The East and West Kootenays in British Columbia have been at the forefront of craft cannabis growing for decades in Canada. With the new regulations ahead, what will they mean for this area and its growers?  

The Kootenays and Craft Cannabis Growers

After a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, March 14th with our MP, Wayne Stetski (NDP), it was loud and clear that the regulations the Liberals are pushing forward will not work for this area.

Some municipalities were waiting for the “legal” framework announcement to make their plans. There are many questions of how these rules will be enforced. Like with plant counts and height: MP Stetski and Nelson Mayor Deb Kovak asked “what are they going to do, run around with a ruler?”

Growing marijuana is a major industry in low employment areas of the BC Interior. There are thousands of growers around the East and West Kootenays not licensed under the ACMPR. And that is a low estimate.

All around this area people grow, and have for years due to the low employment rates — this is the only way many of them have to sustain a living. Illegal? You bet. But when given no choice, people do what they have to.

With this new legal framework lurking, how is that going to affect the craft growers, the ones at the forefront of cannabis in Canada to begin with? Raiding and shutting down dispensaries in Ontario is a red flag that the government may be serious about taking down all dispensaries and the small–medium growers that supply them.

Kootenays and Craft Cannabis Dispensaries

Earth's Own Craft Cannabis

Earth’s Own Naturals — 1 of 2 East Kootenays licensed dispensaries.

This is where we are at: the East Kootenays area still has very limited access to dispensaries. There are only two running in Kimberley, BC and the next closest are eight in Nelson, which is in the West Kootenays.

Kimberley’s Dispensaries

I scoped out one of the two dispensaries in Kimberley, Earth’s Own Naturals Ltd. I was pleasantly surprised with this classy little place tucked in the back end of the Platzl; it has a cozy, log cabin feel, with the meds displayed in open cases on cut pieces of cedar. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable. And after I handed over my paperwork — Earth’s Own Naturals runs as medicinal — and paid a $15 membership fee I was ready to purchase.

I didn’t get a chance to stop in at Tamarack Dispensaries but will next time I head out that way.

No Grand Forks Dispensaries

In Grand Forks, BC, Teresa Taylor has been on the front lines of cannabis access freedom for nearly two decades, starting in 2000 as a candidate for the BC Marijuana Party. She’s an activist, gardener, and mother. And now she is the director of the Craft Cannabis Association of BC, speaking out for the small crafters and the mom and pop operations across the province and the country.

The Herbivore - Kootenays craft cannabis

Herbivore — nicer than a pharmacy. (Photo courtesy of Teresa Taylor.)

But in late February, her dispensary — Herbivore Cannabis Inc. — was shut down. Why is she not able to be open when there are so few dispensaries here? Teresa is now left out of the loop of legalization and risks being prosecuted for cannabis.

The raiding officers warned her against reopening and took all of her supplies. She had paid rent till the end of March, so kept going in but was not serving patients.

Three weeks after the raid Teresa was cleaning up, planning to be out by the first of April. The police returned with a warrant for her cell phone and anything left — even looking behind pictures for secret stashes. Unfortunately, they found a box of samples that a coworker had brought back in (despite being told not to bring anything in since the RCMP visit).

Craft Cannabis Questions

Teresa had a call-in interview with CFAW out of Victoria and suddenly had no phone. So I stepped up to help and she asked me to do the show. CFAW asked many questions about how we felt about legalization and the craft cannabis industry within the black market in BC. I answered most of their questions like many of us would — we all know the media talking points.

But when asked “how many dispensaries are needed, say, in Victoria?” (there are 38 now) I replied, “How many restaurants, hair salons, or liquor stores are needed?” As many as can stay viable is my answer. You drive down most any street in Vancouver and will see one. I find that thrilling!

Knowing how many people rely on dispensaries, why is there a patchwork of dispensary “licensing” rules for certain areas and certain people?  And with legalization how will this patch work of regulations affect the people?  

All these questions and here we swing in the wind … waiting for some balance to come out of the federal government.

(Original photo for Featured Image courtesy of Teresa Taylor.)