Craft cannabis co-op group releases report

A group behind efforts to establish a co-op for B.C.’s small cannabis producers says “without a significant change in approach by the federal government, British Columbia’s globally recognized craft cannabis sector will not survive legalization.”

The group’s province-wide consultation included stops in Roberts Creek and Powell River and they also surveyed small producers on questions like their biggest barriers to participating in the legal market, if they’ve applied for federal or provincial licences and whether legalization has “affected you in a financial way.”

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The resulting report, “Establishing a Craft Cannabis Co-Op for BC Producers, Processors and Retailers,” said there has been just a “trickle of applications” from the estimated 5,000 to 6,000 small producers across the province.

The report claims small producers have been “discouraged by very low production caps, significant up-front investment requirements, consulting fees, non-specific criteria, lack of municipal engagement and financing options.”

A 2016 analysis of the Sunshine Coast’s cannabis industry prepared for the Gibsons Chamber of Commerce identified some 600 producers of all sizes and types, most operating in the so-called “grey zone,” and supporting a workforce earning anywhere from $20 to $25 per hour.

The analysis also identified “government regulations that aren’t inclusive or are prohibitive to the development of the craft and value-added producers” as a threat to the ongoing viability of those businesses.

“Everyone agrees the inclusion of small cannabis producers is vital to the success of the legalization policy but barely a handful have survived the application process,” says Barinder Rasode, CEO of Grow Tech Labs, which drafted a discussion paper based on the consultations.

“This needs to change or B.C. will lose its competitive cannabis advantage. Without federal leadership, we are just blowing smoke when it comes to establishing a diverse marketplace and supporting the economies of B.C. rural communities.”

The Cascadia Agricultural Cooperative Association, co-founded by Joel Podersky of Roberts Creek, also participated in the community consultations and drafting the follow-up report.

The group said its next steps will include a series of regional meetings, to be announced later this month, to begin work on articles of incorporation for the co-op for small producers, processors and independent retailers.

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