Pubdate: Sun, 26 Jun 2016
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Times Colonist
Author: Laura kane
Page: D7


Advocates say B.C. jobs, tourism at stake as pot sales go mainstream

VANCOUVER - Travis Lane has been growing marijuana since high school,
when his first pot plant swiftly withered and died in his bedroom
closet. By the time he was 20, he had cultivated a small basement grow

Now in his mid-30s, Lane owns an online dispensary and runs two
390-plant operations on Vancouver Island. He employs two growers and
raises his plants without pesticides or 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," he said. "I've been proactive my whole life
in trying to move toward a time where I can openly be a cannabis

Lane holds two Health Canada licences for the grow sites, making his
pot production legal for medical purposes. But with the federal
government committed to legalizing cannabis for recreational use, Lane
is among the smaller-scale growers fighting for a seat at the table.

The government is still in the early stages of developing the
legislation it plans to introduce next spring. Those behind a budding
"craft cannabis" movement warn, however, that if the law favours
large-scale commercial producers, then jobs and potential tourism
revenues will be lost and the black market will continue to thrive.

"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," said
Ian Dawkins of the Cannabis Growers of Canada, referring to the 1980
policy that infuriated Albertans when the federal government tried to
gain more control over the oil industry.

"You're talking about economic activity that has sustained communities
that have been devastated by the loss of primary industries."

His group, a national trade association representing small and
medium-sized pot growers and vendors, recently commissioned a report
on B.C.'s cannabis industry. Economist Larissa Flister used Colorado,
a similarly sized state with legal pot, as a proxy to estimate that
about 13,700 people have marijuana-related jobs in B.C.

It's a rough figure that's impossible to verify due to the illegality
of the jobs, but several estimates have pegged the value of B.C.'s pot
industry at between $2 billion and $7 billion. Advocates say they are
fighting to ensure that legalization recognizes those workers, rather
than pushing them further underground.

Dawkins pointed to the federal government's cautious tone, and intense
lobbying by large licensed producers, pharmacies and liquor stores, as
signs the government could be headed toward a strict regime without
space for smaller 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," he said.

"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 put forward a resolution
asking the Union of B.C. Municipalities to lobby the federal
government to share tax revenue from legal marijuana with provinces
and cities.

Teresa Taylor, a founding director of the Craft Cannabis Association
of B.C., warned that if an "elitist" legal system is created, the
black market will flourish. She said craft cannabis growers are "ma
and pa" farmers who care about producing 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," she said.

"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

Vancouver lawyer John Conroy said he believes the federal government
is open to allowing craft growers.

He said Canadians have already proven they dislike a system that
limits marijuana sales to big companies. In February, Conroy won a
constitutional challenge of 2013 legislation that required medical
cannabis patients to buy from large licensed producers.

Before the 2013 law, patients could obtain Health Canada licences to
grow their own marijuana. A court injunction has kept the old program
alive for about 28,000 people, including Lane.

The federal government is 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," said Conroy. "That'll happen again, if the government
doesn't provide reasonable access."
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