Kelly Coulter

Ethical Consumption, Cannabis, Feminism, and Environmentalism

Tag: politics

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.

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.

© 2017 Kelly Coulter

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