As le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana nears, how will it ef­fect Vic­to­ria County eco­nom­i­cally?

Austin wants Vic­to­ria County to get fair share of eco­nomic growth

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - CAR­OLYN BAR­BER

With fed­eral le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational cannabis less than nine months away, these are in­ter­est­ing times for an Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Of­fi­cer (EDO) in Cape Bre­ton.

“I’ve been watch­ing this for a while and look­ing for eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties so the County of Vic­to­ria gets its fair share of eco­nomic growth from it,” said Vic­to­ria County Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Of­fi­cer Pa­trick Austin.

Austin was in­stru­men­tal in launch­ing a broad-based con­ver­sa­tion con­cern­ing the eco­nomic im­pacts of le­gal­iza­tion for Cape Bre­ton. He and col­leagues from the Cape Bre­ton Part­ner­ship gath­ered busi­ness own­ers, leg­is­la­tors, reg­u­la­tors, pub­lic health and safety au­thor­i­ties for the re­cent At­lantic Cannabis Fo­rum held in Mem­ber­tou, Nov. 1-2.

Austin wants to see pri­va­tized sale of cannabis, though most signs point toward reg­u­lated dis­tri­bu­tion - pos­si­bly through the Nova Sco­tia Liquor Cor­po­ra­tion (NSLC).

“We’re still wait­ing to see what the prov­ince rolls out as its plan. As far as an eco­nomic driver, if it goes through a crown cor­po­ra­tion, then that will be all provin­cially con­trolled and we won’t be able to help lo­cal busi­nesses set up their own re­tail shop.”

Re­gard­less of how the prov­ince de­cides to dis­trib­ute cannabis, op­por­tu­ni­ties are cur­rently avail­able to grow the plant, if in­ter­ested grow­ers can en­dure the lengthy process of se­cur­ing a grow li­cence. Austin says there are three prospec­tive grow­ers look­ing at Vic­to­ria County. There are cur­rently 69 Li­censed Pro­duc­ers of Cannabis in Canada, with three in At­lantic Canada (2 in New Brunswick, 1 in Prince Ed­ward Is­land.)

The red tape in­volved in be­com­ing a li­censed pro­ducer of cannabis is partly fu­el­ing the wide­spread, mount­ing con­cern that de­mand will out­weigh sup­ply in Canada in the early years of le­gal­iza­tion. This has un­leashed fears that cannabis prices will rise, push­ing con­sumers to the black mar­ket – the very mar­ket that le­gal­iza­tion was sup­posed to wipe out.

“Right now, we’re [Canada] look­ing at about one-eighth of the sup­ply that will be needed to meet de­mand.. I be­lieve the last num­bers I saw were that they were ex­pect­ing 800,000kg to be con­sumed in the first year. And, we’re cur­rently able to pro­duce about 100,000 kg,” said Austin.

The At­lantic Cannabis Fo­rum was just the be­gin­ning of many more con­ver­sa­tions to come for Austin and CBREN col­leagues.

“We [CBREN] were just in dis­cus­sions to­day [Nov. 6] about how we keep this mov­ing for­ward. Peo­ple at the fo­rum in­di­cated they want to keep things mov­ing for­ward. We can help foster the best op­por­tu­ni­ties pos­si­ble for the coun­ties within the CBREN.”

“We need to bring the con­ver­sa­tion to other mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers and get other peo­ple’s opin­ions to en­sure the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has an un­der­stand­ing about what we want and what we feel will be most im­por­tant. There’s go­ing to be chal­lenges that are go­ing to come along the way, like what’s this go­ing to look like in our work­place. Those con­ver­sa­tions need to con­tinue as well.”

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