The operator of a new medical dispensary in Squamish hopes that a partnership between local growers and storefronts will lead by example with standards and best practices that will guide the industry.
Don Fauchon is the chairman of Cannabis Growers of Canada and co-operator of Grass Roots Medicinal, which opened recently in the B.C. town. Fauchon said opening the business has been an interesting learning experience and he’s excited by the positive feedback from the community.
“They’re really happy we’re here and looking forward to us opening,” Fauchon said. “We just hope to provide the patients with the best quality product that we can and make them comfortable when they’re in here.”
Bryan Raiser, who has operated a dispensary in Squamish since February 2015, said the town is facing the same issues as other communities across Canada, going from the restrictive policies of the Conservative government to the Liberals’ plans for legalization, and see the writing on the wall that these types of businesses serve a purpose to the town.
Fauchon said it’s the community that is most important, keeping jobs and money from the operation in town to support the town’s economy, with a focus on using local growers.
“That’s where we need to get our product to keep the jobs and the income in the local communities so it can keep supporting them like they always have, for years, and years and years now,” he said. “The growers in each little community are the ones that are supplying the best product, because we can’t get anything decent out of the LPs — that we’ve seen so far.”
The dispensary operates under best practices created by CGC, and Fauchon said any product sold at the store will have to do the same, using their production and testing standards to ensure quality.
“If you want to come in and have us take a look at your products, then you’ll have to be a member of the Growers,” Fauchon said.
Since starting the CGC over two years ago, Fauchon said the group is now ahead of the curve in developing best-practices that he expects the industry to eventually need as legalization moves forward.
“We want to set up a national association that people join and then, when a patient comes in or when we get to recreation, and they see our seal on it they know that they don’t have to worry about the product,” he said. “Just like doctors have their association and engineers and accountants — we’d like to be the one for cannabis.
“It has to be done, because the government’s going to require it.”
As the industry matures, Fauchon said it’s important that small and medium size operations are allowed to continue in business and not be pushed out by large corporate organizations.
“The big key is that the cash stays in the local communities to support the local communities,” he said. “We fought for years to build this industry up and we can’t let someone take it away from us now.”
With the Liberals now required by court order to create a new framework for medical cannabis, as well as currently crafting regulations for the recreational market, Fauchon said those already in the industry need to have their voices heard.
“It’s very important so that we can prove to local governments ‘here’s the amount of jobs and here’s the amount of money that’s coming into the local community.’ You take it out of here and lot of these small communities all across Canada are going to suffer.”
As the number of dispensaries climbs in town, Raiser said it remains to be seen what direction cannabis businesses will take.
“The future of this industry is so ridiculously up in the air,” he said. “Look at all there places you can buy alcohol, look at all the places you can buy caffeine – are dispensaries going the be the way forward?”
Earlier this month, Squamish city council discussed adopting new regulations to license dispensaries. The discussion is expected to return to council in April, after staff were directed to bring additional information on zoning and restrictions on the location of the shops.