The BC government expects to begin stakeholder engagement this spring for “potential consumption activities and locations, including special events, lounges, and retail experiences”.
A representative for the province’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General says the feedback from that engagement will inform any possible future decisions about whether cannabis consumption spaces should be permitted, and if so how.
Few details are yet available on what those consumption spaces could look like, but the BC government has in the past suggested that one possible approach they are considering is a “special occasion” licensing to tie into future farmgate on-site sales for producers. The farmgate program is expected to be launched this fall.
The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) engaged the cannabis industry in BC last year to gauge interest and gather ideas from federal licence holders on their proposed model. Although expectations from some in the industry are high, others say they hope the province takes into account some of the unique facets of BC’s diverse cannabis culture.
The LCRB is continuing to look over this feedback on “potential approaches” to the program’s implementation in Fall 2022.
Although specifics on the plan are still not available, the BC government has provided the industry with some details on the farmgate plan. For example, the province has also said they may not allow stand-alone processors of any size to take part in the program, although they would allow licence holders who possess both a cultivation and processing licence together to take part.
The government has also suggested that growers may only be allowed to sell cannabis that they grew, rather than selling similar products from other growers.
While farmgate could work well for some producers, others say they don’t think it makes sense for them, especially with the proposals the provincial government has been hinting at. Building and staffing a new retail store will be costly, and for many of BC’s more remote cannabis farms, the likely small amount of traffic won’t necessarily make the model viable.
The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General also notes that the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) is continuing to work on establishing the necessary infrastructure that would enable direct delivery for nurseries and small-scale cultivators and is on track for implementation in Fall 2022.
The direct delivery model as proposed so far would allow nurseries and “small-scale cultivators” that produce no more than 3,000 kilograms of cannabis annually to have their finished products delivered directly to retailers, bypassing the provincial distributor—the BC LDB.
Processors will still have to first enter into a supply agreement with the BC LDB, and will need to register and price their products before they become available for retailers to place orders. Although products will not be physically delivered to or distributed by the LDB, the province will still collect their 15% markup on all products.
The LDB is expected to provide an update on the work to date to industry stakeholders and Indigenous organizations in the coming weeks.
The province first announced their intentions for future direct delivery and farmgate sales in 2020, with the intention of implementing both by 2022.
Ontario and New Brunswick both began issuing their own cannabis farmgate licenses last year, with three in Ontario and two in New Brunswick at the moment. A third is expected to open in New Brunswick by the end of March.
Some cannabis producers in Ontario who were initially excited by farmgate said they were pulling back last year, preferring to build relationships with local retailers rather than running their own retail store.
The process can mean building a new retail store or integrating one into an existing facility, which can be cost-prohibitive for some small growers, and those in remote areas with little customer traffic. In the past, BC has suggested their own farmgate model will be built more around the idea of special events and onsite consumption rather than active retail stores.