BC regulations tangle legal web of cannabis tourism

Pot tourism waits to bloom

Cannabis-related tourism is a niche in the cannabis sector that has a way to go to take shape as the legal cannabis industry evolves.

After Canada legalized cannabis in October 2018, many businesses started to realize that cannabis culture’s social element, similar to that of alcohol, makes the drug a natural counterpart for tourism ventures.

That upped efforts to encourage the province to change laws to allow consumption lounges and farm-gate sales at production facilities to create attractions that would draw a new demographic of tourists to B.C.

“It’s the logical next step of how people will want to socialize around cannabis, because at this moment there is no law that allows people to consume together in a public environment, which doesn’t make sense,” said Mark Goliger, CEO of the cannabis retailer National Access Cannabis.

He equates the ban on consumption lounges to the government forbidding restaurant owners to serve alcohol.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, however, is steadfast. He said that he has no plans to legalize consumption lounges because public health officials have warned him that the lounges could increase risks to consumers’ well-being.

“There are no plans at this point,” he said “It may be [allowed] in the future, but there are a lot of issues with the medical health officer. There are workplace issues. There is a lot of public-policy work in those areas that has to be dealt with.”

Farnworth said as recently as last month, however, that he is amenable to legalizing farm-gate sales, or sales in stores attached to licensed producers’ facilities. He would not provide a timeline for any legal changes.

Jesse McConnell, co-founder and CEO of cannabis producer Rubicon Organics said that his company and others are likely to support being able to sell their products directly to visitors at their farms. After all, that is what happens with wine in the Okanagan. He might even sell seedlings or clippings at the farm gate if Farnworth changed the law to allow it, although he said that LPs are very protective over proprietary cannabis strains.

The main products that he would want to sell at the farm gate would be his company’s proprietary strains of cannabis in dried-flower form.

“You spend a lot of time building up your genetic profiles, going through breeding programs and trying to get that strain that’s perfect for a certain type of consumer,” he said.

The upside of farm-gate sales, McConnell said, is that it could be cheaper to run, with fewer administrative costs, than creating a separate retail operation. The result is that it would be a boon for smaller producers.

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