Craft pot growers unite in bid for greater voice

By Steve MacNaull

Even though marijuana is now legal in Canada, most small pot growers continue to want anonymity.

“We don’t want our name out there,” said a grower from Cherryville who didn’t want to divulge her identity or the name of her business.

“I will tell you we grow medicinal cannabis and we are ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations) licensed, and most of our product ends up in tinctures (liquid extract of pot that can be put in numerous treatments and medicines).”

The woman was one of 47 small marijuana growers and processors who attended the B.C. Craft Cannabis Co-op roundtable Wednesday at the Ramada Hotel in Kelowna.

Having the meeting at the conference room of a well-known hotel on busy Highway 97 gives the gathering legitimacy and a mainstream vibe.

However, there’s still a lingering clandestine element in the legal pot trade when it comes to small-time, or so-called craft, growers and processors.

“We’re here to help small cannabis producers, processors and retailers transition to the legal cannabis space from what was often the illicit market,” said Natasha Kumari of Grow Tech Labs, which organized the roundtable.

“We want B.C. to be seen as a cannabis leader, and that can only happen if craft producers are part of the equation.”

Grow Tech Labs did a study that pegs the economic impact of small producers and processors at $5.8 billion a year and jobs at 40,000 across Western Canada.

Grow Tech Labs held introductory meetings throughout the province, including in Kelowna earlier this year.

This latest series of roundtables in seven communities is more technical, with membership categories and governance being discussed as the co-op works toward incorporation in September and operations starting in early 2020.

“The co-op recognizes that small growers and processors have their own businesses and want autonomy,” said Kumari.

“But the co-op will be beneficial by giving them a greater collective voice, group purchasing power for materials and equipment, and access to a wider domestic and export market.”

Grow Tech Labs consultant David Hurford led the sessions in Courtenay, Duncan, Gibsons, Nelson and Kelowna, and he will facilitate the final roundtables in Kamloops and Langley.

“In this case, small is big,” he said.

“There are 6,500 growers in B.C. certified with Health Canada to produce cannabis for medical use. Now, some of those are cultivating just for themselves. But even if we get 15% of the bigger small producers joining the co-op, we will have a membership of 900 growers and 450 processors.”

Currently, small growers are limited to farming 2,100 square feet and processors are regulated to no more than 650 kilograms per year.

“One of the co-op’s first orders of business would be to ask for those limits to be doubled in an effort to help address the supply shortage that B.C. is already experiencing,” said Hurford.

Sarah Roberts and Victoria Bostic of Kelowna-based EnCann Solutions, a cannabis extraction and packaging company, were more than willing to talk and be identified.

“Under current rules, growers can cultivate and sell product, but they can’t do their own packaging,” said Roberts.

“We do all kinds of packaging. We can also help small producers with extraction. We use a room-temperature technology using ethanol for extraction that costs less compared to traditional extraction that uses expensive heat technology.”

Read more on Kelowna Daily Courier.