Article originally appeared here: https://calgaryherald.com/cannabis/cannabis-business/alberta-cannabis-growers-push-for-winery-type-sampling-tours
Kieley Beaudry would love patrons to tour her licensed indoor pot patch, sample its produce and purchase their favourite buzz on their way out.
If wineries and breweries can do it, she says, Alberta’s legal cannabis producers should have the same right.
It’s something the sector has been lobbying for, particularly since Ontario and B.C. have begun moving towards the so-called farm to table model, with the latter province aiming at 2022 for small-scale producers.
“I want Alberta to beat B.C. to it,” said Beaudry, who operates Parkland Flower, a micro-grow in Acheson, west of Edmonton.
“It would help build such a vibrant, beautiful industry.”
For a nominal fee, Beaudry said she could include growing and bud-trimming classes, with hopes other producers in her area would jump on board to create a traveling tour, along the lines of Okanagan winery excursions.
If anything, it’d be a civilizing experience and another positive step in the evolution of legalized weed, she said.
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“I’d rather deal with people coming out of a cannabis dispensary than a bunch of drunks piling out of a bar,” said Beaudry, who’s also president of the Alberta Cannabis Micro License Association.
But obstacles remain to such a concept, not the least of them an industry model that mandates all licensed cannabis products go through Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis’s St. Albert warehouse before being distributed to private retailers.
Farm-to-gate producers would also need to acquire retail and possibly processing permits to proceed — and provincial sanction to even start down that road.
“We’re not quite there yet, but while (provincial officials) weren’t warm to it at all a year ago, they’re warmer to it now,” said Beaudry.
For one thing, she said, it would promise fresher product for buyers than the pot spending shelf time in the AGLC’s warehouse.
And ideally, that farm-to-gate model would include the sale of cannabis seedlings — an impossibility using the current distribution system and one yet to gain provincial approval, said Beaudry.
The province, while not moving on it immediately, isn’t ruling it out in the future.
“While no decisions have been made regarding farm-gate sales to consumers, we will be examining the approach in other jurisdictions to help inform what future opportunities there may be in Alberta,” Alberta Treasury and Finance spokeswoman Jerrica Goodwin said in an email.
Doing so, she said, would require changes to Alberta’s Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act, as well as its gaming, liquor and cannabis regulations.
Opening up licensed growers to the public would also deliver a shot in the arm to a small business sector that has limited means of advertising, said Nathan Mison, chairman of the Alberta Cannabis Council.
And it’d leverage legalized cannabis’ ability to diversify the province’s economy, he said.
“We’ve been advocating for the AGLC to do that … cannabis tourism is a huge opportunity,” said Mison.
A Calgarian who operates educational-scenic cannabis tours through Kananaskis Country said he could safely ferry patrons to farm-to-gate stops.
“I’m a million per cent into it — it’s something perfectly suited to what I do,” said Dave Dormer of Cananaskis.
Loosening restrictions for farm-gate would also erode the stigma still attached to the plant and boost craft growers, he said.
“It will be an avenue for more smaller players to enter the retail space, which is good for them and consumers,” said Dormer.
“Micros are the future of cannabis, just as the black market was built by a lot of people running small operations, the recreational market will be built by the same thing.”
Last June, the B.C. government gave the green light for a farm-to-gate operation to the Williams Lake First Nation, which hopes to have it up and running next spring.
Ontario expects to launch farm-to-gate operations following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proponents say enabling craft growers helps them transition from the black market to the legal one.