hoped to highlight Indigenous cannabis producers both in stores and online. These changes have been prompted by suggestions from Indigenous leaders and other stakeholders.

The Indigenous Shelf Space Program is expected to launch in 2021 by the Ministry of Attorney Generals Liquor Distribution Branch. The program will highlight Indigenous cannabis products produced by local Indigenous producers in B.C. Cannabis Stores.

British Columbia's public and privately owned recreational cannabis stores will be reserving shelf space to highlight Indigenous producers' products, and consumers will be able to identify indigenous cannabis products and make purchasing decisions. However, some decisions remain up in the air. One of those critical decisions includes whether or not all of the provinces 250-plus recreational cannabis stores will participate, and if it will be mandatory or voluntary for them to do so.

Conclusion

Indigenous cannabis entrepreneurs want the provincial and federal government to do more to help ensure equitable participation in the cannabis industry. The executive chair of Nations Cannabis in Burns Lake, Northern British Columbia, looks upon the move as a positive because it will lead us in the right direction towards economic reconciliation for the Indigenous people. Currently, only about 4% of the Canadian federal license holders have Indigenous affiliation, and that needs to change.

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