Update on B.C. co-op regional meetings

By Natasha Kumari

At Gibsons Public Market, a diverse group of Sunshine Coast representatives gathered to inform themselves on the proposed co-op, currently known as the BC Small Cannabis Producers and Processors Co-op. This was to be the first of seven regional roundtable meetings to take place around the province in an effort to inform potential members and city council representatives of the respective communities about the proposed structure and activities of the co-op.

There was consensus at each roundtable that the design of the proposed co-op rules was fair and well thought out to serve potential members. “Most of the co-op rules are boilerplate and right out of the BC Cooperatives Act” – says David Hurford. The key items on the agenda were on how companies would qualify for membership, membership termination, Board structure and the method and purpose of raising capital. Some suggestions were made to broaden the first two membership categories and ensure there is some provisions in the rules that ensures the Board of Directors consider regional representation in Board appointments.

The input from those in attendance at Gibsons was echoed by attendees at each of the following meetings. Micro-cultivators and processors are frustrated with the current system and believe it is designed for them to fail.

“We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. How do you (the co-op) propose we solve this?” shared a grower in attendance in Nelson on July 15.

Not a simple question and definitely not a simple answer

The grower’s sentiment is one we have been hearing since legalization back in October 2018. The micro-cultivation license and micro-processing licenses were in fact launched to provide an avenue for small-scale operations and legacy growers to enter the legal framework. Since legalization, limited access to financing, restrictive federal and provincial policy and land-use restrictions have made the process of legalization too challenging, to the point where many are considering whether the legal industry is viable.

Part of the solution is a reset in federal and provincial regulation, including but not limited to slightly increases in production capacity limits and allow for a 12-month transition period for micro-cultivation and micro-processing license applicants regarding the new Health Canada regulations released May 8, 2019. Another necessity is to provide access to funding and aid in navigating the licensing process.

The co-op’s mandate is to provide small producers and processors with a safe accessible alternative to the illicit market and to give consumers a product they desire. There was a lot of gratitude for David Hurford and Grow Tech Labs, who has funded the development of the co-op and has been advocating for the above changes and working towards providing the co-op with the tools necessary to provide the support needed for co-op members once incorporated.