B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)

Cannabis ice cream? Province prepares for B.C. Bud edibles

Mike Farnworth’s special police unit takes down dispensaries

Third in a series on B.C.’s craft cannabis industry.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Finance Minister Carole James were the NDP’s point persons on pot a year before they formed a minority government with the B.C. Greens.

In 2016, Farnworth and James toured legal marijuana operations in Oregon and neighbouring Washington, where recreational cannabis has been legal since 2012. As they prepared the NDP’s election platform on how to handle legalization, Farnworth remembers visiting an Oregon store that offered cannabis-infused ice cream.

“I asked, what’s the dosage like?” Farnworth said in an interview. “They said oh, a tablespoon. And I remember thinking, who eats a tablespoon of ice cream?”

With Health Canada restrictions on products and packaging to keep cannabis away from kids and prevent overdoses, B.C. stores won’t be selling ice cream when edible products become available in the weeks ahead. Farnworth is expecting a limited selection of cannabis edibles will pass Health Canada’s 60-day approval process for new products.

“They’ve made it clear there is not going to be a full range of products that you might see, say in Oregon where you can get ice cream for example,” Farnworth said. “You’re not going to see that here. We’re looking at late December to mid-January, is the latest information about when you’re going to see [edible] product in stores and available online.”

Edibles and beverages, or “Cannabis 2.0” in industry jargon, are another challenge for B.C. in keeping its small-producer craft cannabis industry from being overwhelmed by big players. Anheuser-Busch Inbev, the international beer giant that owns Labatt’s and Budweiser, has launched a joint venture with B.C.-based multinational cannabis producer Tilray to produce drinks with the main active ingredients, THC and CBD, by the end of 2019.

Canopy Growth Corp. has unveiled the first of its line of soft drinks, chocolates and other edibles under its Tweed brand, and Molson Coors predicts that beverages may end up with 20 per cent or more of the Canadian cannabis market. Molson Coors took a controlling interest in a joint beverage venture with Quebec marijuana producer HEXO, which is launching a national discount dried marijuana product called “Original Stash” that sells for $4.99 per gram.

PART ONE: NDP gives cannabis business grant to Kootenay growers

PART TWO: Craft cannabis growers wind through layers of government

RELATED: Police raid 23-year-old cannabis compassion club

After amending a half dozen B.C. laws to allow recreational cannabis sales, setting up a monopoly wholesale system run by the Liquor Distribution Branch and struggling to get government and private stores up and running, Farnworth also faced the task of dealing with stores that had opened without licences and simply carried on.

Enter the Community Safety Unit, a division of Farnworth’s ministry that works with police to shut down illegal sellers that still hold the vast majority of the B.C. cannabis market. Its raids included the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, which operated for more than 20 years as a medical dispensary.

“We’ve had a good response,” Farnworth said at the end of October. “At last count, there have been 50-some-odd illegal operations that have either shut down voluntarily, or have had their product and the cash confiscated by the Community Safety Unit.”

Premier John Horgan says these challenges are unique to B.C., where illegal sales were allowed to proliferate for years. Dealing with that is one reason why B.C. stands to lose money on its first year of cannabis sales.

“We had a grey market that had to be shut down so that an above-board legal market could thrive in a fair way,” Horgan said as the B.C. legislature session wrapped up at the end of November. “We didn’t want people having an advantage because they had staked some territory illegally, and put those operators who wanted to be legal and above board at a disadvantage.”

Long-time grower Travis Lane, who supplied dispensaries and now has three applications in for recreational cannabis production on Vancouver Island, says there’s another reason B.C. has so far shunned legal marijuana marketed by big national companies.

“When you look at B.C., we have an educated purchasing populace,” Lane said. “We’re to the point where they’re going into these legal stores and trying it, and rejecting it for quality purposes or for cost. That’s where the market hasn’t caught up yet, is quality and cost.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Darlene and her son, Nolan, share time with a book. To protect his health, Nolan is not able to visit the library branch but the many services it offers allows the family to access materials at home. (FVRL/Special to The News)
COLUMN: Maple Ridge library branch has been a lifeline for many during pandemic

Did you know FVRL library cards are free to local residents?

Members of the Haney Horsemen and other equestrian users will be riding the Thornhill Trails in large numbers this weekend. (Haney Horsemen/Special to The News)
Horsemen out in force in Maple Ridge this weekend

Riders assert need to save Thornhill Trails for equestrian users

There has been a COVID-19 exposure at Olympians Gym in Maple Ridge. (Black Press files)
COVID exposure at Maple Ridge gym

Exposure took place at Olympians Gym Feb. 17-19

Local letter writer said fundraiser might help change social perception about people who are homeless. (Black Press Media file photo)
LETTER: What if society held a telethon to help homeless

Pitt Meadows resident lauds Variety Club for telethon. Would the fundraiser work for other causes?

The Harris Park pool in Pitt Meadows will not be open for the 2021 season. (The News files)
Pitt Meadows closes pool for the coming season

COVID-19 safety measures would limit swimmers at Harris Park pool

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Passengers aboard Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, 1914 - Library and Archives Canada image
Abbotsford council is asked to rename street in memory of Komagata Maru victims

Most of 376 the passengers aboard ship were denied entry into Canada in 1914

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Crown says defence case epilepsy caused fatal Surrey crash fails on balance of probabilities

‘She very clearly had some form of control over that vehicle,’ Crown argues

Most Read