Kelly Coulter

Ethical Consumption, Cannabis, Feminism, and Environmentalism

Tag: cannabis

Farmers, feds, food and the future of cannabis

Kelly Coulter gives us her take on emerging food security issues and how they parallel changes in the cannabis industry

On Friday June 17th, over 100 farmers and citizens concerned about food security in Canada filled the local Cowichan Valley community centre on Vancouver Island, and were hosted by Alistair MacGregor.  MacGregor is the MP for the riding of Cowichan/Malahat, Justice critic for the NDP and will be sitting on the committee for Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act. He also farms on a small scale.

The Government of Canada is developing a first-ever food policy for the country. The food policy will revolve around the following four themes: increasing access to affordable food; improving health and food safety; conserving our soil, water, and air; and growing more high-quality food. The parallels between food, agriculture and cannabis, especially in regions like the Cowichan, are striking.  It has been estimated that a disproportionate number of cannabis cultivators are located in the region, much like the medicinal cannabis farmers of Northern California.

MP Alistair MacGregor wanted to engage with farmers and food security advocates in person and develop a comprehensive submission to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in order to ensure that their “views and priorities are included in the food policy for Canada. We need to look at the whole picture and bring an integrated approach to federal policy that connects agriculture, rural development, health, and income security.”

The panelists included: Niki Stutynski, a local farmer and member of North Cowichan Agriculture Committee; Chris Groenendijk, local area dairy producer; and Amy Melmock, the Economic Development Manager of the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD). There was an opportunity for Q&A, at which time the subject of “specialty crops” was raised, and parallels were made with the thriving vineyards and potential hop farmers of the region. Micro-breweries and distilleries on Vancouver Island are supported by local industry and consumers, with some private alcohol distributors actively promoting local brands over products made in other locales.

The community is clearly in touch with not only its agricultural priorities, but also strong considerations of environmental stewardship.

Sarah Campbell, director of the Craft Cannabis Association of British Columbia, who lives and works in the Cowichan Valley, was impressed with the turn-out and the calibre of the feedback, and how it paralleled what could happen to the local cannabis economy.

“Farming is a way of life here on Vancouver Island, and it was concerning to hear how a community that was once thriving is now decimated due to strict governmental regulations. Many abattoirs, for example, were forced to shut down or have been driven underground since new rules were implemented in 2007 to address public health and safety. The community itself feels they were not a cause for concern and that the new rules were a way of getting rid of small agriculture. It’s hard not to see the parallels between the agriculture industry and cannabis.”

For more info regarding the proposed Food Policy for Canada check here.

Featured image by David Stanley.

Bringing motherhood to the cannabis workspace

Kelly Coulter talks to Sandra Colasanti about balancing motherhood with an exciting career in the cannabis industry

“When we as a society begin to value mothers as the givers and supporters of life, then we will see social change in ways that matter.” – Ina May Gaskin

There is a woman who has worked harder, longer and with more tenacity than most, and if you were to meet her it is entirely unlikely she would speak of her own accomplishments. She would talk about her family, her business and how much she cares about the future of the industry, and especially, her hopes for more access to quality cannabis. Her name is Sandra Colasanti and she is possibly one of the most giving people in the Canadian cannabis scene.

Her journey began in 2001 when her husband, Remo, started growing his own cannabis to help manage excruciating pain he suffered after a career-ending back injury. Although Sandra is not a consumer of cannabis, she recognized its healing value, as well as the importance for individuals to be able to cultivate their own—and she made it a priority to help facilitate this need.

As a professional woman who had worked in sales her entire life, the jump into the medical cannabis industry seemed like a natural evolution. In the early days of the MMAR, the need for qualified, reliable and accurate information became paramount.

Sandra focused her enquiry entirely on plant nutrients, as she saw the relationship between the efficacy of the growing methods and the quality of the cannabis produced as critical to medical needs. Her breadth of knowledge in cultivation, nutrients and plant behaviour is sought after by even the most experienced professional growers.

Her family comes first though, and as much as Sandra is all business, it is her role as mother, grandmother and wife that will make her smile, laugh and share her favourite stories. Women who are currently entering into the industry or have been working hard to make their way in recent years know that the reality of balancing work and the love of family is possibly an even greater challenge than working in an industry that is historically dominated by men.

Sandra has been a vocal patient advocate for over 16 years, and knows the next 16 years are going to change our world for the better. “Growing cannabis is incredibly challenging, and most people prefer not to grow their own. They need to have an option as well.”  She says she believes that licensed producers definitely have the ability to grow medical cannabis that is as high quality and effective as what can be grown at home.

“That’s why we started our nutrient company,” she says, referring to Remo Nutrients, which she co-founded in 2014. “We’ve been experimenting with different cannabis fertilizers in Remo’s garden for years, and we developed a solution that is completely safe for growing, while also helping to produce safe high quality end-results that patients can expect.”

