The Threat Of The Black Market Is Real

If larger productions are in favor, many jobs and potential tourism proceeds will be lost and the black market will continue to flourish.

Jun 17, 2016

We often find the most passionate people running small businesses. They love what they do and they work hard every single day to deliver nothing but the best. Take Travis Lane, for example, owner of an online cannabis dispensary as well as two 390-plant operations on Vancouver Island. He started with a disappointing little plant in his closet and made his way up the ladder at the young age of 20. That’s something to be proud of and when you’re proud, you want to show off what you are good at. Unfortunately, recognition might not happen for small-scale growers if law decides to favor the larger producers, leaving many jobs and potential tourism at stake. 

Fighting to be recognized

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Ever since High School, Travis Lane has been interested in the art of growing cannabis. It all started with a failed attempt to grow in his closet, but it didn’t end there. By the young age of 20, Travis had cultivated his own small basement grow-operation.

He is now in his mid-thirties and owns an online dispensary and runs two 290-plant operations on Vancouver Island. Lane only employs two growers and raises his plants free of pesticides and liquid fertilizer.

I don’t want to hide what I do. I’m good at what I do. I’m proud of being good at what I do. I’ve been proactive my whole life in trying to move towards a time where I can openly be a cannabis professional.

Travis currently holds two Health Canada licenses for the grow sites, making his cannabis production legal for medical purposes only. However, he is among many small-scale growers that want to be included on growing for recreational purposes as well. The government is still in the process of developing the legislation that is set to be announced next spring.

If larger productions are in favor, many jobs and potential tourism proceeds will be lost and the black market will continue to flourish. Ian Dawkins of the Cannabis Growers of Canada referred to the 1980 policy that angered Albertans when the government attempted to further control the oil industry.

It’s going to be the National Energy Program all over again, but instead of Alberta and oil, it’s going to be B.C. and cannabis. You’re talking about economic activity that has sustained communities that have been devastated by the loss of primary industries.

Advocates fighting for workers rights

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His group, which represents small and medium-sized growers and vendors, authorized a report recently on B.C.’s cannabis industry. Economist Larissa Flister used Colorado as an example to estimate that about 13,700 people have cannabis-related jobs in B.C.

It’s a rough estimate that is nearly impossible to confirm due to the illegality of the jobs, however, estimates have determined the value of B.C.’s cannabis industry to be between $2 billion and $7 billion.

Advocates claim they are fighting to make certain that legalization recognizes these workers, rather than burying them further into the ground.

Dawkins pointed to the federal Liberal’s cautious tone, and fierce lobbying by large licensed producers, pharmacies and liquor stores, as warnings that the government may create a more strict regime, one that does not have room for small growers or dispensaries.

If you’re selling cannabis in a liquor store, in this tightly-controlled regulatory environment, you’re not creating tourism. There was no winery tourism in B.C. until they began to de-regulate the winery sector and allow for all these wineries to pop up in the Okanagan. Cannabis is no different. No one is going to fly to Vancouver to go to a pharmacy and buy the Budweiser of joints.

The Southern Interior community of Nelson has created a resolution asking the Union of B.C. Municipalities to lobby the federal government to share tax earnings from legal cannabis with cities and provinces.

Demanding fairness

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Teresa Taylor, founding director of the Craft Cannabis Association of B.C., warned that the black market will thrive if an elitist system is formed. She said craft cannabis growers are “ma and pa” farmers who focus on delivering a high-quality product.

In order for us to continue to have strong local economies, the legislative model needs to include that level of production. I think it would be akin to losing something like the forestry industry or mining or fisheries. We depend on this. We need it to stay in place, and not only that, but we need it to be recognized as a valuable and noble agricultural profession.

Vancouver lawyer John Conroy believes the Liberals are open to allowing craft growers. He said that Canadians have already proved that they don’t like a system that limits cannabis sales to large companies. In February, Conroy won a constitutional challenge to 2013 legislation that medical cannabis patients to buy from large licensed producers.

Prior to the 2013 law, patients were allowed to grow their own cannabis with a Health Canada license. A court order has kept the old program alive for roughly 28,000 people, Lane included. The Liberals are expected to amend the law to allow for both systems to co-exist by late August.

People have already shown that the licensed-producer process is not working, and voted with their feet, creating the demand for the dispensaries. That’ll happen again, if the government doesn’t provide reasonable access.

Would you like to see small-scale growers stay in business? Do you think they stand a chance? Let us know on social media or in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.

Jun 17, 2016