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VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s solicitor general says the government has been working hard to transition away from the province’s “well-entrenched” illegal marijuana industry.
Mike Farnworth says in a statement that the government recognizes cannabis production has been a significant economic driver in many rural regions and is committed to supporting a legal, small-scale marijuana industry.
One year after legalization, Farnworth says 144 private cannabis retail store licences have been issued and 33 are approved in principle, while 10 government-owned stores will be operating by the end of the year.
The statement says officers in the Community Safety Unit have helped reduce the availability of illegal marijuana by following up with unlicensed retailers to raise awareness about the regulations, penalties and consequences of breaking the law.
Farnworth will hold a news conference later today to discuss the second phase of legalization of cannabis products including edibles, extracts, oils and topicals.
The statement says the earliest those items will be available is December because producers must provide 60 days notice to Health Canada of their intention to sell them.
“As this new industry matures, B.C. will continue to take the steps necessary to make sure it is safe and successful,” Farnworth says.
“For example, we know there is interest in farm-to-gate sales, particularly from small-scale producers, and that’s an option we’re considering in determining how to support B.C.’s cannabis industry.”
VANCOUVER — The weed is expensive, the selection is limited, the black market persists, and licensed stores are scarce.
It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened. While many residents remain proud of Canada for bucking prohibition, a lot still buy cannabis on the sly, because taxes and other issues mean high-quality bud can cost nearly twice what it did before legalization.
Much of the drug’s production and distribution over the years has been controlled by outlaw groups, including the Hells Angels, and replacing such criminality with safe, regulated sales is a key goal of legalization.
Yet legal sales in the first year are expected to total just $1 billion, an amount dwarfed by an illegal market still estimated at $5 billion to $7 billion.
“One customer told me, ‘I love you and I want to support you, but I can’t buy all my cannabis here. It’s too expensive,'” said Jeremy Jacob, co-owner of Village Bloomery, a Vancouver pot store that feels more like a museum gift shop, with its high ceilings, graceful lighting, tidy wooden shelves and locked white cabinets hiding packages of marijuana. “The black-market producers are being well rewarded by legalization.”
The nation has seen no sign of increases in impaired driving or underage use since it joined Uruguay as the only countries to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis to adults—those over 19 in most Canadian provinces. Delegations from other countries, including Mexico, have visited Canada as they explore the possibility of rewriting their own marijuana laws.
But officials promised legalization would be a process, not an event, and they weren’t wrong. Kinks abound, from what many consider wasteful packaging requirements and uneven quality to the slow pace of licensing stores and growers across most of the country.
Canada allowed provinces to shape their own laws within a federal framework, including setting the minimum age and deciding whether to distribute through state-run or private retail outlets. Some have done better than others.
The result: There now are more than 560 licensed stores across Canada, but more than half are in Alberta, the fourth-largest province.
Ontario and Quebec, which together make up two-thirds of Canada’s population, have only about 45 shops between them. In Newfoundland, Canada’s easternmost province, pot shop owner Tom Clarke said he’s about to hit $1.5 million in sales but isn’t making any money, thanks to rules that limit him to just an eight per cent commission.
Online sales, designed to ensure far-flung communities can access the market even if they don’t have a licensed shop, have been underwhelming, at least partly because consumers are reluctant to pay with a credit card if that transaction might come to the attention of U.S.-based banks or border guards, said Megan McCrae, board chair of the Cannabis Council of Canada industry group.
Nowhere are the challenges of legalization more pronounced than B.C., which has had a flourishing cannabis culture since U.S. military draft-dodgers settled there during the Vietnam War era. They grew what became known as “B.C. Bud,” high quality marijuana cherished by American consumers.
In Vancouver, which has 2.2 million residents and is Canada’s third-largest city, there was tacit approval of marijuana even before legalization. Though storefront distribution of medical marijuana never was allowed by law, about 100 dispensaries operated in the city before legalization arrived.
Around the province, authorities have visited 165 illegal dispensaries in the past year and warned them to get licensed or shut down. Despite some raids, the government has been reluctant to close them all before more licensed shops open.
Licensing has been glacial, though, thanks to a change in power in the provincial government and cities being slow to approve zoning and other requirements, partly because the province has no tax-revenue-sharing agreement with local jurisdictions. Regulatory hurdles have also made it tough for B.C.’s many small growers to be licensed; instead, production is dominated by large corporations churning out pot by the ton from massive greenhouses.
Regulators hoped to have 250 legal shops operating in B.C. by now; instead, they have only about 80 private stores and seven government-run shops. Through July, legal sales in B.C. were a meagre $25 million. Alberta, with a smaller population, hit $145 million.
“Everybody still uses their neighbours and their back yards,” said Susan Chappelle of the British Columbia Independent Cannabis Association.