It is not just this “giving” that the mothers of the cannabis industry bring to the table: most easily recognizable in women like Sandra is the level of caring that goes into their products and their business relationships. Sandra has been around for a long time, but her recognition is muted by her nature to give any recognition she gets away to others. She is a person who cares deeply about the integrity of her words. In the future, her values will be a cherished commodity as the cannabis industry moves into the unchartered waters of legalized and regulated cannabis in Canada and beyond.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

What is the perfect price for legal weed?

A hypothetical cost analysis for undercutting the black market

*The estimates in this article are open to debate, but they make the point.

Let’s just say that, hypothetically speaking, the current black market in Canada is based on three models of cultivation. The first model is the seasonal outdoor grower, the second is the hobby indoor grower and the third is the commercial indoor grower. Model one harvests every fall and sells his/her crop based on market prices which vary greatly from province to province, in the vicinity of 900-2500 dollars per pound. The second model harvests casually and sells privately and in small amounts ranging from 125-250 an ounce. The third group harvests every 3 weeks to 90 days and sells based on market prices ranging anywhere from $1400 to $3000.

According to a recent article in Lift, the average price of a gram of cannabis in a dispensary is $10, which equates to $4535 per pound. This price is based on a perverted/distorted marketplace and should not be taken into consideration when trying to set acceptable tax structure. Unfortunately, this is what is being done, and it is a critical mistake.

Examining the profit margins

If the average profit margin on 100 pounds of cannabis, based on an annual harvest for models one and two, is 90-250K and 2-10K respectively, cannabis cultivation would appear to remain profitable and worthwhile. For model three, an annual yield can bring in millions of dollars depending on the size of the operation. Model three also happens to be the most expensive cultivation method and the easiest to trace.

The only way the mandate to defund organized crime will be fulfilled is to effectively remove profit incentive. The fact that only 5% of the cannabis trade is affiliated with “organized crime” should make this goal attainable, but this does not mean that the black market is going anywhere at all. In the wild and wacky world of weed, the average cultivator, farmer and consumer are not gun-wielding gangsters, but ordinary folks who either enjoy farming and the additional income or are just growing a bit extra to subsidize their own consumption.

Defunding organized crime

If the federal government really wants to defund organized crime, two things need to happen. The government should do a cost analysis of what it really costs to produce a pound of weed and then tax accordingly at a rate, bringing the final retail price in under, or close to, what would make this commodity so profitable for the “bad guys.” The current large commercial indoor grow-ops that are typically favoured for covert operations are not the most cost-effective method. By adopting and incentivizing more visible, environmentally-friendly and naturally-grown cannabis the government will effectively kill two birds with one stone.

In the future, the price of cannabis will likely become more in line with other agricultural commodities.  If we approach this from a public safety standpoint, and not from a distorted version of what has been the norm for far too long, the potential for success increases. We have to be prepared to think differently—this is likely our greatest challenge moving forward.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for the Canadian cannabis industry to reflect

In honour of International Women’s Day, the cannabis industry must take a good long look at how it will not only include and support women, but also raise…

In honour of International Women’s Day, the cannabis industry must take a good long look at how it will not only include and support women, but also raise them up. This will require forward thinking folks, and some fierceness on all of our parts.

There are initiatives from within the sector, but also significantly outside of the industry, that women would be well-advised to tap into.  The recent announcement by the Canadian and American federal governments of the creation of a Canada−United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders—a joint initiative meant to help businesses owned by women as a way to contribute to economic growth, competitiveness and the integration of the two economies—is a signal of what is to come for all women.

Some of us may feel like we have been here before.  In her recent editorial for Maclean’s, Arlene Dickinson pulls no punches:

“We already know the challenges that women face when starting a business. We know that financial markets are tilted against women, and that, as a rule, women have more difficulty accessing capital from investors and banks alike.

“But we also know that women-owned businesses, on average, perform very well compared to those owned solely by men. And we know that if a company’s board includes a strong contingent of women, it will more likely do better. So, smart companies are now taking steps to seek out and support women entrepreneurs and leaders—not out of pity, but out of self-interest.”

The women of cannabis should embrace such initiatives with optimism, but also be willing to participate with a sense of pride in their duty to pioneer for the generations of women who will come behind them.

The tech sector has in recent years come to face its own shortcomings in diversity.  Uber, the golden child of the sharing economy, is being hit hard by its own much-publicized misogynistic leadership. This is not only bad for the women affected but it is really REALLY bad for business.  There are parallels here for our own sector that we can learn from as men and women who truly want the best for the industry.

Women are at the heart of the cannabis industry as much as men. When Melissa Etheridge spoke at the inaugural Women Grow Leadership Summit, her words garnered the heaps of affirmation that every woman has known for as long as women have been healing with plants. “We are at a paradigm of all of this wellness and it is now time for us to become balanced.” Ms. Etheridge was referring to our relationship with our healing attributes and our relationship with the patriarchy of money and business.  We owe this shift in thought and practise not only to ourselves, but also  to our daughters and grand-daughters and the young women who will come behind us.

Happy International Women’s Day to ALL the women of cannabis, the future is ours, if we take it!

Featured image via Donnie Ray Jones.

© 2017 Kelly Coulter

Website created by Scott Glennie