First ‘farm-to-gate’ cannabis facility in BC

Published on June 25, 2020 by Simon Gerard

I never thought I’d write that due to a global pandemic the B.C. government is giving a First Nations group $500,000 to help build a farm-to-gate cannabis facility where visitors can tour a legal grow-op and buy cannabis, similar to a winery. But here we are and it’s pretty awesome.

On Monday, the Williams Lake First Nation (formerly Williams Lake Indian Band) broke ground on the upcoming farm-to-gate facility called, Sugar Cane Cannabis. It will be located near the successful Indigenous Bloom retail shop, which they opened in March 2019. This will be the first farm-to-gate cannabis facility in B.C. and a first for a First Nations-owned cannabis producer.

Chief Willie Sellars shared details in a video presentation on the Williams Lake First Nation Facebook page, covering the facility’s state-of-the-art features and the benefits to their community. They went with a micro-cultivation licence, citing the ease of licencing and lower cost over a standard licence, along with no need for millions of square feet of grow space. It will be 6,000 sq. ft. total with 2,150 sq. ft. of canopy space to grow. This includes an on-site retail shop, where after personally meeting the plants you can purchase products made from them, like with many wineries and breweries around B.C.

“We want to make this cutting edge, we want to make this something that nobody has ever seen before, and we want to make it something that people are comfortable with coming around and exploring and experiencing,” says Chief Willie Sellars.

Sellars says the start-up cost is around $2 million to$2.5 million, resulting in an estimated annual net profit of between $1.5 million and $8 million and 10 to 20 permanent jobs. The provincial government provided $500,000 as part of $14 million in grants to support projects in First Nations and rural communities as a response to COVID-19. This grant program includes tourism initiatives most would expect, such as outdoor destinations like the Tumbler Ridge Unesco Global Geopark. Another $500,000 was provided, split between Indigenous Services Canada and Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT). The Williams Lake First Nation will provide the rest of the funding. Profits will go to support their community, through their Elders group, school, recreation, daycare programs, along with scholarships, bursaries, drug awareness and other social programs. 

I hope after the surprise of seeing the provincial government support this cannabis-related tourism project, we’ll start to see support for cannabis tourism increase across the province and country. Sugar Cane Cannabis is expected to open in 12 to 14 months, hopefully in time for a summer road trip next year.

Featured photo credit: Minister Marc Miller