Into The Light: Greenhouse Cannabis Cultivation in British Columbia


Into the Light is a white paper by Hanway Associates, in collaboration with Tantalus Labs, that summarises the opportunity at British Columbia's doorstep. It outlines the state of the market, greenhouse cultivation's advantages & provides policy guidance.


Executive Summary

The legal cannabis industry is one of the most promising nascent industry opportunities in Canadian history. British Columbia has the highest rate of support for the sector in the country, but its businesses are being left behind. 24 of the 41 legally regulated cannabis cultivation sites under the federal Access to Medical Cannabis Regulations (ACMPR) are situated in Ontario. These 24 sites make up 90% of the square footage legally designated to the production of cannabis.

Greenhouse cannabis cultivation on BC’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) offers an environmentally friendly, economical, and secure way to reverse this trend and help ensure the safety and prosperity of communities in the province. Despite this opportunity, a diverse patchwork of local bylaws is hampering the growth of an industry which could supply the province with as many as 15,000 new jobs in year one, with wages in excess of $620 million. This industry also brings benefits in the form of tax, growth of ancillary industries, and by driving out dangerous and unregulated black market producers.

Concerns of local politicians and residents to Licensed Producers are largely due to confusion between Licensed Producers and illegal grow operations. Concerns of local residents have not been borne out by the construction and operation of legal greenhouse Licensed Producers in their area. While public conversations on cannabis cultivation continue to linger on the negative repercussions of illegal grow ops, opportunities to progress the dialogue on legal cultivation to topics such as sustainability, environmental consciousness, positive social impact, or even economic potential are frustrated.

Indoor cannabis cultivation is an environmentally, agriculturally, and economically irrational practice, borne out of the plant’s clandestine history. This is in stark contrast to the best practices of other greenhouse agricultural sectors, in which BC specialises. Indoor cannabis cultivation under lights is one of the most wasteful forms of agriculture, using up to 2% of the electricity of British Columbia. Converting to greenhouse agriculture could slash energy consumption from cannabis cultivation activity by as much as 90%.

This new industry presents a unique opportunity for political and economic leadership. As the market establishes itself there will be a substantial first mover advantage to early policy action facilitating operators in the local market. British Columbia is placed to lead the legal cannabis industry in both quality, environmental, and industry standards. No other province has the same combination of skills, infrastructure, reputation and potential.

Stringent federal regulations have meant that only 41 of over 2,000 applications under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) have been granted. As well as federal requirements, provincial guidance gives discretion to municipalities to control many aspects of Licensed Producers. In addition to these safeguards and protections, this report provides a number of additional proposed guidelines to protect communities and the environment, prevent crime, and facilitate the growth of a mutually beneficial industry.

Policy aims can be achieved, among other measures, through the facilitation of Licensed Producers on the Agricultural Land Reserve, business licensing, strict adherence to federal and provincial regulations, prohibition of dispensaries at cultivation sites, and measures to reduce light, air, and odour pollution.

Read the full report here.