Nevertheless, the legal market has fans. Vancouver resident Sarah Frank, who used to grow her own marijuana plants, loves that she can walk into a clean, welcoming, legal shop and walk out with a few grams of her favourite cannabis, actor Seth Rogen’s Houseplant Sativa brand.
“You don’t feel like a criminal,” said Frank, 41. “I have friends who can’t travel to the States because 20 years ago they got busted with a joint.”
Some who want to get into the legal business are still waiting. With legalization looming last year, Chris Clay shut down his gray-market pot shop on Vancouver Island for what he thought would be a few months, eager to apply for a licence and reopen. A year later, he’s still waiting.
Some of his workers went on unemployment and eventually found jobs elsewhere. He’s barely avoided bankruptcy, and though local officials have finally started handling applications, he says it will likely be another three to six months before he’s back in business.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “Tourists have been driving up and down the island all summer, saying, ‘Where can we go? Where can we go?'”
For Mike Babins, who runs Evergreen Cannabis, the Vancouver shop where Frank buys her Seth Rogen-brand weed, it’s just fine that legalization is developing slowly.
“Everyone’s watching us,” he said. “If anything goes wrong here, we’re screwing it up for the whole world.”
VANCOUVER — Lululemon Athletica Inc. is investigating reports of worker abuse at a manufacturing facility in Bangladesh that has supplied the athleisure retailer.
“We take these allegations very seriously and we are committed to a full, independent investigation,” the company said in an emailed statement.
The Guardian newspaper reported Monday that some female workers at the factory, owned and run by another corporation, say they suffered verbal and physical abuse, including being slapped and called sexist insults. Some workers also reported being paid the equivalent of about $140 a month.
Some of the company’s employees that are part of its social responsibility and production team visited the factory this past weekend to speak with workers and learn more, the Vancouver-based company said.
The company’s “production at this factory is extremely limited,” it said, and “there are currently no orders planned” for it.
Lululemon “will take appropriate action” depending on the investigation’s findings. It has partnered with Impactt, a London, U.K.-based ethical trade consultancy, on the investigation.
Lululemon’s vendor code of ethics requires the companies it works with to “ensure the workplace is free from sexual, psychological, physical, and verbal harassment, abuse or intimidation and that every employee is treated with respect and dignity,” among other requirements.
The company does not tolerate any violation of its code, the retailer said, adding it “will ensure workers are protected from any form of abuse and are treated fairly.”
Bangladesh is a centre of low-cost garment production that has a troubled past.
More than 1,100 workers died and 2,500 were injured in 2013 after a building that housed garment factories—some of them suppliers to Loblaw Cos. Ltd.’s Joe Fresh and other Western brands—collapsed.
The disaster followed a fire several months earlier that killed 112 people, and precipitated calls for Western retailers to take a more active role in ensuring safety standards are taken seriously.
The British Columbia Securities Commission is marking Investor Education Month by promoting a free, online tool to empower millennials to begin investing.
It’s called “Get Started with Investing,” and it features 11 short videos, interactive tools and educational articles about putting your money to work.
The reason BCSC targeted millennials with the campaign is because its research showed that the young generation is unsure about where to look for information.
“We know that many millennials in B.C. want to start investing but don’t know where to turn for help,” BCSC director of communications and education Pamela McDonald said in a press release. “While investing might not be right the right choice for everyone, starting early and creating a plan is a great way to meet your financial goals.”
WorkSafeBC reports there was more than $1.1 million in job-related disability claims for workers aged 14 years or younger between 2007 and 2017.
As a result, the B.C. government is asking the public to weigh in on which duties or types of jobs children should be allowed to perform in the workplace.
The government passed amendments to the Employment Standards Act earlier this year that raised the minimum working age from 12 to 16, with 14- and 15-year-olds allowed to perform light work. Regulations will be developed based on this engagement process, which is required before the amendments come into effect.
The public engagement will be open until Friday, Nov. 15, and it essentially asks the public to define “light work.”
Certain jobs are already exempt from age restrictions in B.C., including babysitters, newspaper carriers, performers in recorded and live entertainment, and students in work-study programs. These jobs will not be affected by the new age requirements or rules around light work.
To have your say, visit the government’s public engagement site.
TORONTO — Telus Corp. is dramatically increasing the size of its home and business security operations with a deal to buy ADT Security Services Canada Inc. for roughly $700 million.
The Vancouver-based company said Tuesday the purchase is part of its move to provide monitoring for fires, floods, carbon monoxide leaks and break-ins as well as internet-controlled automation features.
“Importantly, the ADT Canada acquisition … also supports the continued advancement of Telus’s health strategy,” including remote patient care, Telus said in a statement.
ADT Canada employs about 1,000 and has approximately 500,000 residential and business customers—about five times the number at Telus SmartHome Security and Secure Business, which was launched last year.
ADT Inc. said Tuesday it will pay a one-time special dividend of up to US$550 million, or 70 cents per share, for its shareholders when the deal closes.
