The B.C. Craft Farmers Co-op has submitted its proposal for a government-assisted pilot project to get small-scale growers into the legal cannabis market that has been dominated by large producers.
The co-op, a project started by former Surrey councillor Barinder Rasode, has been proposed to the federal and B.C. governments as a two-year economic development and job creation project to make the licensing of small cannabis producers more accessible.
“Thousands of micro B.C. cannabis farmers and processors have been excluded from the legal market due to a poorly designed regulatory framework,” the co-op says in its submission to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan, released June 11. “With a globally recognized brand and the most craft farmers in the country, B.C. has the most to lose if these innovators are not provided with an opportunity to apply their skills in the post-prohibition market.”
Horgan’s NDP government expressed the same frustration with Ottawa’s approach in December 2019, when it announced a $676,000 grant administered through Community Futures Central Kootenay. The government’s intent was to take over the marketing side of B.C. craft cannabis from Health Canada.
Social Development Minister Shane Simpson said the application was a grassroots initiative in the Kootenays, which has a long history of black market cannabis, with the local economy threatened by dominance of publicly traded big producers from across Canada.
The B.C. Craft Farmers Co-op submission notes that of the more than 1.2 million square metres of legal indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation space approved by Health Canada as of Feb. 1, 2020, craft cannabis farmers account for “a microscopic 0.17 per cent.” The pilot project is seeking federal and provincial funds for regional economic development to “rapidly transition” thousands of medical growers previously licensed by Health Canada to produce for the recreational market.
The co-op has more than 100 growers interested in the member-owned concept, and plans to open its online membership application portal by June 20. It plans a July 29 deadline for membership eligibility and board nominations, and a founding general meeting in August.
The proposal to governments emphasizes the need to create economic development after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with rural communities and Indigenous governments.
“The project advisory committee will include a representative from the Union of B.C. Municipalities and dedicate resources to rapidly engage local governments this summer,” the submission states.