Applause, cheers, live music and Canadian Olympic snowboarder Ross Rebagliati greeted the opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis — B.C.’s first farm-to-gate cannabis facility and the first in Canada on First Nations land — last week in Williams Lake.
“It has been a very long journey when you look at what we have been through and what the staff has been able to pull together,” Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars told Black Press Media at the May 6 opening of the state-of-the-art, 7,000-square-foot facility that will allow customers to purchase cannabis directly from the facility where it is being grown.
“They realized this craft cannabis tourism vision model. It’s still a little bit surreal but you can see how pumped they are to showcase it to the public.”
While working to open the farm-to-gate cannabis facility over the past two years, WLFN has been growing Unity Cannabis with retail stores now in Williams Lake, Penticton, Merritt and will be opening one in Lac La Hache in a few weeks. The First Nation aims to open more retail stores across the province, supplied with cannabis grown in the facility in Williams Lake. The first crop should be ready to harvest in about five weeks.
“It’s not the gold rush that everyone expected it was, but it’s a nice niche little business that provides a revenue stream for WLFN and also provides job opportunities for people not only at WLFN but around the province,” Sellars said.
David Coney, B.C.’s director of Indigenous Government Relations BC Cannabis Secretariat, who also attended has been working with WLFN and offered his congratulations.
“It’s fantastic; it’s a beautiful facility,” he said.
WLFN councillor Chris Wycotte said he had his doubts it would come to fruition because he thought cannabis would be controversial.
“We had to take it to the community and the community supported it. There was no opposition. Maybe there were some concerns, but no opposition.”
Life Cycle Botanics, licensed in May 2020, supplies the plantlets to Sugar Cane Cannabis which are then transplanted and grow in five different rooms within the facility.
Each room is filled with plants that have unique flavours, strains, aroma, pharmaceutical properties and potencies, said quality control manager and master grower Brendon Roberts, who moved from Toronto for the job last year.
The plants need 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.
“They go to bed at 7 p.m.,” he said.
Construction of a new mixed development building which will include a café, gathering space and four, open concept lofts on the second floor is anticipated to begin this summer in the lot adjacent to the Sugar Cane Cannabis parking lot.
Called The Osprey Nest, Sellars said ground-breaking will take place in the next couple of weeks.
Earlier this month, WLFN announced its intention to hold a referendum June 29, 2022 for members to vote on a proposed $135 million settlement with the federal government. The agreement-in-principle, if accepted, will settle a long-standing specific claim relating to WLFN’s displacement from their traditional village lands 160 years ago which now form the city of Williams Lake.
Roughly 400 members are eligible to vote of the community’s 800-plus members.