As of the first of October, the B.C. government has launched a website to collect input from the public in regards to how B.C. should go about regulating cannabis. Before considering the input you would like to submit, I would like to propose a quick mental exercise:
Imagine yourself living in Bordeaux, France. Your family winery has been producing some of the best wine in the region for generations. But in this fictitious world, the local government has decided that your small winery and thousands of others like it, must be closed. According to the new ruling party, wine can be unsanitary, even dangerous for human consumption and must be tightly regulated. They claim that having many small farms is simply too difficult for their system to regulate. So they are replacing them with large central wineries in major French cities. Would it be safe to predict social uproar, economic and political instability, and a permanent loss of an integral part of French identity?
In this imagined experiment, we can see how ludicrous it would be for the French to not recognize the economic and cultural value of the small farms which harvest the prized grapes that make the region of Bordeaux renown for their wine production. The loss of a defining component of the French identity is easy to understand, what is France without its outstanding wine? Luckily in real life, prohibition never took root in these regions and regulation of small farms has learned to respect traditional production methods.
From Bordeaux to B.C.
Bordeaux and other European regions have defined what quality wine means by producing the best wine known to man. In the same way, cannabis connoisseurs worldwide currently see B.C. and Northern California as setting the bar in the global cannabis scene. “There are very few who understand just how valuable this region could be to Canada in terms of our political, cultural and economic positioning on the global landscape”, says CannaReps co-founder, Adolfo Gonzalez, with a worried look on his face “…since few understand what perfectly grown cannabis is, how rare it is to find, and the inherent value of those who understand how to produce it… we may just miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity to claim our well-deserved throne.”
So what is so good about “craft” cannabis, and why can’t larger growers like Health Canada Licensed Producers meet these high expectations?
“A hothouse tomato, grown hydroponically will never look, taste and nourish the way a soil grown organic tomato will”, explains Bob, senior agricultural consultant for CannaReps and 45 year veteran of the B.C. craft cannabis scene, “but only those who are used to organic tomatoes or a trained chef will be able to easily detect the difference. Look at the growth of the organic market since the 80’s. That is what will happen when consumers smarten up.”
Like Bob, many have predicted that when the global cannabis market matures, top quality cannabis will be in high demand internationally, with B.C. cannabis potentially being the most sought-after crops on the planet.
Is B.C. Ready To Claim Its Throne?
But is B.C. ready to embrace its role as a global leader in producing quality cannabis? “Not under the current regulations”, says Bob, shaking his head, “You’re not going to get that top B.C. quality bud with hydro Rockwool setups designed to pass biological contaminant standards meant for the regulation of pharmaceutical products rather food products.”
Due to the stringent Health Canada regulations on microbiological contaminants, craft organic growers cannot implement their traditional methods and pass quality assurance tests. Furthermore, because security, testing and record keeping protocols are so taxing, only projects with large investments have a chance at surviving. This means that if BC wants to remain a leader in cannabis, it needs to include not only small growers and their dispensary based distribution points in the legislation, but also to change microbiological contaminant restrictions so those craft organic growers can keep making magic.
Who Are Our Growers?
To many in B.C., our federal government is also seemingly confused about who Canadian cannabis growers actually are. The rhetoric around legalization has focused on taking business away from the black market, operating under the flawed assumption that the black market is run mostly by gang related criminals. The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition demonstrated in a publication they provided to the federal and provincial government that only 5% of criminal cases in the 8 years previous to 2016 were gang related. In B.C., this figure is believed to be even lower, where gangs focus primarily on other drugs and cannabis is controlled primarily by otherwise law-abiding mom and pop operations. Knowing this, there should be a shift in the conversation Canada wide from, “let’s take this away from the black market” to “let’s bring the existing market under the fold”.
With an estimated annual worth of 7 billion, this crop is as much a part of our economy as it is our culture. The bulk of that worth is produced under small independently owned farms, most of them with federal licensing to grow, but not to sell. Dispensaries and product makers sell this cannabis and all products made from it despite legal blocks.The question is: what happens to this well-established group of small entrepreneurs if the province is determined to adopt a framework that excludes them?
“It would be incredibly damaging to our economy and social fabric”, says Adolfo in disbelief, “just imagine all the people that will lose their jobs, all the families that will lose their income, all of the people that will face poverty and persecution… the loss of genetics and expertise on both the growing and dispensary side only adds to the tragedy.”
Protect Your B.C. Cannabis Community
CannaReps is in effect a preservation society for the traditions of the dispensary and craft cannabis community. We have chosen B.C.’s unregulated cannabis industry as our subject of study because we believe it has great worth. Many of us, our friends and family members are in effect the people who are facing potential persecution and loss of their property, business or employment. As a group, we feel that this is a defining moment for the B.C. craft industry. We feel the need to speak out and make our voices heard. We hope that you feel the same and that you join us in telling the BC province how important it is to include craft growers, product makers and dispensaries in the coming regulations.
British Columbia has the potential to be a cannabis world leader with global recognition and demand. We believe this region will be to cannabis as Bordeaux is to wine, but only if we do things properly from the start. Missing the boat on this opportunity would be foolish. Be sure to tell the B.C. government what you think about cannabis while they are listening. IT is not often that the public is openly invited into the discussion of new legislation. Our fertile coastal region is prime for cannabis cultivation. Our growers have learned from knowledge passed on through the generational legacy of the cannabis growing community.
Then, we can make BC the future Bordeaux of cannabis.
Resources and Extra Reading
Click here to submit your feedback before Nov 1st.
The report handed to the federal and provincial government that presents hard data that most (95%) of the cannabis operations across Canada have no relationship to organized crime. This report is a good reference tool when writing your province.
Finally, here is another survey based assessment of just how indispensable dispensaries are in BC:
This National Post article did a beautiful job of humanizing the growers of B.C. by telling their story. Rather than “othering” them, we must remember that these growers are people like you and me, they have families to provide for, loyal employees, they are passionate about their work and are important players in our economy.