Canada: Cannabis Plant Sets Sights On Saanich

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Photo Credit: Wolf Depner

A local entrepreneur who wants to open a plant processing cannabis says Saanich has been “extremely conservative” in its approach towards the pending legalization of recreational cannabis, but also recognizes the advantages of this approach.

“I do support what they [Saanich] are doing,” said Brandon Wright, chief executive officer and general manager of Baked Edibles. “It’s a conservative approach, but it allows a breadth of control.”

The company supplies cookies, spreads and other food products infused with cannabis.

Wright made these comments in an interview after appearing before Saanich council Tuesday when the municipality held a public hearing into bylaw changes that will see Saanich move towards a “full” prohibition of the sale, production and distribution of recreational cannabis until staff have had an opportunity to review federal and provincial legislation.

The federal government announced Wednesday that the production, purchase and consumption of recreational cannabis would become legal Oct. 17, 2018 to give provincial governments across time to implement their respective distribution mechanisms. British Columbia will use a mixed-model of public and privately-licensed retailers to make the product available.

Saanich, however, has opted for “full prohibition” with staff citing a “[lack] of detailed information” from federal and provincial officials. “This is a fast-moving and evolving issue and information continues to be released,” said Sharon Hvozdanski, Saanich’s director of planning in the report last month.

Wright thinks that Saanich’s prohibition will only be temporary, in predicting that cannabis will eventually become as available in Saanich as alcohol today.

Wright understands Saanich’s decision to give itself more to develop regulation. On the other hand, Saanich risks losing opportunity to give cannabis-related enterprises the chance to plan ahead.

Cannabis producers currently find themselves in a “land race” for suitable properties and investments will take place in the next twelve months, he said.

Smaller, community-based enterprises do not have the financial resources to wait until local governments have worked out various issues such as permitted locations. Larger companies, on the other hand, have the financial means to lease out space, and then sit on it while waiting on regulation, he said.

Wright’s company is a processor of cannabis, a category not yet covered by existing legislation. Baked Edibles currently operates under the jurisdictional protection of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that permits medical marijuana patients to consume marijuana in all forms. Wright anticipates that the federal government will have developed the necessary legislation within the next year.

In the meantime, he has been scouting locations around southern Vancouver Island for a larger processing facility, ranging between 20,000 and 30,000 square-feet. That search has included Saanich. While Wright will not reveal which sites he has scouted so far, he told Saanich council that cannabis producers would like to prefer lots zoned light industrial or even commercial in raising concerns about council’s decision to limit marijuana production to land in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Council Monday also heard from Adam Carmichael of Tree Dispensary Island Grown, a Victoria-based chain of dispensaries. He said council’s approach is consistent with developments elsewhere in echoing Wright. If Saanich were to create a regime for retail operations, he recommends following best practices elsewhere.

He also encourages Saanich to keep the industry informed as staff develops the regime to help the industry scout out locations and engage the community to help build the necessary support.

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