A provincially funded program to help grow the local cannabis industry has begun in Nelson.
Community Futures Central Kootenay announced its Cannabis Business Transition Initiative on Thursday. The program, which is being funded $675,000 over two years by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, will assist new and existing cannabis businesses transition to the legal economy.
“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to support this sector,” said executive director Andrea Wilkey. “We think it’s really important in our region.”
Wilkey said Community Futures has hired two in-house consultants who will work out of the Nelson office in the Gray Building on Vernon Street. Those employees will assist clients with licence applications, accessing financing and creating business plans.
The licence application process has been criticized for being slow and expensive. Nelson’s first cannabis store, Kootenay Cannabis Tree, only opened earlier this month after an 11-month wait to begin operations.
“It’s a heavily regulated industry. …,” said Wilkey. “There’s all sorts of hurdles and we know we have a lot of knowledge in our region in terms of the sector. However there’s also a lack of traditional business skills, so that’s where Community Futures can really help is building on the entrepreneur’s knowledge but providing them with more traditional business resources.”
The program actually began in July, but Wilkey said for the moment Community Futures is only accepting clients on a trial basis. The full roll-out of the program will begin next year, and is targeting over 100 clients supported through two years.
Wilkey said Community Futures had already seen demand for services offered by the program. She added her consultants, who have experience in the organic culture and pharmaceutical industries, have begun building relationships with Health Canada and the province.
“So now when clients come to us we’ve got answers for them, whereas in the past that information just wasn’t available.”