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By the ounce  

NDP should be ashamed

A top B.C. Liberal critic says he would shut down all unlicensed cannabis stores.

Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris, the provincial critic for Public Safety and Solicitor General, says the B.C. NDP government should be ashamed for allowing unlicensed dispensaries to freely compete with licensed cannabis retailers.

“I would make sure the law was enforced,” says Morris in an interview with the oz.

“If we have illegal cannabis stores we would be shutting them down. Tolerating illegal unlawful activity in any respect when it’s been brought to your attention is not the way to go, so we would be doing a strict enforcement regime there.”

There are numerous unlicensed cannabis stores on Indigenous land throughout the Okanagan.

Cannabis retailers have been pressuring the B.C. NDP to apply cannabis laws equally on First Nations lands. Morris says he’s heard from people across the province who are extremely frustrated.

A chain of emails dating back a year ago obtained by the oz. shows retailers have been trying to work with officials and communicating their concerns with the RCMP’s Community Safety Unit and the B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch about unlicensed stores, but they’re being bounced back and forth.

Government defers to the RCMP, while the RCMP defers to the government — and nobody claims responsibility.

Morris says laws of general application are applicable on First Nations reserves as well, but the Solicitor General sets the tone.

“It’s like a hot potato,” says Morris. “They keep tossing it from one person to the other hoping that it’ll cool down and somebody will run with it.”

Morris says those following the legal path put thousands of dollars on the line and follow all regulations, yet find themselves competing with unlicensed stores that don’t play by the same rules.

“Shame on government for allowing that to happen,” says Morris.

“It’s a rigorous process; they disclose their entire life to the folks that are screening for this. They finally get a licence, and at the end of the day, they get 11 shops opening up in direct competition with what they do and they can’t make a go of it,” he says

“Yet, they get blown off. There’s a responsibility on government to correct that.”

Meanwhile, unlicensed operators are buying products from illegal sources, says Morris.

“It’s bad news all the way around,” he says.

Morris suggests the RCMP’s Community Safety Unit is probably under-resourced to do the massive job they’re tasked with. Morris says he’s written to Mike Farnworth, Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General, and has had private meetings with him on the issue.

“Nothing has changed,” he says.

“The fact that nobody has been paying attention to this is an issue that government needs to tackle head on.

“Public health is at risk here… there’s safety, there’s health, there’s criminal activity, there’s a number of factors involved here I think that government has to turn their mind to.”

Still, delays continue to defer a review of the controversial file.

A B.C. Auditor General review of cannabis licensing and regulations is being pushed forward to sometime in 2023-2024.

Morris says he understands the Auditor General has a long list of priorities.

“It is something that should have been looked at sooner than later,” he says. “What can we do to plug some of these holes that still causes our black market to flourish in this province?”

David Wylie is publisher of the oz. Get in touch by emailing [email protected].



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Are you still high?

Researchers say a cannabis buzz lasts between 3-10 hours

Say you smoked a joint a few hours ago. You’re feeling a little tired and your eyes are a tad red.

Are you OK to drive?

That depends on who you are – and who you ask.

Research from the University of Sydney found a window of impairment from cannabis that’s anywhere from three to 10 hours.

“Our analysis indicates that impairment may last up to 10 hours if high doses of THC are consumed orally,” says lead author Dr. Danielle McCartney from the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics.

“A more typical duration of impairment, however, is four hours, when lower doses of THC are consumed via smoking or vapourization and simpler tasks are undertaken.

“This impairment may extend up to six or seven hours if higher doses of THC are inhaled and complex tasks, such as driving, are assessed.”

A moderate dose in the study was considered 10 mg of THC, which is the limit on a single legal package of edibles.

The study also found that impairment is much more predictable in occasional cannabis users than regular cannabis users. Heavy users showed significant tolerance to the effects of cannabis on driving and cognitive function.

The question of how long someone is impaired is an especially important one in the context of impaired driving.

Another key question is how long THC stays in the body.

“THC can be detected in the body weeks after cannabis consumption while it is clear that impairment lasts for a much shorter period of time,” says Academic Director of the Lambert Initiative, Prof. Iain McGregor.

“Our legal frameworks probably need to catch up with that and, as with alcohol, focus on the interval when users are more of a risk to themselves and others. Prosecution solely on the basis of the presence of THC in blood or saliva is manifestly unjust, McGregor said.

“Laws should be about safety on the roads, not arbitrary punishment. Given that cannabis is legal in an increasing number of jurisdictions, we need an evidence-based approach to drug-driving laws.”

However, Canadian politicians and police continue to legislate and practice what McGregor calls “manifestly unjust” methods.

