British Columbia

Williams Lake First Nation breaks ground on cannabis facility despite city concerns

Sugar Cane Cannabis, which is set to open in summer 2021, will be both a site for cultivating cannabis and a retail location where customers can see the product they purchase being grown, Chief Willie Sellars says.

Sugar Cane Cannabis, a growing facility and retail space, set to open in 2021

Chief Willie Sellars says the $3-million project will create up to 30 local contracting jobs during construction and more than 20 jobs once the facility is up and running. (Facebook/Williams Lake First Nation)

Shovels have officially hit the dirt and construction will soon begin on a cannabis facility owned by the Williams Lake First Nation, whose chief says it is the first First Nations-owned seed-to-sale enterprise.

Sugar Cane Cannabis, which is set to open in summer 2021, will be both a site for cultivating cannabis and a retail location where customers can see the product they purchase being grown.

"It is so neat," said Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops on Monday. "You look from the retail space on this farm-to-gate facility and you can see right into the grow room."

Sellars says the $3-million project will create up to 30 local contracting jobs during construction and more than 20 jobs once the facility is up and running.

This job creation is not insignificant in a community that has taken an economic hit due to the downturn of the forestry industry and the shut down of care and maintenance of the Mount Polley Mine, Sellars said.

"The commitment to sourcing out local contractors to keep that money in our region is something we take great pride in," he added.

The band already operates a cannabis retail location and Sellars said the revenue from that has made it possible to cover 100 per cent of the post-secondary education costs for graduating band members who applied for funding.

City concerns

Sellars said the band is currently going through the licensing process with Health Canada and has had financial support for the project from the provincial government. However, there is concern about the project from city council.

In a June 16 council meeting, Mayor Walter Cobb said council does not have critical information about how much the facility will cost the city in terms of infrastructure and services such as water and sewage, and insisted there be public consultation.

On Monday, the same day the band ceremoniously broke ground for the facility at 1145 Mackenzie Ave. S., the city launched an online public survey to gauge how residents feel about the project.

"We have a process that we have to go through and this particular process did not happen here, so we are starting that process now and will see what the public has to say." said Cobb.

The survey will be available to residents for 30 days.

Sellars said the band is proud of their track record of working through issues on their traditional territory and would like to see something in writing from the city with their concerns clearly outlined.

He said the land where the facility is being built belongs to the band but is also within city boundaries, and that is what is causing issues.

"We are wanting to make sure that all our boxes are checked and we are doing this thing right," said Sellars. "A government-to-government relationship is what we want with the city."

According to Sellars, the facility, on which construction is moving ahead despite city concerns, will be 7,000 square feet in size, with 2,100 square feet specifically used for growing plants.

The plan is to produce 600 kilograms of craft cannabis at the site every year.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

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