The B.C. Chamber of Commerce has debated and passed a motion brought forward by the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce relating to the cannabis industry .
It reads; “The BC Chamber recommends that the provincial government:
1. Take measures to protect the interests of existing cannabis businesses by providing market access to micro license applicants.
1. Create a mechanism so that when micro license craft producers are regulated, they be allowed to ship direct to private cannabis retailers, avoiding added costs from Federal Licensed Producers (LP) and shipping costs. This will allow small business to work closely in support of each other, and bring craft quality and product diversity to the regulated market at a competitive price.
2. Create a private distribution license. This will relieve the Liquor Distribution Branch of the task of accommodating potentially thousands of small producers who will be regulated under the micro license categories, and help these small producers gain access to the market. This allows for increased small business activity in the industry.
3 Engage with the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, formulating procedures and sharing knowledge on best practices for distribution from micro license craft producers and processors to private retailers.
The pending legalization of cannabis in Canada is an immensely complex process, and Kimberley Chamber Manager Mike Guarnery says that the resolution is approaching strictly from a business sense.
“We are not trying to talk about issues of impairment or enforcement, we are only advocating for fair business access and distribution,” he said.
The roll out to cannabis legalization has great potential, the resolution states, but the regulations coming out have caused some trepidation among existing small business cannabis dispensers.
The biggest issue is the way the federal government is planning to control distribution. It’s been slow to create a process for existing small cannabis cultivators and processors, of which B.C. has several thousand. This, the resolution says, has given big business — primarily based in Ontario — a multi-year head start in the regulated industry.
Another disadvantage is that the proposed rules for micro licensed growers require them to first sell to a Federal Licensed Producer, with no direct access to retailers.
“We are advocating for micro licenses for local growers,” Guarnery said. “This will allow them to sell directly to retailers. The regulations as currently proposed can be compared to requiring a local craft brewery to sell to Labatts first before getting to the Liquor Distribution Board.”
The Bulletin spoke to Laurie Weitzel, owner and president of Earth’s Own Naturals Ltd., a local Kimberley medical cannabis dispensary, one of two which were granted business licenses by Kimberley City Council.
She explained what the coming regulations look like for her business.
As dispensaries are phased out and become cannabis retailers, Weitzel will have to make an application to be allowed to sell when the provincial web portal opens. The timing of the portal opening has not yet been released.
“Until we can apply for and receive a provincial license, our future is unknown.,” she said.
And then there is how she will access supply.
“Currently, our supply chain is within the Kootenays. We place our order, it’s delivered to us and then we put it out for sale.
“With the new regulations, we would order from the LDB. A licensed producer will supply it to LDB, there’s a wholesale excise tax, plus their cut of the profit and then it’s shipped to me. I can only order from LDB. Then I have to add my profit. The consumer pays PST, GST and an additional excise tax.”
Weitzel says, as does the resolution, that the cannabis growing industry in BC is already worth a minimum of $2 billion, but with the number of licensed growers restricted it stands to take a hit.
“If we don’t include micro growers and producers into the legalization framework, how do we protect our rural economy?
“We want it to be regulated, but we also want to be able to provide a fresh quality product at a reasonable price. If it’s not fresh, not quality and a reasonable price, why would this bring consumers to legal retailers?”
Cannabis cannot be compared to liquor when it comes to distribution, Weitzel says.
“Scotch ages, cannabis does not.”
“These craft producers are paying taxes now,” Guarnery said. “They are part of the business community.
“We want to make sure that these businesses have as much opportunity to compete as large multi-nationals. The regulations should not be onerous for small business.”
Going forward, Guarnery says he heard from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce on Monday. They would like to collaborate with the Kimberley and Columbia Valley chambers to bring the issue forward to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce this September.
He is very pleased that the motion made it to the floor of the BC Chamber convention and passed.
“This policy recommendation, along with over 40 others that are reviewed and discussed by the assembly, are part of the advocacy that our Chamber will continue to do for Kimberley’s business community. We thank our counterparts at the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce as well as other regional chambers and stakeholders who provided their input and support.”