The Georgia Straight - - Contents - By Piper Courte­nay

Court­land San­dover-sly has helped more than 20 cannabis com­pa­nies tran­si­tion to vi­able busi­nesses.

As the first fi­nan­cial ad­viser in North Amer­ica to se­cure health and den­tal plans for dis­pen­saries, Court­land San­dover-sly is one of the few al­lies fight­ing for small busi­nesses in the shift­ing cannabis econ­omy.

“I was in a unique po­si­tion to help peo­ple who had been ig­nored out­right by the fi­nan­cial-ser­vices in­dus­try,” he says, adding that busi­ness own­ers are usu­ally shocked to dis­cover that they not only qual­ify for health ben­e­fits but can also use tra­di­tional in­vest­ment and in­sur­ance prod­ucts.

The fi­nan­cial con­sul­tant be­gan his ca­reer in film and theatre, but with his en­tre­pre­neur­ial skill set and thirst for in­de­pen­dence, he knew his time in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try had an ex­piry date. Af­ter seven years work­ing as a stage­hand and grip, he left show biz and pur­sued a bach­e­lor of com­merce from Royal Roads Univer­sity on Van­cou­ver Is­land.

Grad­u­at­ing in 2014, he joined Free­dom 55 Fi­nan­cial and be­gan the train­ing pro­gram for fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers. It took just six months be­fore he re­al­ized his work with the cannabis in­dus­try was pulling him away from the com­pany’s tra­di­tional ap­proach to ad­vis­ing busi­nesses.

He knew then it was time to take the full leap to the world of weed.

“To be able to of­fer that same level of con­sid­er­a­tion and dili­gence to the cannabis in­dus­try, I branched out on my own to cre­ate San­dover-sly Fi­nan­cial, a bou­tique fi­nan­cial-ser­vices firm for the cannabis in­dus­try,” he says. Since start­ing his out­fit, he has helped more than 20 com­pa­nies tran­si­tion into vi­able busi­nesses, in­clud­ing dis­pen­saries, grow­ers, and ex­trac­tors.

As one of Canada’s only fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers spe­cial­iz­ing in the weed econ­omy, San­dover-sly says the ma­jor hur­dle for canna busi­nesses stems from po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions strug­gling to evolve with the times.

“One of the big­gest chal­lenges…in the prele­gal­iza­tion era has been the re­luc­tance of govern­ment, at all lev­els, to wholly em­brace the in­dus­try,” he says.

“While mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties like Van­cou­ver and Vic­to­ria have been quick to em­brace these busi­nesses, pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments and, cer­tainly, the fed­eral govern­ment have not.”

This year, San­dover-sly launched Ground­work Con­sult­ing along­side pol­icy con­sul­tant Jamie Shaw and cul­ti­va­tor Travis Lane. The agency was cre­ated to help the group’s col­leagues tran­si­tion into the newly reg­u­lated mar­ket and nav­i­gate the “murky wa­ters” of le­gal­iza­tion.

“The vast eco­nomic un­cer­tainty that the in­dus­try has been fac­ing has taken a toll, not just on the busi­nesses but on the busi­ness own­ers them­selves. Many busi­ness own­ers in the space have sim­ply given up and walked away, which is es­pe­cially dis­heart­en­ing, as it should be their time to shine.”

San­dover-sly also ded­i­cates a large por­tion of his time to vol­un­teer­ing as the pres­i­dent of the B.C. In­de­pen­dent Cannabis As­so­ci­a­tion, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion made up of mem­bers from var­i­ous facets of the prov­ince’s long­stand­ing cannabis econ­omy.

What started in Vic­to­ria as a com­mu­nity fo­rum for B.C.’S thriv­ing cannabis in­dus­try has quickly grown into an ed­u­ca­tional plat­form, of­fer­ing in­dus­try-fo­cused in­for­ma­tional sem­i­nars and net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Just a few weeks shy of the fed­eral le­gal­iza­tion of adult-use cannabis, San­dover-sly be­lieves many busi­ness own­ers and or­ga­ni­za­tions still feel like they are be­ing pushed out of the le­git­i­mate side of the in­dus­try. He hopes to change that with his lat­est ven­ture.

“We [Ground­work Con­sult­ing] hope to show peo­ple that this doesn’t have to be true. There is plenty of room in the le­gal space for every­one.”

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