British Columbia is world-famous for the quality of its cannabis and the sophistication of its medical and unregulated industry. However, with the federal shift towards adult-use legalization, B.C. is surprisingly lagging in becoming an emerging market leader. 

According to Statistics Canada’s recent report, Canadians spent close to $1 billion on non-medical, legal cannabis since the Cannabis Act came into force in October 2018. 

Ontario, Alberta, and Québec are leading the pack averaging over $200 million in sales, with B.C. coming in last of the provinces at roughly $50 million. 

There are myriad reasons for low sales including cost per gram, an exceptional craft market that has yet to transition partially due to regulatory boundaries, lack of product variety such as concentrates and edibles which will slowly appear on shelves into the new year, and limited retail rollout. 

BC has since increased its licensed retailers to 57 as of July, up from 16 in March. Vancouver, the provinces most populous city, currently only has 13 operating licensed retail stores, with five more opening soon. 

Up until July 2019, North Vancouver prohibited the opening of cannabis stores, and municipalities like Richmond, and West Vancouver still have bans in place. 

Municipal land-restrictions for growing cannabis and building processing facilities are also hurting B.C.’s advancement in the legal landscape. 

So, how do we survive? 

In May 2019, co-located Adastra Labs and Chemia Analytics was the first cannabis standard processing and analytical testing laboratory in B.C.’s Lower Mainland to receive site-specific rezoning, as per the Township of Langley (TOL) Council’s vote. We believe that setting this precedent has larger implications for B.C.’s regulated cannabis industry. 

Just over a year into legalization, Langley does not have any licensed cannabis retail shops. However, a public consultation period was held in October 2019, meaning there is a possibility the Township will see retailers sometime in 2020. 

As the first licensed cannabis processing and analytical testing facility in the Township, we have an obligation to demonstrate the good the industry can bring to municipalities, and help break the barriers that stigma presents to the budding market. 

While every municipality is different, will have its own bylaws, and is beholden to its citizens, here are some of the efforts we put forth to help with Adastra and Chemia’s rezoning application, which was approved in under five months.

Creating jobs 

Chemia Analytics received its licence in October, and Adastra Labs submitted its site evidence package in early December, and we expect licensing early in the new year. Over the next two years, we anticipate employing upwards of 50 people for full-time manufacturing high-skilled jobs, as well as hourly positions. 

Environmental consciousness 

As part of our rezoning application, we completed an Air Emission Management Plan. The purpose of the document was to demonstrate to the council that our facility will not be emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. We use charcoal filters on all exhaust from our HVAC system to remove terpene and ethanol vapors. 

We have also engaged with Net Zero Waste in Abbotsford, a local biomass composting company. Cannabis left over after processing, needs to be denatured as per Health Canada regulations, oftentimes via kitty litter or a chemical solvent. Adastra is the second cannabis company (Whistler Cannabis Co. being the first) to work with Net Zero Waste for a more environmentally-friendly solution. 

Community Outreach  

Immersing ourselves in the local community has been an important and fulfilling part of our application process. 

Adastra got involved with Kimz Angels, a charitable organization that feeds locals in need, working or living in the TOL. For us, making and serving sandwiches every Wednesday was not only a great team-building exercise and a feel-good moment, it also connected us with the broader community. 

We see community outreach as an excellent and necessary way of giving back, and also demonstrating to broader audiences that cannabis companies are not deserving of the near-century’s worth of prohibition-driven stigma. 

Attaching a face to a company, meeting local folks, learning about them and their potential concerns with cannabis in their municipalities humanizes what we’re doing. 

Ultimately, cannabis is about connection. 

We hope to see more municipalities support cannabis companies and help B.C. keep its stake in an industry it has helped build over decades. 

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