Federal rules aren’t taking into account the need of small craft producers, says an open letter penned by several organizations. File photo

Cannabis promoters call for ‘reset’ of federal pot rules

Changes in regulation are causing chaos for small growers, say letter’s authors

People trying to organize small cannabis producers in B.C. are calling for a reset of federal pot rules.

Several British Columbia organizations representing small cannabis producers, processors and retailers across the province say it’s the only way to ensure the inclusion of the craft cannabis sector in the legal marketplace.

“While we applaud the Government of Canada for their leadership in legalizing cannabis in October 2018, we are very concerned to learn of new federal regulations which increase barriers for small cannabis producers and processors in rural communities across British Columbia and Canada,” the group said in a release Monday. “Nothing short of a total policy reset is required.”

The statement was a joint release by representatives from the Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers; B.C. Micro License Association; Craft Cannabis Association of B.C.; Grow Tech Labs; Kootenay United Cannabis Association; and Cascadia Agriculture Co-operative Association.

Several of those organizers originate or have members in the West Kootenay.

Last week Ottawa announced new regulations it says will streamline and speed up the approval process. Growers were told they had to build their grow facilities before Health Canada would complete a review of their applications.

Small growers in B.C. and groups representing them criticized the new regulations, saying it would force small operators to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars without a guarantee they would get a licence.

SEE MORE: Kootenay cannabis growers, analysts pan new Health Canada policy

It’s just the latest in a string of rules that local organizers say are cutting out the producers in the Kootenays.

“It’s a dead policy,” said Damon Chouinard, a director of the Kootenay United Cannabis Association. “It is a massive, massive mess. The policy needs to be changed from the ground up.

“People who are on the lower end of the industry, the families, those without the time and energy to do their research or to market themselves, to really build the capacity, those are the ones being left behind again when you implement a policy like this.”

‘Not likely to survive’

“These new regulations announced last week will further restrict access for craft growers and processors,” said the joint statement. “With a stated common goal of facilitating the participation of small scale growers and processors, Health Canada’s lack of timely engagement of industry experts prior to this announcement seems contrary to those goals.

“In addition, the new regulations further enhance an uneven playing field that is already favouring the development of large conglomerates at the expense of small growers.”

The release also says “without a significant change in approach by the federal government, B.C.’s globally recognized craft cannabis sector is not likely to survive legalization”

The group says federal regulators have only received 200 micro-production applications, and only approved one, since legalizing cannabis on Oct. 17, 2018.

They said it was “an indicator of the difficulty of the process as it was”.

“There are thousands of farmers in B.C. being shut out,” warns the letter’s authors. “In addition to undermining our shared goal of eliminating the illicit market, holding back the capacity and skills of these craft producers and processors means not realizing significant job creation and economic development opportunities for rural B.C. communities.”

The group is calling on the B.C. government, local elected officials and Members of Parliament to work on behalf of thousands of craft cannabis producers and processors to “fix the chaos these regulations are creating as soon as possible in the hope of transitioning BC’s significant craft cannabis sector to the regulated market.”

Chouinard says it’s also important that all the various organizations that have been created since legalization are beginning to speak with a single voice.

“That’s very significant, the more we get organized, the more we build our capacity, the more we build a common ground, the louder our voices get,” he says. “I’m starting to feel that’s getting through to the B.C. government, but this policy is clearly a backward step on the part of federal govenrment. That seems to be where most of our hurdles are coming from.”

The group is urging small producers to attend one of three information sessions being held in B.C. by Health Canada on the regulations. They are being held today in Victoria (Monday, May 13), tomorrow in Kelowna (Tuesday, May 14) and Vancouver (Thursday, May 16).

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