Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jun 2017
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Prince George Citizen
Author: Neil Godbout
Page: 6


Five hundred years ago, back when Scotch was just whisky, almost
everybody in Scotland could make and sell it. It was only 200 years
ago, when the government started taxing sales, allowed the licensed
distilleries to grow and shut down the bootleggers that Scotch started
to become a thing. Today, of course, whisky is made around the world
but only whisky from Scotland is allowed to call itself Scotch.

The similarities between whisky in Scotland in the 18th and 19th
centuries and marijuana in Prince George in 2017 are many. The
residents of a somewhat isolated northern region that's not too far
from major cities are heavy producers and consumers of a beloved
intoxicant. The government decides to legalize the product, partly to
recognize the will of the people, but mostly to turn it into a
lucrative tax revenue stream.

What happened next in Scotland was competition and innovation, as
distilleries competed first with each other for audience and then the
rest of the world.

It shouldn't be hard to imagine a similar future, but much sooner, for
marijuana in Canada and in the northern interior of B.C.

Sadly, everyone except for the politicians seems ready to talk about
it. Residents and entrepreneurs are excited about the opportunities
but the provincial and most municipal governments are nervous.

Forget LNG and Kinder Morgan. With government collaboration and
encouragement, savvy entrepreneurs could create an agricultural crop
worth billions, create thousands of sustainable, long-term jobs and
send hundreds of millions of dollars annually into the tax coffers.

Imagine innovations coming from B.C. in packaging, marketing and
quality control that could lead B.C. bud to become the Scotch of the
pot world. And imagine the Prince George region as the marijuana
equivalent of the Scottish Highlands, home to large production
facilities producing brand-name pot sought by discerning consumers
around the world.

No self-respecting Scotch drinker will indulge buying some hooch off
some guy, not even in Scotland. They want the history and quality
inherent in the Johnnie Walker or the Ballantyne (or the Glenfiddich
and the Macallan for the single-malt connoisseurs).

People can legally make their own wine and beer for their consumption
but most consumers prefer the brand names, the status and the variety
available commercially.

The day marijuana is sold in a fancy package as a premium intoxicant
with diverse varieties and geographic regions, rather than the cheap
weed supplied by the high school stoner, is near. The only thing
missing is the courage of political and community leaders to embrace
the economic opportunity.

They don't have to condone the product or its use, they can (and
should) work hard to make sure marijuana is only consumed by adults,
just like alcohol and tobacco. What they should do is let the
marketplace decide. The City of Prince George and the Regional
District of Fraser-Fort George should have clear bylaws in place for
marijuana production and sales that encourage investment for both
medicinal and commercial use.

The current city zoning, passed in 2015, shortly after the current
mayor and council took office, is already outdated because it only
speaks to medical marijuana production.

City council needs to have rules in place well before next summer,
allowing entrepreneurs to line up investors, locations, production
facilities, workers and customers long before next July, when the
federal government plans to legalize cannabis.

Treat pot production the same as any other industry, with specific
zoning to keep it out of residential and retail areas. Treat pot sales
the same as liquor sales, restricting both the number and the
proximity of outlets.

Work with the province and producers to create high quality standards
that ensures locally-produced pot is both safe and excellent. Work
with police to shutdown backyard trafficking operations.

If industrialized cannabis production doesn't take off, no harm done.
But if it does, Prince George positions itself on the ground floor of
a lucrative, potentially worldwide marijuana production and
distribution hub, with the jobs and the economic growth that comes
with it.

Even if Prince George city council does nothing on the production
front and let's those dollars go to more progressive communities,
there are still decisions that will have to be made, such as what to
do about restaurants making and selling food with marijuana butter as
an ingredient and whether local non-profit groups can sell or auction
off pot as a form of fundraising.

Prince George shouldn't wait for Victoria or Ottawa to decide. Over to
you, city council.
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MAP posted-by: Matt