High-powered: Summit shows we can all get along

Published on May 1, 2022 by David Wylie

Photo: John McDonald/the oz.
David Wylie, publisher of the oz., and Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran chat during the second day of the BC Cannabis Summit

The cloud of cannabis smoke was thick during the opening festivities of the B.C. Cannabis Summit last week on the rooftop of the historic Eldorado Hotel in Kelowna.

If you looked hard enough through the haze, you saw some faces you wouldn’t expect at a 4/20 light-up.

“How’s your wife?” asked Kelowna–Lake Country Conservative MP Tracy Gray of one attendee as he re-lit his joint. Well-known Kelowna Coun. Maxine Dehart was also in on that conversation.

A little further along the rooftop, South Okanagan–West Kootenay NDP MP Richard Cannings spoke with others about potential federal legalization in the U.S. and how Nelson’s economic roots were once buried in the illicit weed economy.

While the MPs didn’t spark a doobie themselves (rather sticking to a conventional glass of wine), just the fact they were there was notable, even if the conversation got a little awkward at times.

Throughout the three-day summit—the first of its kind in Kelowna—participation by some of the community’s most influential residents was an admirable show of progressive thinking.

  • RELATED: Our BC Cannabis Summit event page

Tourism Kelowna CEO Lisanne Ballantyne spoke at the conference and also sat on a panel about cannabis tourism and economic development.

She said Tourism Kelowna has worked on bringing cannabis business events to the community—such as the summit.

“You are our first success,” she said. “It’s a big deal. You guys are the hottest ticket in town, you’re (event) sold out, the media covered you even before you opened your doors. People are paying attention.”

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran attended and spoke at the closing ceremony on the second day.

He told the crowd Kelowna is “cannabis friendly” and welcomes “entrepreneurs, innovators and progressive thinkers.”

“We’ve seen the craft brewing and distilling market take off in the last five years as more young entrepreneurs and crafts people are drawn to our city,” said Basran.

“I know this same potential exists for the craft cannabis sector here in our city with many aspects of the business to explore and develop.”

The list of dignitaries who attended the summit to speak also included a handful of MPs representing the three major political parties, as well as LCRB manager Leanne Davies and Secretariat representative David Coney.

To continue some local name-dropping, Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission manager Krista Mallory made the point cannabis should be treated like any other sector, such as tech or wine.

It wasn’t all about policymaking and politicking, there was a lot of fun to be had too.

Still, perhaps the biggest takeaway from the summit was how quickly it became clear people and organizations from outside the cannabis smoke circle were willing to step inside the skunky huddle in a spirit of mutual co-operation and respect.