Inside View: July 2018
By Gary Jones
The rise of cannabis - is it over yet?
By Gary Jones
There used to be a time when the morning business news on the radio was all about the auto industry or electronics or energy or precious metals and the price of gold. But there’s not a day now without mention of activities in the marijuana industry.
Yesterday was news of yet another (humungous) takeover and other mergers. The numbers are just mind-boggling. Today was a report that greenhouse vegetable growers are justifying the switch because it’s ‘no longer profitable to grow food’. Never do I recall the greenhouse industry being so front and centre in mainstream media.
If, as the old adage says, there is no such thing as bad publicity, then this must surely bode well for our industry. If nothing else, its putting greenhouses out there as a viable career choice to potential new entrants. Which has to be good, considering demand. Just this week, a local licensed marijuana producer reached out with a job posting as they are “in need of 150 Plant Technicians by September 2018 in addition to many other greenhouse positions”. When did you last hire 150 new people? “Cannabis could become a major disruptor in the industry” says Hank Daniszewski.1 It already is.
Even prior to the emerging weed field, the BCLNA had embarked on a five phase research project looking at the labour market (‘BC Ag-Horticulture Landscape Labour Market Information (LMI) Research Project’). Horticulture has been struggling with the issue of labour availability (and cost) for some time, together with energy, import substitution and (now) zoning of agricultural operations. The advent of a crop like marijuana that many people connect to in a deeply emotional way (quite literally) polarizes viewpoints and magnifies the issues ten-fold.
Zoning of agricultural land is a renewed hot topic, now on many a political agenda out west. According to Jan Jacob Mekes, “The Delta Optimist reported on a moratorium by Central Saanich, asking the provincial government of British Columbia to halt any cannabis production on prime agricultural lands until a proper analysis of what it could mean to food production.”2 In the same vein, the Aboriginal community has also been looking hard and long at the subject. Indeed, they came up with a big ask, seeking that Bill C-45, “be amended to allow for a delay in implementation of up to a year.”3 According to John Paul Tasker, CBC News, the Senate’s Aboriginal Peoples committee suggested “the government should take the extra time to make certain “culturally sensitive” materials are available to warn Indigenous peoples about the risks of consuming cannabis, and to negotiate a revenue-sharing deal with First Nations governments to ensure they get a cut of the millions of dollars expected to be collected in excise taxes on the drug.”3 Not surprisingly, the prime minister quickly responded by saying that the delay won’t happen.
Then there are details around how we sell recreational marijuana. One group seeking clarification is the managers of farmers markets. Will they be allowed to sell this crop?
Looking at some of the investment figures, there’s obviously much at stake. While it may ultimately prove to be a “race to the bottom”4 as one commentator put it, the early adopters (=risk takers) stand to make lots of money before the crop becomes another commodity. Then the overseas market opens up. Even Malta is opening a new greenhouse for growing pot. Maybe this crop is different, and its Canada’s turn to export to other countries a crop that we can do well. Payback time for the demise of many of our cut flower specialties to foreign imports.
There’s still much to be decided, but by the time you read this, much will have already changed. Just like the daily news reports.
- Hank Daniszewski. ‘A ‘pot’ of gold for greenhouse operators.’ London Free Press. April 20, 2018
- Jan Jacob Mekes, ‘The Great Canadian Switcheroo’. April 20 2018. www.hortidaily.com
- John Paul Tasker, CBC News. May 2018.
- Kris Krane, 4Front, “Cannabis Cultivation Will Be a Race to The Bottom”. April 25 2018. www.hortidaily.com
Gary Jones is co-chair of horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langley, BC. He sits on several industry committees and welcomes comments at Gary.Jones@kpu.ca.