RCMP say officers are trained to detect if you are driving under the influence of a drug and enforce drug-impaired driving laws using standard field sobriety testing (the one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus and walk-and-turn), as well as using police drug recognition experts.

There are 1,000 certified drug recognition experts across Canada as of February, and counting.

“In addition to these tests, the new legislation (Bill C-46) permits law enforcement to use approved drug screening devices to detect the recent presence of several drugs, including any or all of THC from cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine,” say police.

During a roadside stop, RCMP can demand an oral fluid sample if they suspect someone is driving under the influence of a drug.

In fact, Bill C-46 encourages police to take a blood sample as close to driving as possible.

“Obtaining a blood sample in a timely manner is therefore critical to proving these offences, since levels
of a drug in the bloodstream can decline rapidly after consumption, particularly for smoked cannabis,” says the bill.

That approach goes against an analysis published in the April edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which argues roadside tests and so-called drug experts are not proven.

“The validity of both Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and the drug recognition expert program for cannabis impairment remains uncertain, and other methods to either complement or replace these approaches should be investigated,” it says.

With legal cannabis use increasing around the world, impaired driving laws need to catch up with the science.

David Wylie is publisher of the oz. Find print copies of the oz. magazine at Spiritleaf locations around the Okanagan, Green Gaia in Penticton and Summerland, as well as Lake Country Cannabis.
Email the author at [email protected].



Exorbitant cannabis fees

The cost of doing business can be revealing.

Take West Kelowna. It has three basic tiers for business licence renewals:

  • One at $60 a year
  • A second at $135 a year that takes into account a fire inspection
  • A third at $360 a year that considers a need for both fire and policing.

Cannabis stores fall into the third category – along with body rub parlours, escort services, and nightclubs.

To its credit, West Kelowna is by far one of the most affordable places in the Okanagan to renew a business licence as a cannabis retailer.

Other communities in the Valley single them out with sky-high fees.

Across the bridge in Kelowna, the yearly business licence renewal fee for a cannabis store is $9,465.

Pressure is mounting for municipalities to consider treating them equitably.

Earlier this month, Vancouver councillors voted to lower that city’s whopping $34,000 yearly fee.

(In contrast, Vancouver liquor stores pay $429.)

Sarah Ballantyne, who owns Spiritleaf Vernon, wrote a letter earlier this month to Mayor Victor Cumming requesting the city consider lowering its fees.

“As you know, the Cannabis Retail Application fee for the City of Vernon is $5,000 and the Cannabis Business Licensing fee is set at $2,000/annually,” wrote Ballantyne. “This fee is much higher than any other business licensing fee in Vernon.”

She argues a liquor store similar in size to her cannabis store would pay a much lower rate of $185 per year.

Ballantyne says keeping the fee so high is unreasonable.

Vernon’s $2,000 renewal fee is more than double any other renewal fee — except that of a casino, which is also $2,000.

The City of Vernon says its administration will be reviewing the fees and reporting back to council. That report is anticipated later this year.

“City fees are supposed to be commensurate with the cost to provide the service,” says city spokeswoman Christy Poirier.

“When the renewal fee of $2,000 was recommended and adopted, the city had the experience of over a dozen retailers in the community pre-legalization.

“The service process required a great deal of staff time through various departments, including Planning, Building and Licensing, Bylaws, and sometimes Fire, which led to the fee that was recommended.”

It’s clear that there’s still a ways to go before cannabis retail is treated just like any other business.

Municipalities in the Okanagan should look to Penticton, where the yearly business license fee for a cannabis store is $180 —the same as other retail stores.

David Wylie is publisher of the oz. Find print copies of the oz. magazine at Spiritleaf locations around the Okanagan, Green Gaia in Penticton and Summerland, as well as Lake Country Cannabis. Email the author at [email protected].



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What is Cannabis 3.0?

We spoke with chief operating officer at The Valens Company, Chantel Popoff.

With Cannabis 3.0 on the horizon and Valens’ acquisition of edibles maker LYF, the Kelowna company is well positioned to offer consumers cannabis products that fit into their every-day life.

They’re poised for growth in Canada and beyond.

the oz. – What exactly is Cannabis 3.0?

Popoff – Essentially 3.0 products focus on bringing the benefits of cannabis derivatives into more mainstream health products already present in consumers’ homes.

Some examples would be:

  • THC or CBD-infused bath bombs
  • THC-infused lip balm
  • THC or CBD-infused honey
  • CBD-infused topical creams.

These are not just for pain relief, but also every-day items such as moisturizers.

