In an effort to slow down unregulated market cannabis sales, officials in British Columbia, Canada have started helping unlicensed producers enter the legal market, the Canadian Press reports. The pilot program, which is based in the Central Kootenay region of B.C. and ended in July, helped illicit market growers interested in making the switch to legal sales with licensing, marketing plans, and security, the report says.
The province said in a press release the pilot program helped 53 unlicensed cultivators, but only 13 received licenses, while 62 jobs were created or moved from the illicit market.
Abra Brynne of the Kootenay Cannabis Economic Development Council said high insurance rates and other economic factors make it difficult to convince unlicensed cultivators to make the transition to the legal market. She said the pilot program saw successes but that there is “a heck of a long way for things to go.”
B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in an interview with the Press that less restrictive regulations could help encourage more underground growers to join the legal industry, noting the short time adult-use cannabis has been legal in Canada.
“It’s still very much a work in progress three years in,” he said.
Farnworth added that he has heard many individuals are frustrated with the difficulties in getting cannabis to market and from retailers who are unhappy with security measures like frosted glass in their storefronts. Farnworth pointed to a program expected this spring, called Farm Gate, which would allow producers to have a retail store on their property and deliver directly to retail stores. He thinks this would help unlicensed operators who want to go legal and craft growers alike.
“We’re trying to work with the industry (and) identify some of the challenges we can deal with,” he said.
Todd Veri, president of the Kootenay Outdoor Producer Co-Op, however, believes the B.C. government has backed “the wrong horse,” pointing to the enormous amount of time and effort it has taken his group, and other legal applicants like him, to navigate the provincial and Health Canada regulations. Despite his criticism of the provincial government’s partnership with illicit cannabis producers, he does agree with Farnworth that allowing farms to sell directly to retailers would help craft growers, the report says.
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