By TIMOTHY HARVEY
The May 2 issue of the Driftwood marked the launch of a misinformation campaign against the cannabis industry (“LTC to check into marijuana on farmland”).
With so much Salt Spring farmland covered by Scotch broom and non-food crops, while a housing crisis demonstrates a need for economic vitality and upward mobility, it defies logic to oppose farming a valuable medicinal crop that stands to provide well-paying jobs and spinoff benefits to the community.
The March 31 letter to the Islands Trust by Farmers’ Institute president Bruce Marshall contains the sort of knee-jerk reactionary thinking that prevented legalization during the 20th century and would now impose a local cannabis prohibition on Salt Spring farmland, depriving the community of a magnificent opportunity to demonstrate leadership in the cannabis industry.
The Driftwood article failed to mention that progressive cannabis producers are champions of low-till living soils, organic compost teas and bulk organic soil amendments (which contrary to Tony Threfall’s assertion, need not all be imported). The reality is that producing this fast-growing, oxygen-exuding plant allows cultivators to target a net-zero carbon footprint while improving soil conditions.
Those driving the conversation from the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (George Grams) and Farmers Institute (Marshall, Threfall) describe worst-case industry practices that are unlikely ever to characterize Salt Spring. Every sector of agriculture has extremes of poor practice such as heavily medicated feedlots and Roundup Ready crops, but we don’t ban farming meat and vegetables locally due to poor practices elsewhere. Rather, we express our island values in our methods of cultivation, and earn our reputation honestly.
Market forces will dictate that local producers compete with a superior product, just as Salt Spring lamb competes with feedlot beef. With the Canadian market to be dominated by a handful of high-volume marijuana producers, Salt Spring’s main contribution will come from “micro-cultivation” licensees, a program being implemented by Health Canada in response to public consultation. Micro-cultivators will target niche markets with value-added “craft” products, including organic cannabis, which currently enjoys an average 33 per cent price premium over conventional marijuana.
In years to come, Gulf Islands communities have an unprecedented opportunity to share the benefits of participating in a diversified cannabis economy. We owe it to ourselves to protect our collective opportunity from the fear tactics of hold-out prohibitionists.
As a small-scale goat and duck farmer, I am a big supporter of the Farmers’ Institute. But the “reefer madness” expressed by its leadership serves only to rile up opposition to the family-sustaining farming of plant medicine. Especially as the housing crisis highlights social inequalities, we must be vigilant against those who campaign against the greater good. Creating a more just society means placing faith in our island cannabis farmers to demonstrate leadership and responsible practices.
Above all, we must protect the status of marijuana as a valued agricultural crop. History has granted us an opportunity to exercise newfound freedom as farmers: we have earned the right not to allow prohibitionists to take this freedom away.
The writer works for Better Cannabis Genetics on Salt Spring.