As legalization of marijuana nears, how will it effect Victoria County economically?
Austin wants Victoria County to get fair share of economic growth
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.”