Essentially, the more advanced we get in cannabis products, the more mainstream or the more regular common items in the household are going to be carrying cannabis derivatives. 4.0 will see an even broader spectrum of cannabis infused deliverables made available to the consumer.

the oz. – How do companies prepare for this evolution in cannabis?

Popoff – Be able to predict what consumers are looking for by watching the trends that have happened down in the U.S. California is a great example.

Companies were offering cannabis-infused products such as skin creams, moisturizers, and every-day food items such as salad dressings, honey, and coffee over three years ago — these are things consumers have in their every-day lives and now they want the benefits of cannabis infused into them.

Consumers don’t want to have to change their habits or their day-to-day routine, rather they just want to do a direct substitution of cannabis infused products into their everyday purchasing habits.

The success of being able to position yourself to support 3.0 comes down to innovation, quality and consistency.

the oz. – How many products has Valens now released in total?

Popoff – We’ve manufactured just over 190 different SKUs across nine different product categories within the space. Because we do both white-label manufacturing as well as manufacturing for other LPs, we’ve really been able to focus in and gain experience in a broad spectrum of different categories, which really is what led us to looking at LYF as a great partner for Valens and a great next stepping stone to be able to jump into a vertical we weren’t already playing in.

the oz. – When and how did LYF actually come to Valens’ attention

Popoff – They’re located just down the road from us, so from a geographical perspective, the location made a lot of sense.

We looked at LYF early on as a potential manufacturer for us simply because they had an expertise in novel product creation. They were looking at infusion technologies and different white-label manufacturing very similar to what we do here but focused on the food space.

The thing that made LYF different to us in our eyes versus other edibles manufacturers is that they focused on the broader spectrum of products.

LYF was focused on manufacturing every-day foods that support more of the 3.0 categories, such as desserts, energy bars, fruit, nut and seed mixes, things that were more specialized and more CPG (consumer packaged goods) aligned.

Currently, LYF holds capabilities to produce things such as real fruit gummies, caramel-filled bars, peanut butter cups, candies, granola products — but they’re also looking at the different consumer trends that clients are after, such as plant-based, sugar-free, and natural ingredient offerings.

They’re also looking at raw ingredient or raw processing, which is very important in the market today.

Being able to add our S?RSE Technology, which is water-soluble technology, into those products makes it not only more shelf stable but also tasteless and odourless, which is very important for folks somewhat hesitant getting into cannabis edibles because of potential cannabis taste and smell.

the oz. – How many people are employed by Valens?

Popoff – We are at just over 250, and we’re growing quickly. We expect to have close to 300 employees by the middle of summer.

the oz. – What is Valens doing to position itself for a more global market?

Popoff – We’ve been focusing on the international scene for quite some time. We have received our import and export licences for products in Australia and we’ve also completed our first successful shipment to a partner that we have in Denmark for an R&D initiative.

We are looking to obtain our EU GMP certification in our new K2 facility which is expected in fiscal 2021. We are going to continue to focus on quality and consistency and making sure that we have the necessary proceeds in which to grow.

We recently closed a bought deal financing for total gross proceeds of almost $40 million, with $32 million of those proceeds to be used for M&A and business expansion opportunities in international markets.

the oz. – What is the one change that Health Canada could make to current regulations that would most benefit the industry as a whole?

Popoff – I think there are two changes that would benefit the industry. The first would be increasing the THC limit per pack from the 10 mg allowed today to 100 mg per pack that are commonly found in the US market.

That would be a win-win — not only for ourselves and other manufacturers — but also for consumers because it drives the price down and margins up, allowing for more units or more serving sizes per pack.

In addition, we would love to see the continued growth and deregulation of CBD. In the United States, CBD infused health and beauty products are available almost everywhere as over-the-counter items.

The more that we can make CBD a mainstream ingredient, the more consumers will benefit and the more the market will benefit. It also provides an additional category for CPG and wellness companies to play in.

the oz. – We look forward to seeing what you cook up.

The first Valens/LYF formulated products are likely to be available sometime this spring.

Popoff says the team at LYF has a few secrets, so expect to see cannabis offerings that are outside the box.

Find print copies of the oz. magazine at Spiritleaf locations around the Okanagan, Green Gaia in Penticton and Summerland, as well as Lake Country Cannabis.

Email the author at [email protected].



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About the Author

David Wylie is publisher of the oz. — a cannabis newsletter that covers the growing legal weed industry from the Okanagan Valley.

He has been a journalist for nearly two decades, working in newsrooms all over Canada.  

David is active as okanaganz on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. Subscribe to the email newsletter at okanaganz.com.

An ounce of info goes a long way.

 

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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