Pubdate: Sat, 06 May 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Bill Cleverley
Page: A7


Barb Desjardins is the lone non-Green candidate on the South Island to
get the endorsement of local cannabis businesses.

The choice of Desjardins, running for the B.C. Liberals in
Esquimalt-Metchosin, is somewhat odd, concedes Trees Dispensary
spokesman Alex Robb, especially given her history as mayor of
Esquimalt. The municipality chased a "bong" mascot out of town and has
refused to allow cannabis retailers to set up shop.

Members of a group calling itself the B.C. Independent Cannabis
Alliance on Vancouver Island jointly issued a statement endorsing
Desjardins, who is running in Esquimalt-Metchosin, and six Green Party
candidates: Andrew Weaver in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Kalen Harris in
Victoria-Beacon Hill, Chris Maxwell in Victoria-Swan Lake, Sonia
Furstenau in Cowichan Valley, Adam Olsen in Saanich North and the
Islands, and Mark Neufeld in Saanich South.

Robb said the election is an important one for the local cannabis
industry, since the party that forms government will develop the model
for regulating the marketplace in B.C. "The Green Party has been the
most vocal about protecting existing craft cannabis jobs in B.C., and
that is why we are supporting them this election," he said.

As for Desjardins, "she showed herself to be extremely receptive to
our main point, which was that there's tens of thousands of jobs in
cannabis in this province right now, and if the federal government
legalizes in a way that promotes the Ontario industry rather than the
B.C. industry, those jobs are at risk."

Andy MacKinnon was the only Green candidate on the South Island not to
be endorsed by the cannabis coalition. He is running against
Desjardins in the Esquimalt-Metchosin riding.

MacKinnon said he was disappointed not to be endorsed by the cannabis
coalition, as he is supportive of the industry and its potential.

"I think we have an exceptional opportunity here," he said. "British
Columbia has some of the best cannabis growers in the world, so I
think we're well positioned to build an exciting and vibrant new
industry in British Columbia."

Green Leader Andrew Weaver has said the party will support marketing
opportunities for B.C. craft marijuana growers and is in favour of
sales by producers and through the liquor distribution branch. He said
the province should recognize pot taxes as a source of income that can
be passed back to municipalities.

NDP Leader John Horgan has said that he favours selling recreational
pot in public liquor stores. Horgan said that if prices are too high,
the black market will remain, so his party won't make decisions on
what to do with tax revenue until the federal government's
legalization process and any amendments to its legislation have concluded.

Liberal Leader Christy Clark said she wants organized crime out of the
business, assurances that legal marijuana is safe and of high quality,
and that it's kept away from children. She suggested that any tax
revenue from the sale of marijuana be put into health care and law

MacKinnon said he wasn't approached by the cannabis group, and a
spokesperson for NDP candidate Mitzi Dean said their campaign was
never contacted by the group, either.

Desjardins said she reached out to local cannabis businesses, hosting
a round table to bring herself up to speed on the issues.

Esquimalt certainly hasn't been pro-cannabis with Desjardins in the
mayor's chair. In 2013, the municipality's battle with a drug
paraphernalia store over its mascot, known as Bongy, attracted the
attention of American television satirist Stephen Colbert, who
skewered the township over its regulatory travails.

And unlike neighbouring Victoria, Esquimalt has refused to permit
storefront cannabis retailers and says it won't be making any changes
until new federal and provincial regulations come into play.

Desjardins said there's no conflict between her position as a mayor
and as a provincial candidate.

"The issue around Bongy was more of not doing what you said you were
going to do as a business and the concern of the community with
respect to his advertising as well as his products," she said.

"And again, the law at that time and right now is that it is illegal,
and that's really the position Esquimalt is taking."

- - With files from the Vancouver Sun
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MAP posted-by: Matt