“The sale of our more capital intensive Canadian operations enables us to sharpen our focus on the exciting growth and higher margin opportunities in the U.S., where we can more efficiently invest our time and resources,” ADT Inc. president and CEO Jim DeVries said in a statement from Boca Raton, Fla.
ADT Inc. also said there will be a non-cash charge in the third quarter in connection with the transaction, but didn’t provide an estimate.
VANCOUVER — A downturn in B.C.’s lumber industry is a chance to refocus on getting more money out of provincial forests, Premier John Horgan said Friday.
He told hundreds of delegates at the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities that the forest industry has focused for too long on sending raw logs offshore without adding value.
Dozens of forest companies have closed or curtailed operations in B.C. over what Horgan said is dwindling supply and an operating model that moves timber to market without tending to a renewable resource.
He said the province has dwindling fibre because of fires, pine beetle infestations and an operations model that gets timber cut and to market as fast as possible.
Instead, the focus needs to be on the renewable resource over the long term, Horgan said.
“That means focusing on getting more money out of our forests, not more wood out of our forests.”
Earlier on Friday, convention delegates approved a motion asking the province to reconsider its decision to transfer $25 million in funding from an economic development program for rural communities to a support program for forest workers.
The government announced a $69 million aid program last week for communities and workers hurt by the industry downturn.
Horgan said the funding diversion is not a cut and is intended to help people and communities in difficulty.
“We are feeling pain in the communities, we need to band together and that’s why we curtailed the rural development fund so we can focus direction on people who are in distress,” he said.
The B.C. government’s website says the Rural Dividend Program has been suspended for the year, not cancelled. The fund supports small and Indigenous communities in diversifying their economies.
Horgan told the crowd the money would be reinstated as the province monitors the forestry aid program.
The premier said he met recently with five CEOs of the major forest companies in B.C. and they had a candid discussion.
“It’s hard for me to listen to companies say they’re in distress when they’re making multimillion-dollar investments in the United States and Europe and around the world.”
He said he wants the forest industry to be successful.
“It’s not about reducing their ability, it’s about opening opportunities for markets, and that’s why I’m so excited about cross-laminated timber,” he said, referring to wood product that can be used for construction of high-rise buildings.
A convoy of as many as 200 logging trucks is to arrive in Vancouver Wednesday as owners and drivers highlight the effects from dozens of mill closures and thousands of layoffs in B.C.’s forest industry.
The convoy will begin in Merritt. It will be escorted by police to downtown Vancouver where local and provincial politicians are gathered for the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
Merritt business owners and log haulers Howard McKimmon and Frank Etchart are organizing the convoy and say participants have come from all parts of the province.
McKimmon says they have lost work because sawmill closures mean they are no longer needed to carry logs to the mills.
He says the effect of the forest industry downturn is widespread, disrupting businesses from barbers to grocery stores and everything in between.
“Forest-based communities depend on forestry jobs,” McKimmon says.
He says small-town B.C. is dying and he’s calling for changes to the stumpage system to revive the industry.
Currently stumpage fees are paid annually by businesses cutting timber on Crown-owned land.
Critics say if the fee was calculated more frequently, it might more accurately reflect the type and amount of wood being cut, potentially reducing costs for lumber companies.
The convoy was due to set out at 9 a.m. for the roughly three-hour drive to Vancouver.
VANCOUVER — The B.C. government is increasing the amount of money municipalities can receive to buy land for child-care centres in a bid to open up more licensed spaces.
Under the changes, municipalities and regional districts can apply for up to $4 million, an increase of $3 million from the previous cap on funding applications.
Katrine Conroy, the minister of children and family development, says local governments have asked for help to create child-care spaces to help attract employers and boost their economies.
The province says Osoyoos received $900,000 under the program last year to create 18 new licensed child-care spaces at a centre in the community.
In last spring’s budget, the province allocated $1.3 billion to be spent over three years on its child-care program.
The NDP promised in the last election campaign to provide $10-a-day child care, which is being tested until next March at 53 facilities across B.C.
VANCOUVER — The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada is inviting comment from the public and Indigenous groups until Oct. 20 on a Haisla Nation proposal to build a floating LNG project near the northern B.C. community of Kitimat.
The proposed Cedar LNG project would super cool gas to produce three to four million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year.
Construction is proposed to start in 2022 and continue until 2025, contingent on regulatory approvals, First Nations consultation and a final investment decision by the Haisla-owned LNG company.
The agency, the new federal regulator created in August, says input will be used to prepare a summary of issues, adding it is also seeking input on a proposal from the province to assume conduct of the environmental impact assessment process.
According to a project summary, Cedar LNG would receive gas from a link to the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline, the same link that is to supply the $40-billion LNG Canada project now under construction also at Kitimat.
The summary says the project would need about 200 megawatts of power, preferably from the BC Hydro transmission grid but potentially self-generated.
It says it expects between 40 and 50 LNG carrier vessels would call at the facility each year.